Spy Kids (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.  With this first Spy Kids film, it is definitely apparent that everyone involved was having a really good time, as it is fresh, imaginative, and clever from both a filmmaking and story standpoint.  Definitely cheesy and very kid friendly, but it has a lot of fun elements for adults to enjoy as well.


The film stars Antonio Banderas and the lovely Carla Gugino as Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez, retired secret agents now trying to raise a family together.  They were once known as the greatest spies in the world, but upon being assigned to eliminate each other, they fell in love instead, leading to their current, humble life raising two children.  These children are Carmen and Juni (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara), who are unaware of their parents previous lives and mainly think of them as their loving, but uncool folks.

Meanwhile, it would appear that other famous spies around the world are disappearing, which leads Gregorio and Ingrid to be called back into action.  It would appear that the tech-wizard and children’s show host Flegan Floop (Alan Cumming) and his sidekick Minion (Tony Shalhoub) are somehow involved in these disappearances, but upon arriving at Floop’s castle, the parents are quickly captured.  Carmen and Juni are soon made aware of their parent’s actual roles as spies and put it upon themselves to try and rescue their parents.  Apparently being a spy runs in the family, as Carmen and Juni find that they are well up to the task, as they equip themselves with cool gadgets built by their uncle, Machete (Danny Trejo, obviously), and use the various forms of training and knowledge given to them by their parents.

I enjoy that this film is in fact a family film.  By that, I mean that this film is one that can actually be enjoyed by the whole family.  It is fun, clever in a lot of way, contains witty dialogue, and is full of colorful imagination.  While it is essentially an action film, it does not contain inappropriate violence or language even.  Spy Kids is a film that simply wants to entertain by being upbeat and smart about how it delves into its cheesy premise and writer/director Robert Rodriguez delivers in that way.

It was also interesting to see how Rodriguez managed to adapt his style of filmmaking for a family film like this.  Rodriguez has always been a very hands-on filmmaker, usually serving as his own editor (among other roles).  Here he served as his own visual effects supervisor, coming up with various ways to deliver on the high usage of digital effects in the film.  As a result, the film basically has a very economical way of looking quite large in scope.  As this film was originally released back in 2001, it is easy to see the ways that it dates itself now, but I still admire what was, in some ways, kind of revolutionary back then.  I have used the word “cheesy” a lot, which applies here, but in a good way.  This film has an incredibly creative energy flowing through it that wants to have fun with its story and not pay attention to caring about what is practical in a spy world such as this.

Instead of caring about the logistics of intricate spy plots and schemes, Spy Kids decides to have more fun playing around with the conventions of these types of films, while establishing itself within the genre.  As a result, the film is all the more entertaining.  It is not about taking things seriously, it is about having fun.  That said, I did also appreciate the Hispanic pride running throughout this movie as well.  It is not something that is called out, just noticeable in the way that you have a large cast that is not the typical variety of Caucasian leads seen so often in mainstream family features.  Given that this is a Rodriguez film that should be apparent anyway, but still a neat thing I wanted to point out.

I was not surprised to have enjoyed Spy Kids so much, but I was happy to finally watch it.  While I understand that the sequels tend to slide downward in quality, I can at least continue to appreciate the joy that Rodriguez, his cast, and his crew must have had in making these films.  It must have at least been a nice break in between some of the more hardcore films that he has made, although those films have just as much entertaining elements in a different sort of way.  Regardless, with so many “family films” that involve crude humor in some way, it was nice to watch one that felt so reassuring and positive, while packed with imaginative action.


As this film is heavily dependent on a bright color palette that runs throughout, given its heavy use of special effects, it is nice to see how clean this transfer looked.  The film has been nicely fitted with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and looks great.  It should be noted that this was the final movie that Rodriguez shot with film stock, before switching over to digital (which he is now obsessed with), yet the movie still looks very good.  I mentioned that the effects do look a bit dated now, which is noticeable in how it looks on Blu-ray, but it is not really a fault of the actual transfer.  Overall, it is a good looking film from a man who makes slick looking flicks.


Spy Kids 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 a host of collaborators (including Danny Elfman) comes across great throughout.  I did have a few issues with the dialogue in spots, as the mix at times made me address turning up the volume to hear people before adjusting for the loud-by-design sequences.  Still, when the sound kicks into gear for the key scenes of this film, it all came out quite clear.

Special Features:

There is a nice set of extra features included on this disc, as well as a digital copy of the film.  Best of all, the three most enjoyable features are all presented in HD.  Features include:

  • Growing Up Spy Kids – A retrospective that takes a look back at the making of all three Spy Kids films.  It features interviews with almost everyone involved and details some of the early processes of Rodriguez as a filmmaker.
  • Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film School – Basically the highlight of any Robert Rodriguez film’s extra features.  As always, Rodriguez takes a fast, fun, and detailed look at the making of some aspect of his film in just about ten minutes.  In this feature, he explains a lot of the process that went into the making of the special effects for the film.
  • Ten-Minute Cooking School – Another 10-minute feature, but this one details his process for making Texas-style grilled cheese sandwiches and health smoothies.  The guy makes movies and he can cook!
  • Stunts Spy Kids Style – A look at the stunts and wire work performed by the young actors and featured in the film.
  • Makeup Effects Featurette – Another look at the effects used in the making of this film.
  • Trailers – They’re all in HD.
  • Digital Copy – A second disc contains this copy of the film, which can be used for portable devices.

Final Thoughts:

Spy Kids is an enjoyable family film that deserves to be checked out by families wanting a fun spy film that is appropriate and exciting to watch.  It has a host of actors who are genuinely regulars in the more adult-oriented Robert Rodriguez films, but playing decidedly more accessible characters here.  It is also a film that manages to be a window into the colorful imagination of Rodriguez who fills the frames with clever creations and filmmaking techniques.  The Blu-ray is equally fitting, as it boasts a solid and colorful video transfer, clear sound, and a host of special features worth watching.

Order your copy here:




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.

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