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Spy Kids 3D

The MPAA rated S (2003) PG-13 for action violence and some sensuality.

Robert Rodriquez has become the “do it all” man with his Spy Kids franchise. Director, writer, producer, editor, cinematographer, and even a credit for original music in Spy Kids 3D are some of his multi-purpose abilities. In return, his stylized Junior James Bond flicks have returned a handsome reward. Not bad for something you edit in your garage.

Each successive movie seems to rely more heavily on computerized special effects, and this one goes over the top in that department. Like Disney’s Tron from a couple of decades ago, the bulk of this film takes place inside a virtual reality computer game after Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) discovers his older sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) has been sucked into the game’s trap by the evil Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone).

At this point, things get interesting for both Juni and the audience. Donning a “special” pair of glasses before he heads into the virtual world, the audience follows Juni example by putting on some good ol’ fashioned 3D specs. Once inside the game, the film takes on a whole new dimension. Now the junior spy must overcome obstacles and complete the various levels separating him from his sister. But the challenge is too great to meet alone, so Juni calls for help from other gamers as well as his physically challenged Grandfather (Ricardo Montalban).

As in previous episodes, this third Spy Kids draws on themes of family togetherness, team effort, forgiveness, and cooperation. For this Rodriquez is commended, as he avoids the usual “kids know everything” template. Instead Juni immediately recognizes the wisdom and experience his Grandfather possesses, and looks past the wheelchair.

On a slight downside, Spy Kids 3D is much more about computer wizardry than story – although that may be appropriate considering it utilizes the typical video game formula. And despite all the hype, the 3D effect is disappointing. Using an older anaglyphic technology – meaning you wear blue and red tinted glasses as opposed to clear polarized lenses – the movie appears dark and at times it is difficult to see the characters’ faces. I finally resorted to removing my eyewear and watching the slightly doubled image on the screen.

As for my four children who had the rare privilege of attending with me, they thought it was all too cool – and I must agree it was great to enjoy a movie with no language or sex, and only a mild dose of video game style violence. They also had a chance to glimpse the past by taking a moment to look at the audience behind them: The swarm of people in those crazy 3D glasses looked just like that classic 1950’s image!

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