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The UnPopular Opinion: Spy Kids

08.12.2015

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

There are very few live action kids movies anymore. In the last twenty years, aside from the Harry Potter films, most of the live action movies have been crap like AGENT CODY BANKS or BABY GENIUSES. We got lucky last year with EARTH TO ECHO, but there have been no movies like THE GOONIES for the current generation of kids. So, even though the works of Pixar and Dreamworks have revived animation, the live action realm is pretty sparse. That is why I highly recommend the SPY KIDS movies.

Robert Rodriguez has created a franchise of magical and creative movies that feature the actors that normally populate his more adult fare. From Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino in the original to Jessica Alba and Jeremy Piven in the latest installment, the SPY KIDS films are full of familiar stars that adults and kids can both enjoy. But, even though the first film was critically acclaimed, the films have been lumped together as "kids movies" that adults have ignored unless they have little ones. I am here to tell you that if you have a couple of hours to kill and want to feel like a kid again, check out the first SPY KIDS.

Robert Rodriguez would later master the use of green screen in his SIN CITY films, but it was with SPY KIDS that he first began to truly use his CGI playground. Using a simple plot about a pair of spies who have retired to become parents, Rodriguez is able to take a pair of then rookie actors in Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega and let them live out every kid's dream of becoming junior James Bonds. The kids are actually pretty good actors and hold their own with Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino as the parents who are looking for a little spark in their suburban lives. Banderas is a bit over-the-top with his portrayal but Gugino is perfect as she usually is.

While the other films in the SPY KIDS franchise tend to go well beyond the line of reason, the first movie straddles it and keeps the plot and effects playful without throwing the kitchen sink in regards to the CGI. In fact, the true magic in SPY KIDS is that all of the characters are well developed and rounded. Juni (Sabara) is dealing with confidence issues related to warts on his fingers while Carmen still tries to come to terms with who her parents are. It may seem simplistic compared to other features out there, but this is a kids movie after all.

But, as I mentioned, what makes SPY KIDS work is that the adults appear to be having as much fun as the kids. In addition to Banderas and Gugino, SPY KIDS features Alan Cumming, Robert Patrick, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Teri Hatcher, Mike Judge, and even George Clooney in a fun cameo. Seeing these actors play characters who are very different than who they played in FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, DESPERADO, and THE FACULTY is part of the fun. Rodriguez has made these films a modern equivalent of THE MUPPETS in which Hollywood actors can act like goofballs and have fun but still manage to deliver a quality movie.

SPY KIDS never tries to be an adult film with kids or a kids film with adults. The movie has no preconceived notions that it is anything more than a movie without regard to audience. Yes, it caters to families but it never talks down to kids while delivering a story about empowering youth. Yes,there is a little scatological humor but it is wholly inoffensive and instead captures why we all go to the movies: to escape into another world that is not like the one we inhabit. The best comparison would be with superhero films. What child would not dream about being a spy or a secret agent? SPY KIDS delivers on that fantasy.

I am sure you are still skeptical about the movie if you have not seen it. Every one of you was a child once or are now a child at heart. Some find it difficult to engage with an animated film because they cannot suspend their disbelief long enough to enjoy it. Having kids has exposed me to more movies than I would care to share and many of them were beyond painful to sit through. But, time and time again, I find myself enjoying SPY KIDS and it's sequels as escapist entertainment that delivers on the escape as well as the entertainment.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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