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Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (Blu-ray Review)

I am a big fan of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez; however, I never quite made the plunge to go and see his “kids” films.  While Rodriguez has made some pretty hard R-rated features in his time (Desperado, From Dusk til Dawn, Sin City), he has also let his wild imagination carve himself out a niche in the kid friendly category as well.  With his Spy Kids films finally hitting Blu-ray (in anticipation for the 4th film in the franchise), it seemed like a good opportunity to force myself to finally see this side of Rodriguez’s filmography.  Having heard good things about the first two, I was excited to get a chance to check these flicks out.  The 2nd Spy Kids film manages to continue with the same fun and creative nature that made the first film so entertaining. While it may not have quite the same amount of originality that made the first stand out so much, it still does a lot right and manages to be a very enjoyable family film.

Film:

This film starts out with its own James Bond-style mini-opening film, which has the Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni Cortez (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) helping save the President’s daughter at a newly opened theme park (ran by Bill Paxton in full cowboy mode).  While the Spy Kids are successful, their success is overshadowed by the other, snottier Spy Kids Gary and Gerti Giggles, who take all the credit for the rescue.  This all leads into the plot, which finds the Spy Kids embarking on a new mission that involves a mysterious invisible island.

The island is volcanic and populated by an imaginative set of creatures created by the misunderstood scientist Romero (Steve Buscemi).  On this bizarre island, none of the Cortez’s gadgets work and they must rely on their wits and each other to survive and save the day.  This will certainly be quite the task, as the island is filled with traps, skeletons, crazy creatures, and even the threat of some that the kids thought they could trust.  Meanwhile, the super spy parents (Antonio Banderas and the lovely Carla Gugino), worried for their children, do all they can to try and locate the island and find them.  They are joined by their own former spy parents (the Spy Kids’ grandparents, for those keeping track), played by Holland Taylor and Ricardo Montalban.  Once again, it may come down to having the family that spies together, stay together.

Given that the previous film combined the talents of a ton of different actors, usually seen in other Robert Rodriguez films, this film does have the benefit of maintaining almost that entire cast, while adding on a number of other great character actors into the fold.  As a result, the film certainly has a “greatest hits” sort of feel when it comes to having various actors pop up in small roles.  That being said, it also becomes apparent as to how the talent is shaping out for the young actors.  I think Alexa Vega does a good job at bringing a nice screen presence to her character.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Daryl Sabara has matured much as a young actor in this film, as most of his lines felt very flat.  Still, there is a level of charisma in seeing this duo on screen together, which I continued to enjoy.

Robert Rodriguez once again lets his imagination run wild and then some, now that he has switched over to filming with digital cameras.  The first film was already packed with special effects, but now Rodriguez fills the frame with colorful, creative energy throughout, and makes things even crazier than before.  Especially after watching some of the “making-ofs” about the production of this film, it is quite awesome to marvel at the way he manages to make such a seemingly big film out of partial sets, a minimal budget, and the use of his own imagination to make things work out for the best.

The story in this film is fairly familiar, although Rodriguez (who serves as the writer, among his many other credited roles in the film’s production) has decided to cram in references to plenty of other old stories and films, including the works of Ray Harryhausen (who has a cameo).  I particularly enjoy the way that Rodriguez manages to make the supposed “villains” of the film actually come off as misunderstood geniuses, as opposed to simply evil people.  He did it in the first film with Alan Cumming’s character and he does it again with Steve Buscemi’s character.  Add to that the continued self aware nature of this series, with lines like, “How do you know?” – “’Cause it’s big, weird, and in the middle of the room,” which lets the film have a playfully winking eye at everything.

Spy Kids 2 does run a bit too long.  As opposed to the first film, which was mean and lean, this sequel expands its scope a bit too much, but doesn’t get away with being as frequently entertaining and is almost too knowing at times.  Still, the film is another great family adventure film that is quite clever, funny, wonderfully good looking in terms of the imaginative creatures and set design, and quite fun in having plenty of recognizable actors pop up in places.  This may be the last “good” installment of the franchise, but it’s a very enjoyable one.

Video:

Now working with digital cameras, it would seem as if Rodriguez films and Blu-ray go hand and hand at this point.  The flick looks fantastic on Blu-ray and opposed to the previous installment, the sequel’s effects actually stand the test of time.  While the effects are noticeable at times, in terms of how much green screen usage is at play, the film still looks incredibly bright and colorful throughout.  The disc does supply an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and it looks very good throughout.  Rodriguez has made another live-action cartoon and this disc does a very good job of capturing that aspect through its video presentation.

Audio:

Spy Kids 2 features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is basically the best kind of track one would want for this film.  The various action scenes are all filled with a lot of crazy sound effects and the score provided by Rodriguez and John Debney comes across great throughout.  I didn’t have a few issues this time around with the dialogue, as I did last time, which is a very good thing.  When the sound kicks into gear for the key scenes of this film, it all came out quite clear.  A very good audio mix, further helping the presentation quality of the film overall.

Special Features:

It is a bit irritating getting to this portion of the disc, as it has the one key feature that I love in all Robert Rodriguez special features sections: the 10-minute film school; however, all of the features are presented in SD quality.  There are still some decent featurettes present, but nothing that really stands out beyond the film school and commentary.  Special features include:

  • Audio Commentary by Robert Rodriguez – Always a good speaker.
  • Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film School – The best feature on the disc.
  • A New Kind of Stunt Kid
  • Lost Scenes with Optional Director’s Commentary
  • “Isle of Dreams” Music Video
  • School at Big Bend National Park
  • Essential Gear: The Gadgets of Spy Kids
  • Behind-the-Scenes Montages
  • “Total Access 24/7”: A Day in the Life of Spy Kids
  • Trailers
  • A Digital Copy of the film

Final Thoughts:

There is still a lot to be said for Robert Rodriguez and his ability to shift between very different types of projects.  While this sequel to his fun and fresh original take on a family-friendly action film may be a bit less inspired from some standpoints, Rodriguez still gets a chance to let his imagination run wild with inventive ideas.  This is a wonderfully lively adventure film, good for many to enjoy and filled with creative energy.  The disc is appropriately great as well, with stellar video and audio quality to properly represent the world that was created for this film.  A decent load of special features as well, with a couple big highlights.  Certainly worth your time as far as the first two entries in this series are concerned.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (Blu-ray Review)”


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    Normally, I’d watch a movie like SPY KIDS 4 in the overly gimmicky 3D. But it’ll cost half the price to see it in 2D. No brainer.