Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
There are so few good children's movies these days it's often easy to overpraise the good ones. One that didn't need any hype was last year's "Spy Kids," a delicious adventure written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. The story of an absolutely normal brother and sister, Carmen and Juni Cortez (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) who just happen to be very high-tech spies, as are their parents Gregorio and Ingrid (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino), it was full of in-jokes, light bathroom humor, and intense bickering - in other words, a family just like yours and mine. And it worked in every way: the jokes worked, the plot was appropriate, the special effects were fine, but best of all the film was grounded in real life. I loved it.
"Spy Kids 2" isn't quite as good - it's a little choppy, a little too busy, and is saddled with a plot that's thicker than it needs - but it still has lots of good moments, and a basic good humor that underlies it all. This time around, Gregorio is about to be named head of OSS, the spy organization which carries out high-tech missions, but is inexplicably subverted at the last minute. The film's plot takes the kids and us to the Island to unravel the mystery. The kids have to compete with another brother-sister team, Gary and Gertie Giggles, whose father is the new head of OSS. I think that's all you need to know, other than that Steve Buscemi lives alone on the island, where he's been busy cloning strange animals; Stanley Tucci is briefly in and out; Cheech Marin is back from the first film as the kids' pretend uncle; Ricardo Montalban is the spy family's grandfather; and Bill Paxton plays an amusement park operator.
Does it work? Well, sure, if you don't care too much about logic. Just enjoy the marvelous child actors, who play it absolutely straight - the secret of good comedy. And don't forget to stay for the closing credits.