Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over review by Mike Long

Those close to me will tell you that I'm very thrifty with my money -- some would even call me a cheapskate. Well, here's a money saving tip for all of you: Go to a friend's house and watch them play a video game. There, you've gotten the exact same experience that you get from watching Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over without having to spend any money on it.

Spy Kids 3-D picks up a few months after the events of Spy Kids 2. Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) has left the OSS and has struck out on his own as a private detective. (The movie is very vague as to why Juni left the OSS and it doesn't really gel with the conclusion of the second film.) He has turned his back on his family and friends and left his old life behind. This all changes when he gets an urgent message from the OSS that his sister, Carmen (Alexa Vega) is in trouble. Carmen had infiltrated a new on-line video game called "Game Over", but failed to return. The game is the work of the evil Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), who plans to use the game to take over the world. Juni agrees to go into the game to save Carmen. Once there, he calls upon his Grandfather (Ricardo Montalban) for help, and runs into a group of cocky beta-tester (Ryan Pinkston, Bobby Edner, Robert Vito). Juni has just a short amount of time to reach Level 5 of the game, rescue his sister, and save the world.

The first two Spy Kids films were the rarest of commodities -- two movies made by a very talented filmmaker which were aimed at pre-teens, combining action, comedy, and a positive message. (Although, truth be told, Spy Kids is a WEIRD movie!) However, Spy Kids 3-D is a total mess, having thrown all of the positive attributes of the series to the side. The basic problem with the film is the story, or actually, the lack thereof. Juni goes into the game and experiences a virtual reality world while trying to save his sister. That's not only a plot synopsis, that's the entire story. There are no plot twists, no subplots, no nothing. Series creator Robert Rodriguez had shown such respect for his target audience with the first two films, as he didn't dummy-down the story and presented two fleshed-out film. (Spy Kids 2 actually suffers from having too much plot.) But, with the third entry, all that he has to offer are the pretty pictures of the video game and some trite action scenes. The 84-minute film feels very rushed (it was shot and in theaters in a 7-month period) and many important details of the already miniscule story are left behind.

While it's always a letdown when any movie doesn't live up to its potential, Spy Kids 3-D is especially disappointing, because it could have been a worthy successor to the first two movies. As Sabara and Vega have gotten older, they've become better actors and less annoying, but they aren't given much to work with here. Stallone is actually rather amusing as the villain (who is insane and constantly argues with his three alter-egos), but we learn very little about him and he spends most of the film just mugging for the camera. As with the other movies, there are a series of fun cameos in the movie, but they most of them are crammed into the finale and serve little purpose. Even die-hard fans of the Spy Kids series will be disappointed by this pointless quickie.

Spy Kids 3-D flies into your face on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Video. You may want to sit down, because there is a lot of technical information to cover on this DVD. Spy Kids 3-D is a 2-disc set, with Disc 1 containing the 3-D version of the film and Disc 2 having the 2-D version. The DVD comes with 4 pairs of 3-D glasses (I have no idea how rental outlets are going to handle this.), and there is an option on the DVD to order more. The glasses are the red/blue type. Both versions of the film have been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and are enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. OK, the visibility of the 3-D effects are going to vary from person to person, but for me, I couldn't see a thing. The DVD does contain a feature to assist setting up your TV for 3-D viewing, but that didn't help. In fact, I was adjusting my TV throughout the movie. The image did have true 3-D depth, but the "in your face" effects didn't work for me. The big problem comes with the colors. The entire film contains vibrant colors, yet it's so hard to get those colors balanced with the red/blue 3-D. (Rodriguez does admit that polarized 3-D would have worked better, but it was impractical.) I really can't comment on any defects in the 3-D version, because the whole thing was blurry to me. As for the 2-D version, the colors come through very well and are really breathtaking. The image does show some artifacting and a small amount of video noise. Again, the ability to truly see the film in 3-D is going to vary from person-to-person, but I have a feeling that many viewers will have the same headache-inducing experience that I did. Both DVDs carry a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is excellent. Basically, the entire game portion of the film (which takes up most of the movie) is bursting with surround sound effects and subwoofer action. The stereo effects are clean and well-defined and the dialogue is always clear and audible.

This set contains many extras, which are spread out across the 2-discs. Both discs contain a set-top racing game, which is 3-D on Disc 1 and 2-D on Disc 2. Both discs contain an audio commentary from creator Robert Rodriguez, where he divulges that a Special Edition DVD of Spy Kids will be coming out later this year. On this track, Rodriguez gives in-depth coverage to how the film was made, paying special attention to point out how the green-screen effects were done and how he made cost-effective decisions. This sentiment continues on Disc 1 with "Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School" (10 minutes), which is made up mostly of comparisons between the finished film and the on-set green-screen work. Rodriguez points out the simplicity of many of the effects shots in the film, and makes it all look very easy. This segment also includes "How to Make Cool Home Movies", where Rodriguez demonstrates the value of sound effects. Disc 1 also contains a section in which star Alexa Vega performs three songs in concert, although there's not a lot of info on the hows and whys of this. Disc 2 opens with "The Making of Spy Kids 3-D" (21 minutes), which was made for TV and is your standard behind-the-scenes fare. The highlight here is a brief history of 3-D movies. "The Effects of the Game" (7 minutes) is much like the "Film School" segment as it contains comparisons between the finished film and the green-screen set, while showing how the effects were layered. Alexa Vega sings some more, but in the studio this time, with "Making Traks with Alexa Vega" (1 minute.) "Surfing and Stunts" is a multi-angle feature which allows the viewer to toggle between the storyboard, green-screen set, and finished film for the lava-surfing scene. Finally, with "Big Dink, Little Dink" (2 minutes), we have a behind-the-scenes interview with Bill Paxton, in which he talks about his cameo in the film, where he worked with his son James.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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