Fantastic worlds collide as, once again, the imagination of Robert Rodriguez (writer, director, etc.) runs, dives, inflates and bounds across the screen, chasing after stolen power, but just don’t ask it to tell time.
Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) Cortez, our little heroes from the last installment, now official Level 2 OSS spy kids, are immediately (I mean you don’t have time to breathe) flung into action when a troublemaker gets hold of the Transmooker device. At the same time, the two are getting elbowed out of their top “spy kid” spots by the Giggles kids, Gary and Gerti (Matt O’Leary and Emily Osment). Spy dads Donnagan Giggles (Mike Judge) and Gregorio Cortez (Antonio Banderas) are both contenders for OSS director. When disaster strikes at the spies’ ball, it’s a children’s race to save the world.
Half the film is a no-bones-about-it cinematic ode to creature-creating pioneer Ray Harryhausen. Instead of Captain Nemo genetically enlarging animals on Mysterious Island, we have the philosophical Dr. Romero, played by Steve Buscemi (a stroke-of-genius casting choice), miniaturizing beasts so kids can have their own, personal zoos. I guarantee, no matter how old you are, when you see that magical Lilliputian animal menagerie, you’ll secretly scream, “Hey, Mom, I want one!” And that’s just a portion of Rodriguez’s boggling vision, always one-upping the last “cool!” because he just won’t settle for less.
He’s come a long way since El Mariachi (1993), and these dreams are far from lost; they’re Rodriguez’s childhood fantasies finally manifested with outrageous, delicate and colossal care. He salutes Jason and the Argonauts in a minitribute (with plenty of bones about it), and the film opens at Troublemaker Theme Park, where owner Dinky Winks (a brash Bill Paxton) proudly presents thrill rides pushed to the edge of the imagination — the Nerve Wracker, the Vomitter and his ride of choice, the Juggler — to the president’s daughter (Taylor Momsen), a child whose need for love could destroy the world.
Spy Kids 2 is still about family, but it’s mostly about living up to the expectations of the imagination, and with a monstrous sense of humor.
Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].