If imagination could be harnessed as an energy source, I suspect local filmmaker Robert Rodriguez could power a small nation all on his own, but after 90 minutes immersed in the video-game world of Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
, one wishes he had diversified that imagination some. In this third (and final) outing of the hugely popular Spy Kids
series, writer/director/editor/cinematographer/production designer/composer/co-producer Rodriguez concentrates so heavily on the special effects that everything else – dialogue, acting, character and story development – comes off like an afterthought. The twig-thin plot has newly retired spy kid Juni Cortez (Sabara) forced to rejoin the OSS spy organization when his sister, fellow op Carmen (Vega), goes missing. Actually, her body’s still safely ensconced at headquarters, but her head’s stuck somewhere inside a video game called Game Over
. Juni must save his sis and shut down the game before midnight, at which point the game goes on sale and kids everywhere will become unwittingly enslaved by the game’s designer, known as the Toymaker (Stallone, who also plays three different manifestations of his id, all irritating). Juni enlists the help of a band of beta testers and his wheelchair-bound grandfather (Montalban), who, inside this virtual-reality world, has use of his legs again. Within the game, the film switches over to 3-D, and the graphics are indeed impressive. There’s a spectacular sequence in which Juni battles a "femme-bot" named Demetra (Jines), but it’s quickly followed by another action set-piece, and then another, and another, with no room to breathe in between. Further, the logic of this universe is utterly incomprehensible: Rules seem plucked out of thin air in order to complicate, or justify, the next big wham-bam action scene. I suspect kids, who are well-versed in video-game speak, won’t mind the incoherence or the hyperventilating pace – and, after all, they are
the audience Rodriguez made the movie for. Yet, the first two films were similarly targeted at children, and they were a treat for parents, too: clever and cheeky, with loads of MacGyver
-like ingenuity. Maybe most significantly, those first two emphasized family ties in a way that was both endearing and organic. While Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
continues that theme, it does so in a far more forced, even preachy, manner. This clumsiness has a lot to do with the absence of Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino; as Carmen and Juni’s parents, they had a zingy rapport and made "family" look like fun in the first two installments. Here, they pop in only briefly – along with an assortment of characters from the first two films, including Bill Paxton’s Dinky Winks and Steve Buscemi’s mad-eyed Dr. Romero – for the final, nonsensical showdown. The climax, like the film itself, is big, loud, and looks cool enough, which is what we’ve come to expect from summer movies … but not from Robert Rodriguez.