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Robert Rodriguez
Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Robert Patrick, Danny Trejo, Teri Hatcher
Writing Credits:
Robert Rodriguez

Real Spies ... Only smaller.

Bursting with an awesome array of ultracool, high-tech gadgetry, Spy Kids delivers enough thrilling entertainment to satisfy the entire family! Nine years ago, top international spies Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) traded the excitement of espionage for the adventure of parenthood! But when they're called out on a secret mission, the Cortezes are separated from their family and kidnapped by the evil Fegan Floop. Fortunately, there are two people who possess the skills and know-how to reunite the family: Carmen and Juni Cortez, their kids! Your family will love every fun-filled second as Carmen and Juni bravely crisscross the globe in a thrilling quest to save their parents. All the while, they discover that keeping the family together is the most important mission in the world for kids and parents alike!

Box Office:
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$26.546 million on 3104 screens.
Domestic Gross
$112.692 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 8/2/2011

• “Growing Up Spy Kids” Documentary
• “Ten Minute Film School” Featurette
• “Cooking School” Featurette
• “Stunt Piece” Featurette
• “Special Effects Piece” Featurette
• Trailers
• Previews
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Spy Kids [Blu-Ray] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 16, 2011)

Every once in a while a movie comes along that looks like it just might be absolutely terrible. Actually, a lot of films are released that appear to be bad, but some seem more cringe-worthy than others. I recall when I first saw the previews for 1995’s Babe I thought it probably would bite. On the contrary, it ended up being a delightful exercise that overcame its talking animal origins.

Plop 2001’s Spy Kids into the same category. The flick certainly could have been a dud, as it focused on the high concept idea of kids who become action heroes. However, in the hands of director Robert Rodriguez, Spy Kids offered a light and brisk experience that proved to be consistently entertaining.

At the start of Spy Kids, we meet the Cortez family. Parents Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) used to be world-class secret agents, but after they married, they retired and started a family. This resulted in daughter Carmen (Alexa Vega) and her younger brother Juni (Daryl Sabara). To the outside world, they seem to be a pretty normal family, though Juni’s something of an introverted wimp.

Early on in the story, a new case popped up for the ex-spies, and it proves too enticing for them to resist. Unfortunately, the parents quickly become captured, and despite their ages and lack of training, it’s up to the kids to save the day. Kiddie TV show host Floop (Alan Cumming) has begun to create a superarmy of robots but needs “the third brain” to succeed, and the kids need to prevent this and save their parents.

Nothing about the story itself seemed to be exceptional, but the execution was sublime. Rodriguez was an odd choice for this kind of kid-oriented flick, as he made his name on hyperviolent fare like From Dusk Til Dawn and Desperado. However, at times opposites attract; David Lynch went from Blue Velvet to A Straight Story, so anything’s possible.

Rodriguez neatly spans the worlds of silly kiddie fare and more adult-oriented material. To be sure, a lot of Spy Kids will appeal mainly to younger viewers, as the flick includes a little of the usual kiddie goofiness. However, the movie never indulges in excessive escapades of this sort, and it maintains a nice level of respect for children throughout the film. I never felt it pandered to that audience, which was nice, especially since it made the flick more enjoyable for adults.

To be sure, Spy Kids included a great deal of material that will appeal to older viewers. Much of that that occurred due to the excellent cast. Both Gugino and Banderas seemed to get the tone of the piece, as they made believable parents but kept a light and frothy attitude nonetheless. The kids were uniformly strong as well. Both could - and probably should - have been annoyingly precious and obnoxious, but I found them to be endearing and likeable, and they managed the range of emotions nicely. From action sequences to quieter sequences, they needed to carry the movie to a large degree, and they both seemed up to the task.

The fine supporting cast helped make Kids a hit. Cumming played Floop as a cross between Willy Wonka and Pee-Wee Herman and he seemed very bright and funny. He maintained a nice attitude of innocence despite his evil tendencies; although he’s trying to take over the world, Floop remained more concerned with his TV show’s ratings. Rodriguez gave those scenes a nicely surreal air and they worked very well.

