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With: Daryl Sabara, Alexa Vega, Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino
Written by: Robert Rodriguez
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
MPAA Rating: PG for action sequences and peril
Running Time: 84
Date: 07/13/2003
IMDB

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Third 'Spy' Blind

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has many admirable qualities; in some ways he's a true original in Hollywood. He's one of America's best action directors, favoring clear and smooth movement over the usual jerky and choppy mess. He includes Hispanic characters and actors in his films and he makes films that he himself would actually go to the theater and pay money to see. He's also the most financially clever filmmaker since Roger Corman and always finds short cuts to bring his films in cheaply.

For those reasons alone, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over nearly works. But Rodriguez' biggest flaws also come into play. He's never been very good at endings, and the final 20 minutes of this are among his most rushed and least cohesive. He also undermines the chemistry that made Spy Kids 1 and 2 work so well by isolating a single character and following him for more than half the running time.

It's as if Rodriguez was so excited by the film's 3-D gimmicks that he didn't pay enough attention to the details that make it work.

As the film begins, Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) has quit the OSS and has gone solo, performing small time spy duties in the free sector. Before long, the organization calls him back to help rescue his older sister Carmen (Alexa Vega).

A bad guy known as the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone) is about to release a new video game to the public, but the game is actually a trap. Carmen has gone inside to try and shut the thing down but hasn't returned.

Juni goes into the game and we don our 3-D goggles. (If you're sitting too far off to the side, the colors run a bit.) Rodriguez has lots of fun with a high-speed race, a giant robot fight and other set pieces, probably designed to help sell video games. The problem is that Juni, and a few new characters, don't have the charisma (or the acting skill) to keep us emotionally interested.

Juni calls his grandfather (Ricardo Montalban) into the game for help, but Rodriguez wraps him in a digital superhero suit, and in essence, sucks away his humanity. He doesn't have any more connection to the human characters than a digital blip would.

Rodriguez also seems baffled by Alexa Vega, who is now a young teenager and perhaps too old to be a spy kid. She turns up at the halfway point and looks as if she'd rather enjoy the spotlight alone than be saddled with a little brother. The siblings' bond from the first two films is gone.

The movie's grown-up stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino don't appear until the climax, and they're joined by series supporting stars Steve Buscemi, Alan Cumming, Bill Paxton, Tony Shalhoub and Danny Trejo. Salma Hayek can't make much out of a small role, but George Clooney nails a funny cameo as the U.S. President who morphs into Stallone.

Stallone gets his best role since Cop Land but doesn't receive much direction. Rodriguez gives him three digital doubles to play with, each with one-dimensional personalities (a hippie, a military nut, etc.) and he doesn't seem to know what to do. In the end, it's a sad reminder of Stallone's previous attempts at comedy like Rhinestone and Stop or My Mom Will Shoot.

Still, Spy Kids 3-D is a movie full of inventiveness, and certain sequences do stand out. Imagine operating your own giant fighting robot by standing on top of its head, every move you make dictating what the robot does. (Just like a film director.) Like Spielberg, Tim Burton and Joe Dante, Rodriguez is in constant contact with his inner child, coming up with amazing ideas and bringing them to life. It's just that, this time, he forgot some of the "life" part.

In 2011, Lionsgate released a top-notch new Blu-Ray package. Extras one of Rodriguez's excellent "film school" featurettes, plus a director's commentary track, lost scenes, trailers, and lots of other stuff.

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