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Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

01/09/2003. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over in the USA - or Buy Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over in the UK

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The third installment of the immensely popular kiddie secret agent series. While the previous two editions were joyful enough to behold, our Frank reckons Game Over feels mightily labored and lean.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003) Miramax Films
1 hr. 29 mins.
Starring: Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, Ricardo Montalban, Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin, Sylvester Stallone and a cast of numerous cameos
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is the third instalment of the immensely popular kiddie secret agent series. While the previous two editions were joyful enough to behold thanks to director Robert Rodriguezís unique visual style to go along with the high-spirited camp of the juvenile frivolity involved, Game Over feels mightily labored and lean.

In fact, to call this latest "sequel" a film would be stretching it quite a bit. Basically, Rodriguez delivers what amounts to be a glorified celluloid video game complete with no particular exciting plot. Suffice to say, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is about as vibrant as a penny arcade hit by a sudden power outage.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Despite the overloading of a list of impressive brand names meant to lend some credibility to this giddy childrenís espionage showcase, the game is certainly over for this fleeting franchise that apparently has gone to the well once too often.

Itís kind of ironic that a kiddie caper such as Game Over that promises to build upon its 3-D gimmick is nothing more than a hyperactive one-dimensional rug rat farce at best. So where did Rodriguezís vision go wrong in comparison to his first couple of cinematic outings involving chatty siblings out to save the world (and their crime-fighting parents) from destruction?

Well, the predecessor films were terrifically spry and imaginative thanks to the creative input that dared kids and grown-ups alike to escape to a colorful world of gadgetry. For the children, the Spy Kids films were a chance for the adventurous tots to have their own sense of action movies geared to their sensibilities.

Plus, these movies were an innocuous put-on for any adult willing to look at these flicks as a junior-sized spoof based on the repetitive spy genre. Thus, the Spy Kids features made for some resilient entertainment as acceptable shrewd family fare.

If anything, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over has nothing unique to offer thatís seemingly challenging or mildly distinctive. What was once a cunning and cavalier affair that meshed together a landscape of inventive artistry with an innate smartness to compliment the material is now a forced sideshow reduced to engaging in tacky tactics to enhance the enjoyment factor.

When you have to resort to wearing 3-D glasses to appreciate the so-called fun-loving chaos thatís taking place then you know that thereís a sense of desperation to instill some interest in this lukewarm joyride. Maybe the kids will get somewhat of a kick in donning these 3-D glasses to heighten their hungry awareness.

But for the most part, a pair of 3-D glasses cannot conquer the stillborn script or lack of spontaneous spunk that the previous Spy Kids entries enjoyed with effortless ease.

In what supposedly resembles a passable plotline, Game Over does lay down the simplicity of its basic highlights. Our heroine Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega) becomes mysteriously stranded inside a video game and itís up to 10-year-old "retired" sibling and fellow junior spy Juni (Daryl Sabara) to save her from such a predicament.

In the meantime, the kidsí Grandpa (Ricardo Montalban) has a score to settle when he decides to confront the dastardly personality Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone) upon Juniís insistence. The Toymakerís devious agenda is such that he wants to usher out a new video game for the masses to cherish.

However, his playful project is harmful as it has the dubious knack of trapping people inside its ominous realm. Hence, someone has to stop the Toymaker before he becomes too threatening for his own good.

When Juni decides to explore the unpredictable contents of the Toymakerís nefarious video game, this is where the audience experiences the rush of the 3-D goggles meant to emphasize the wild ride that our inquisitive protagonists are confronting on-screen. For the most part, Rodriguez does come up with some dazzling images that fortify the mayhem that is taking place in his candy-coated universe of overactive set designs.

There are a few spectacles to focus upon (look out for the giant robot fight sequence for instance) that will tap into the jumpy nerves. The overall scenes are energetic but still thereís a feeling of creative emptiness or absence of purpose that seems to be missing from this extended manufactured venture.

From a positive standpoint, Rodriguez is one of the many filmmakers that do not mind using his "inner youthfulness" to the point of not being afraid to express his child-like enthusiasm in his crafty storytelling mode. But Game Over cannot help but show some cracks in its presumed sturdy armor.

The young lead players, Vega and Sabara, were so believable as an intriguing sister-and-brother act that they were a durable tandem that made the likes of Donny and Marie Osmond seem like a fraudulent excuse for close knit sibs. In this weak-kneed edition, the bond is as strong as scotch tape trying to hold a couple of bricks in place. Vega looks like she may be long in the tooth to keep playing a Spy Kid.

Naturally this adolescent gal will probably tire out of playing a role that perhaps may be too passé for her to continue since she may be outgrowing this portrayal. And Sabara comes across as rather bored and doesnít possess the same gleam in his eyes that was so evident in the last two films he participated in with notable vigor. Itís safe to say that the chemistry of the tenacious tykes may have worn off a bit.

If the 3-D element of Game Over was a stunt of sheer desperation to begin with, the stocking up of celebrity cameos in an attempt to infuse some family-friendly fuel comes in at a close second. The clever move to enlist a whoís who of Hollywood by having them parade around in this middling movie doesnít excuse the lackluster allure.

As for the other Spy Kids regulars in that of parents Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino, they practically donít show up until things heat up a bit which is rather disappointing because the dad-mom tag team is almost as essential as the kidsí partnership. The exclusive cartoonish treatment is given to both Montalban and Stallone respectively.

Montalban has the honor of embarrassingly strutting around in a cheesy superhero outfit of sorts while never having the chance at carving out a solid characterization as an elder of respectability. Specifically, Stallone is good-natured about his stint as the Toymaker and he tries to instill some nutty off-the-cuff villainous voltage into this bad guyís creed.

Unfortunately, Sly is still awkward at trying to parlay a comedic spin into something that he can sink his choppers into with convincing flare. Sadly, Stallone is as humorous as a three-alarm fire at an inner city orphanage.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is indeed one grand video excursion that needs to be unplugged. And if you are the first one to perform this particular honor, immediately give yourself 50,000 bonus points.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2003

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