As Floop’s assistant Minion, Tony Shalhoub offered his usual excellent performance. Shalhoub’s money in the bank, and though Minion was less interesting than many of his characters, Shalhoub was able to make the role more compelling than he otherwise might have been. Even less talented actors like Teri Hatcher and Robert Patrick made the most of their parts and created workable personalities.

At its core, Spy Kids is all about fun, but it offers a nice level of familial reinforcement that integrates well. This is the kind of flick that gives us some substance in regard to a mix of issues but never hits us over the head with any social movement. For example, the Cortez family is clearly Latino, and it’s very nice to see protagonists from a minority, but the movie doesn’t beat us with this concept. The cultural elements blend neatly into the tale and enrich it without seeming like an Afterschool Special. I appreciated the unusual elements and respected Rodriguez for making them fit so seamlessly.

Really, my only complaint about Spy Kids relates to some of its special effects. The movie includes a lot of computer-generated imagery, and much of it looks rather artificial. I don’t know if the film’s target audience would notice this, but I found the effects to be somewhat distracting. That was true 10 years ago, and the visuals haven’t improved in that time; they never took me out of the story, but they could meddle with my enjoyment.

Otherwise, however, I had virtually no complaints about Spy Kids. Director Robert Rodriguez created a lively and very entertaining program that seemed to be consistently delightful and engaging. Virtually the whole film appeared delightful and it should work well for both adults and kids. Think of it as “Tim Burton directs kids in a Bond flick” and you’ll be on the right path.

Some final notes: keep an eye out for a cameo from a big star toward the end of the movie. Don’t look too hard, though, as it’s difficult to miss. Somewhat subtler: one of the characters is named after a Police song. Figure out which one and… well, you get nothing other than smug self-satisfaction. It works for me!

In the category of “connection that didn’t exist 10 years ago”, Danny Trejo plays Machete – presumably the same character who would get his own movie last year. Lastly, keep watching through the end of the credits for a minor surprise. I do mean minor, however; I thought it was pretty dull, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Spy Kids appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. While the movie often looked quite good, some issues cropped up along the way.

The vast majority of these connected to softness and often appeared to be connected to the source material. As I note in the review, the film’s visual effects had problems 10 years ago, and they look even worse now. They led to a lot of rather soft shots throughout the movie; we got plenty of composite images that tended to come across as iffy and indistinct.

If these soft spots only showed up during obvious effects scenes, I’d be more forgiving, but I saw quite a few sequences that came across as a bit undefined for no apparent reason. These soft elements never seemed tremendously indistinct, but they cropped up enough to cause distractions.

The effects created the occasional example of edge haloes, but otherwise, those weren’t an issue, and I witnessed no moiré effects or jagged edges. Print flaws were a non-issue, as they failed to create any blemishes or distractions.

Colors looked pretty strong. Spy Kids offered a nicely broad and varied palette, and these hues came across well. They occasionally threatened to turn runny, but they didn’t; instead, they remained vivid. Black levels also appeared to be deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately dark but not excessively heavy. Without the (occasionally unavoidable) softness, this would’ve been a terrific presentation, but the issues with definition made it a “C+”.

DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack worked well and was more consistent. The soundfield worked very well and added a lot to the film. Audio moved nicely across all five channels, and the different speakers displayed a lot of activities throughout the entire movie.

Music demonstrated solid stereo imaging, and effects were placed appropriately in the spectrum. They transitioned neatly between speakers, and the surrounds added a good level of involvement to the package. The many action sequences gave the track an opportunity to shine, and the mix created a fairly seamless and involving piece.

Unfortunately, the quality of the sound seemed a little weak. Dialogue was slightly trebly and stiff at times, but that wasn’t a serious issue. Music displayed good dynamic range, and effects sounded clear and accurate. They also displayed positive but unexceptional low-end, though they packed a nice punch at times. This wasn’t a killer track, but it was good enough for a “B+”.

