a critiQal film review Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

Plot: Juni (Sabara) has retired from the OSS. He's doing small jobs now for local kids to save up money to buy the latest game craze: Game Over, created by the mysterious Toymaker (Stallone). He's forced back into the OSS when he finds out his sister Carmen (Vega) has become trapped in the game. Now Juni, with a little help from Grandpa (Montalban), must venture into the game, save his sister and stop the Toymaker.

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  • ...grown-ups won't mind watching this 3rd film too much, but it falls short of being a film the whole family will actually enjoy.

I saw the previews for Spy Kids 3: Game Over last summer. It looked interesting, but with the massive amounts of movies I wanted to see last summer, it got pushed to the wayside.

A few months later, I remembered there was a Robert Rodriguez film I wanted to see…and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) arrived. Needless to say, I missed this one in the theaters.

I was ready for it when it hit DVD, however I had a few qualms about seeing Spy Kids 3. Due to my current eye condition (post cornea transplant), I can’t see 3-D. Also, with the unexpected surprise that the second film was, I wasn’t sure if the filmmakers would be able to top it in a third installment.

So, would the filmmakers produce a quality film that continued to impress, while at the same time making the film available to 3D-challenged folks such as myself, or was I destined to be left out of something not so great?

The actors seem to be living well off the success of the two previous films. While it’s not unexpected, it shows through a little more than is probably good for the film. The characters all seem a bit uppercrust-ish in the film, and don’t seem to put as much effort into their characters as they did in the previous films.

Daryl Sabara showcases this aloofness the most, as his character Juni is shown again and again (in the beginning of Spy Kids 3) to be totally inept at the game he is in. This contrast between his attitude and his character’s actions is so striking, it sticks out like a sore thumb. When his character finally starts getting to be a better player in the game, it’s almost as if the game is giving up, and giving into his overwhelming superiority complex, rather than Juni’s skill improving in the least. This aloofness isn’t as readily apparent in the other returning characters, but does surface as an overall feel to the film.

The plot seems to be an homage to the classic TRON (1982). Think about it. A person goes inside a computer game, participates in a race, battles against programmers, meets beta testers, and fights against an Artificial Intelligence to shut down the game. Not much difference there. What’s that old line? Ah yes…”The names have been changed to protect the innocent”. Something like that.

Hopefully, Robert Rodriguez had TRON (1982) in mind when he was writing the story for this film. The added twist of having Juni’s sister Carmen trapped in the game seems more of just a reason to get Juni in the game than anything else. Other than that, it’s just TRON (1982) for the new millennium – with younger kids.

The special effects make up most of Spy Kids 3, as the setting is mostly inside a virtual game world. Almost every scene is packed with special effects, and they all seem to be quite well done. There are a few errors (when Juni is battling in the arena, his foe Demetra wipes her hand across her forehead. But, the robot she is controlling with every motion of her body, doesn’t wipe it’s arm the same way – since that would knock her out of her spot atop the robot’s body.), but these errors don’t really affect any of the scenes in a drastic way.

Most of the special effects are on a huge scale when comparing them to the young kids, and a few even seem thrown in just for fun (An appearance by Elijah Wood showcases Wood as taller, and seemingly wiser, than everyone around him – a drastic change from his short child-like Hobbit character from the recent The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) trilogy).

The characters almost become lost within the myriad of special effects. At times, they are the one element that bring the “reality” of the special effects crashing down, since they seem unsure where to look at the action happening in front of them – showcasing that this isn’t really happening when they are filming, it’s added in later.

For the most part, however, they tend to be on target, and the special effects help create a larger-than-life world that you’ll be glad to be drawn into.

All in all, Spy Kids 3 doesn’t live up to the high expectations put forth by it’s predecessor, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002). The second film was able to appeal to both children and grown-ups alike. Spy Kids 3 decided, apparently, to back down from that shaky stance, and instead will probably only appeal to the kids.

Grown-ups won’t mind watching it (it’s definitely nowhere near the level of “Barney” (TV)), but it will fall short of being a truly decent film for the whole family (If you’re looking for that, try Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002), Shrek (2001), or pretty much any Pixar film to date).

And, if you’re not into wearing the 3-D glasses (not included if renting), there is a 2-D version of the film on the disc as well. Worth renting, but not worth the buy – unless you’ve got kids…or unless you’ve been waiting for more 3-D glasses since Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare hit store shelves.

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