Hello, Spongey here.
It’s that time of the year again, the kid where my brother Antony picks what I review. This year was interesting. See, usually his first choices end up being fitting for a review, if only barely sometimes. But this time, I actually had to go through a couple finding one I could do. First was actually a duo of Nickelodeon TV Movies, Swindle and Jinxed. I actually enjoyed them fine, but there just wasn’t much to riff on or discuss. Aside from how the latter is basically the live action Milo Murphy’s Law movie everyone demanded, lol.
After those failed, he threw out this one and I thought it was a perfect fit. I cover the lesser entries ages ago so it’s fitting to go back and see how the first one holds up. Anyway, Robert Rodriguez is an interesting filmmaker. He started off making lower budget movies that managed to break out and then ended up making some movies for his kids that are certainly something.
I respect what he does a lot, as he does a lot of his stuff himself and even some of those kids movies, there is at least a fair bit of imagination on display. He’s generally gone back to more mature fare but in the near future he will be back to family fare with We Can Be Heroes, which will feature the return of Lavagirl.
Yes, really. Because frankly, with how this year is going, why the hell not. And in honor of that, it’s fitting that I get to revisit his first attempt to appeal to a younger audience. I went into how 3 and 4 were…not very good and I recalled the first two being good. I actually hadn’t seen them prior to having to do that review as for some reason they escaped me.
I did like them fine at the time but I think we should at least take a closer look at this first one. Does it truly hold up these days a fun family adventure? Did it deserve to be such a big hit with both audiences and critics? Seriously, this has a 93 on Rotten Tomatoes, not even kidding. Let’s see if that was all warranted.
This, is Spy Kids
The movie begins with one our child leads Carmen and Juni, played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, being told a bedtime story by her mother, played by Carla Cugino. It’s the story of two spies who fell in love, because this woman is very subtle at hiding her secret. Anyway, here’s the story:
“It was a dark and confusing time, there was a lot of turmoil between countries”
…Not gonna touch that one.
There once was a woman spy who was hired to take out another spy, played by Antonio Bandereas but they accidentally fell in love instead. They got married but of course their marriage was interrupted by bad guys. They managed to escape and have kids, living happily ever after.
Spoilers, the spies are the kids parents. Ingrid the mom says goodnight to the kids and tells Gregorio the dad that she told the story, and he’s a bit worried. They left the spy life after all except for when they need to use their tech for a gag. Gregorio also seems to be doing some odd work but he says it’s nothing so I’m sure they won’t get into any danger.
Also, the kids have to do these exercises on this big jungle gym type thing which they don’t find the least bit strange or spy training-y.
The next morning, Gregorio admits that it’s been discovered that an agent has gone missing. Then on their way to drive the kids to school, they use this screen in there to turn on a show Juni has been watching called Floop Flooglies which is one of those acid trip nightmares hosted by someone who is way too chipper, played by Alan Cumming. I swear, he is in everything.
The show has introduced a new character who weirdly looks like that missing agent. But we can deal with that latter, as they drop the kids off at school and see that Juni has to deal with bullies. Even the dad of one of the bullies gets stand off-ish towards Gregorio. There’s an imagine spot where he throws the bully dad into a window but he backs off instead.
Okay, obviously you shouldn’t do that but you could still step in through a normal way like telling the principal or something. The solution doesn’t have to be super violent.
We cut to some strange island where Floop is talking to some people who are worried that his inventions are not that useful. The attempts to brainwash captured agents just turn them into abominations to use for his kids show. Also he has goons that are giant thumbs. Because reasons.
He’s also built robot kids that look lifelike, which they find more impressive.
“I can make them look like anyone yet with the cunning and intelligence of the world’s greatest espionage agents rolled into tiny packages I call Spy Kids!”
The robot kids don’t have brains yet which pisses the guy, played by Robert Patrick, off. Meanwhile, Gregorio decides to accept this mission to track down the agents and Ingrid wants to tag along even though he is at first against it. He allows it because the power of Carla Cugino just can’t be denied so they head off and leave the kids in the care of their Uncle Felix, played by Cheech Marin.
