A review of “Spy Kids 2, The Island of Lost Dreams” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: * 1/2

Rating: PG for intensity and scares

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

 

 

Performing almost exclusively against bluescreen is a burgeoning art form.  From “The Mummy Returns” to “Star Wars: Episode II”, actors are required to respond and react to nonexistent foe, only to find their dastardly nemeses digitally dropped-in during post-production.

The original “Spy Kids” relied heavily on the charms of its young actors, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, for its unexpected success.  Working with a new script that’s based primarily on computer generated images, director Robert Rodriguez (“El Mariachi”, “Desperado”) and his band of juvenile players have leeched the heart and humanity out of the basic concept, leaving this unnecessarily silly excursion in its wake.

Vega and Sabara return as Carmen and Juni Cortez, apprentice spies for the super-secret OSS.  Carmen and Juni ignore the sensible advice of their seasoned, secret-agent parents (Carla Gugino and Antonio Banderas) and duke it out for plum, Level 2 assignments with archrivals Gary and Gerti Giggles (Matthew O’Leary and Emily Osment – Haley Joel’s little sis), another pair of whippersnapper spies on the rise.

While on a routine mission to rescue the President’s daughter, Carmen and Juni stumble across classified information regarding a missing cloaking device known as a Transmooker.  Hoping to be raised to Level 1 status, the Cortez kids perform a little technological wizardry and assign themselves the job of tracking down the powerful Transmooker and returning it to its rightful owner.  

The journey takes them to a mysterious island, home of the wildly eccentric genetic scientist Romero (Steve Buscemi) and his oddball experiments.  While on site, Carmen and Juni unwittingly become pawns in a reprehensible OSS scheme to take them out and destroy their parents.

Yawn.  This is an excessively stupid and utterly self-conscious attempt at reclaiming some of the financial windfall of the original “Spy Kids”. There’s no excuse for following up a delightful, well-crafted family film with a calculating, computer-generated cold-fish.  Cool special effects, including a virtual Noah’s Ark of marvelous, genetically miniaturized animals and a voice-activated bug robot named R.A.L.P.H., can’t replace the compassion and folksy warmth of the initial project. 

Vega and Sabara are clearly one-shot wonders - both lack the appealing, innocent quality they demonstrated in the first go around.  Star turns by Alan Cumming, Tony Shaloub, and Buscemi are a waste of their time and ours.   Why mess with success?