Published Apr 01, 2001Writer/director Robert Rodriguez ("Desperado," "From Dusk Till Dawn") deserves high praise for seamlessly switching gears from his usual stylishly violent fare to craft the best family film to emerge in quite some time. "Spy Kids" is original and inventive, with a fantastic design and a great sense of humour, adventure and heart. In the tradition of the best adventure films for kids, this one gives the audience the pleasure of watching clever children protagonists outsmart all the grownups, good and bad, to ultimately save the day.
Sister/brother team Carmen (Alexa Varga) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) find out suddenly that their seemingly boring parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are actually international spies when Mom and Dad are kidnapped by the cartoonishly evil Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming), whose popular children's show is a cover for a diabolical plan to take over the world (it's like "PeeWee's Playhouse" as evil empire!). The siblings are thrust into the high-tech world of international espionage and have to band together and use their intelligence and imagination to save their parents and the world from Floop and his army of robot children and thugs made entirely of thumbs.
The world that Rodriguez and production designer Cary White create is amazingly surreal, giving the film a playful, cartoonish setting that is magical and off-kilter, without being too scary. Tons of extremely cool spy gadgets and transportation devices, guaranteed to capture the imagination of every kid and most of the adults seeing this movie, are also invented and employed to help the kids succeed in their mission. The script is as fun and fantastical as the design, and the actors all seem to be having a blast making it. It's not perfect, sometimes the plot requires incredible leaps of logic to get to the next part and occasionally things get too goofy and over-the-top, but the movie's action is quick-paced and exciting and the script never talks down to its audience or goes for the lowest common denominator jokes. The humour that is used works on different levels, so there is plenty of stuff to keep both adults and children engaged in the story. "Spy Kids" is a rare treat a family movie that is stylish, intelligent, and totally fun to watch.