But as soon as they start to approach the base underwater, they are captured. Felix is alerted to this and so he is forced to tell the kids the truth. Well geez, that escalated quickly.
“My parents can’t be spies, they’re not cool enough!”
But the line is trailer-y enough for me to know it even before I watched this.
The kids escape via a submarine that is going to a safe house, but Felix is captured by some invaded thumb people. Once the kids have escaped, things slow down a bit as things sink and it’s a nice moment. They make it to the safe house while the parents end up at Floop’s liar where they attempt to escape but just end up in Floop’s dining room or something.
Floop explains that the OSS was attempting to create some sort of fake brain that he can use for his androids but that research was destroyed. However, Gregorio was on that research team so Floop wants him but he refuses so sends him down some trapdoor that I swear every villain has for whenever someone pisses them off. Doesn’t matter if it’s at a dinner table or not, they always have one.
Without really thinking it over too hard, the kids decide to spy into action and save their parents. Also there’s some jokes that prove Carmen really is the more competent one of the two. Then some adults show up, basically pulling a “I’m a friend of your parents” which they are rightfully skeptical of.
They pull a decent act at first and tell them that Juni’s beloved Floop is actually evil. It even turns out that a song from the show is “Floop is a madman help us save us” in reverse, which I’ve always found funny for some reason. But then they bring up that brain thing and it becomes clear. Felix did give them the cryptic phrase “The third brain lives” though.
Turns out the prototype for it is here and the kids take out once they take one peek out the window and see some thumb people. Juni is the one who sees it and he proves more competent in the ensuing action scene, which is good. There’s a jetpack chase involving some dodgy green screen that ends with them escaping although they end up in town where I feel like plenty of people saw them.
We cut to Floop doing his show where we get a villain song because why not and after that his goon Alexander Minion (Nice) suggests sending in robots that look like the kids to go after the kids. It’s easy as they have bracelets that serve as tracking devices. Juni actually figures this out to add to his list of good moments but it’s too late as the robots show up.
There’s a sight that ends with the robots making off with the brain, as it seems Floop wants it to make the robots smarter. I’d ask why but without brains they got their asses kicked by kids so fair enough. One of their parents’ devices said it was made by “Machete” who seems to be an old partner of dad’s, so they track down his shop.
Oh boy, Machete. Okay, so this is a character Rodriguez came up with and tried to get a movie out of him but at first couldn’t do it so he put him in here. Then later came Grindhouse where there was a fake trailer for a Machete movie which eventually got made for real and got a sequel. The thing is, those were of course a grindhouse homage so uh…not for kids, to say the least.
So the fact that this character is also in Spy Kids is…amazing. Sure, Rodreguiz claims they are alternate universes but you can’t fool me. Anyway, I got that out of the way. Also, he’s played by Danny Trejo. Meanwhile, Floop wants to do more of his show instead of this evil business but Mr. Minion does not agree and turns against him. Dang, that was fast. There was a hint of this in their last scene that I skipped over but still.
The kids approach Machete and ask for his help since he makes tons of spy gadgets. However, he is Gregorio’s older brother and they are estranged so he doesn’t want to help. So the kids just jack his stuff, nice. But he smiles once he sees they took the plane so I guess he’s cool with it now? Also a bit before this:
“Cain and Able were brothers, look how they ended up”
I found that funny for some reason.
The plane has some problems but they end up going through an underwater entrance to Floop’s place. There are sharks that are sleeping and Juni loses his credibility points by thinking it is a good idea to touch one of them. But he’s able to put them back to sleep so that was pointless.
However, the sharks do wake up…after Juni pisses in the water. Lovely. Even this one has to get its immature moments in. They escape the sharks and make it into the fortress and do some spy stuff. They run until the kids get separated and then Juni walks into a Virtual Room where an image of Floop talks about Juni’s sweaty hands.
…I don’t like where this is going.