How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the ? The audio was a decent step up, as the DTS track seemed a bit clearer, more robust and better defined.

The visuals became more complicated. Though I mentioned softness issues, I still think the Blu-ray outdid the DVD. The latter format’s lower resolution helped hide sins; I’m sure it had the same softness problems but they didn’t seem evident. The higher resolution of Blu-ray made inherent flaws more prominent, so I saw softness here that I didn’t notice on DVD. Though the Blu-ray’s image didn’t dazzle me, it did improve on the DVD’s presentation.

Note that the Blu-ray offers a different cut of the film than the one on the 2001 DVD. After the theatrical edition’s spring 2001 run, a special edition version of the flick hit screens in August 2001. The former came out on DVD but as far as I can tell, the latter never made it to home video.

The Blu-ray lacks the theatrical cut and replaces it with the longer SE cut. It adds about three minutes and shows the kids as they go through a cave filled with sleeping sharks. It’s an interesting sequence that’s nice to see.

The theatrical DVD included virtually no extras, but this SE Blu-ray comes with a smattering of components. First comes a documentary called Growing Up Spy Kids. It runs 48 minutes, 10 seconds and features notes from writer/director Robert Rodriguez, producer Elizabeth Avellan, prop master Steve Joyner, stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw, special makeup effects supervisor Greg Nicotero, and actors Antonio Banderas, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Carla Gugino, Matt O’Leary, Emily Osment, Alan Cumming, and Tony Shalhoub. “Growing” looks at the project’s roots and development, story/character topics, cast and performances, props and gadgets, stunts and action, various effects, Rodriguez’s impact on the set and shoot, music, and general memories.

Though we hear more about the first movie, “Growing” covers all three Spy Kids flicks. This means it can be a bit all over the place, but it’s a fun examination of the series. It’s nice to see the grown-up child actors and hear an overview about the franchise. Nothing stellar appears here, but we find an enjoyable program.

Four featurettes follow. Ten Minute Film School goes for eight minutes, six seconds and gives us various movie elements accompanied by commentary from Rodriguez. He talks about basics of how he pulled off the flick’s technical elements. A staple of Rodriguez DVDs, these are always fun and informative; this one follows that trend and offers a brisk take on different filmmaking topics.

Another tutorial shows up via Ten-Minute Cooking School. It fills six minutes, four seconds and presents Rodriguez with Vega and Sabara. They teach us Rodriguez’s recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich as well as Vega’s and Sabara’s plans for healthy smoothies. The sandwich doesn’t look good; I doubt I’ll ever try either, but this is still a fun bonus.

Under Stunt Piece, we get a six-minute, 48-second program from 2001. It includes comments from Vega, Sabara, Dashnaw, Rodriguez, Banderas, Gugino, and various unnamed stunt kids. The show opts for a pretty fluffy tone, but it includes a few interesting notes and is worth a look.

Finally, Special Effects Piece goes for seven minutes, three seconds and features Rodriguez, Nicotero, Joyner, assistant prop master Caylah Eddleblute, visual effects supervisor Chris Olivia and costume designer Deborah Everton. As expected, they cover different effects, with an emphasis on practical elements like the Fooglies masks. This is another quick but informative piece; really, it’s quite strong given its brevity.

The disc opens with ads for Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, Alpha and Omega, Battle for Terra, and Thor: Tales of Asgard. These also appear under Trailers, and we get both the teaser and theatrical trailers for Spy Kids as well.

A second disc provides a digital copy of Spy Kids. With this, you can place the movie on a computer or digital viewing device. Yeah!

Spy Kids is a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It seemed warm, engaging and surprisingly exciting. The Blu-ray offers good sound and supplements plus inconsistent but acceptable visuals. The picture issues are a little disappointing, but the Blu-ray’s still the best representation of the movie I’ve seen.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main