Actually, Floop just talks to Juni about how he’s not so bad and Minion is the true evil one. He buys it pretty quickly and they agree they must team up to stop Minion. It is sort of nice, it just all happens a bit quickly since this movie is short. Not that I’m complaining, I like it but short movies are always a good thing.
With Floop’s help, Juni reunites with Carmen and they rescue their parents from the dungeon. Dad has been turned into a Flooglie but Floop says he knows how to turn him back…and in the next scene he’s human again so another thing that’s pointless. They storm Minion and easily manage to capture him.
They still need to take care of robot army though and plus Minion pushes a button that does…something to him and really they should have noticed he had some random button on him. Floop tries to reprogram the robots as the kids bump into a couple of them.
“Oh shi…take mushrooms”
Oh wow I forgot about that line. I kind of love it since there’s no other bits like this in here.
Juni redeems himself by defeating the robots using some gum from Machete (don’t ask) and they make it to Robert Patrick who is a bigger focus now and I just forgot to mention that since he’s not super interesting. Minion is there as he has been turned into some abomination and that helped him escape. I don’t know, we’re almost done.
The family teams up for a promotional image and then Machete magically shows up to help. Plus, Floop reprogrammed the robot kids so they take care of the bad guys. There’s a corny moment where Floop tells Juni he helped by showing he was pure of heart or whatever. It’s corny but nice. That climax ended up being pretty anti climatic though.
Machete and the dad make up and now the day is saved. Sometime later, the robot kids now go around saving people and the media doesn’t question it too hard. Some of them are based on the kids of world leaders so they should really be curious. Anyway, the robot Juni and Carmen are now on Floop’s show so he’s got his happy ending.
One morning, the director of OSS, played by George Clooney, calls the family up and asks for some help. I love how he has a black bar covering his eyes…which he takes off. They agree to the mission but only if they can do it as a family. And that’s the end, that was quite abrupt. In the credits, there’s some sort of punk rock song because they realized it’s not an early 2000’s movie without one. I mean, come on.
There honestly that much to say. I feel like this review was kind of empty compared to what I was hoping but whatever, it’s something. As far as family films go, this is a good one. It’s not one of the great ones but it’s not one of the insulting ones either. It’s a fairly fun ride that manages to hold up reasonably well, even if its nothing amazing.
It’s able to be the fun spy romp it wants to be and it generally flows well. The kids work well enough off each other, although I forgot it was Juni who got the bulk of the development. Carmen was more enjoyable but he did get a bit more depth even if some of it was a little corny. This is one of those movies where the heart is just nice enough to make up for it being fairly cheesy.
Alan Cumming is enjoyable as Floop although him turning good could have had more to it and I feel like he would have worked better as the full villain than Minion. Although things are done fine with him, Floop is just more memorable. The parents are cool with what we get, and the family dynamic in general is nice.
There’s a solid dose of weird stuff without going too far with it. The effects are hit or miss to say the least but it’s not quite as overdosed with them as some movies can get. I’m not sure what it is about this one that makes it work, it just does. It doesn’t do anything great per say but it is just generally enjoyable most of the way through.
The climax does get both overblown and really rushed though. That’s something honestly all the movies kind of suffer from. Speaking of, I can’t put my finger on what makes the latter sequels not quite work as well. With 3, perhaps it’s because it clearly feels rushed out the door and the 4th is just pointless like a lot of these a decade later sequels tend to be.
The second one is a slightly more complicated matter but frankly at this point I might as well review it someday. I recall it being decent but mixed so that’ll be fun. Either way, Spy Kids isn’t a groundbreaking family movie but it is a fun one and sometimes that’s all you need. It didn’t need all those sequels but at least this one can hold up fine enough all these years later.
Sorry this one came out weaker than expected, there wasn’t quite as much to mock as I expected although there was enough. Anyway, Happy Birthday to Antony once again, even if it took a few tries to find a movie this year.
Next time, it’ll be October so tune in for a Halloween review of…something.