Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (Collector's Series)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
5 out of 8
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

Starring:
Antonio Banderas as Gregorio Cortez
Carla Gugino as Ingrid Cortez
Alexa Vega as Carmen Cortez
Daryl Sabara as Juni Cortez
Steve Buscemi as Romero
Mike Judge as Donnagon
Danny Trejo as Machete
Cheech Marin as Felix Gumm
Matthew O'Leary as Gary Giggles
Emily Osment as Gerti Giggles
Ricardo Montalban as Grandfather
Holland Taylor as Grandmother
Alan Cumming as Fegan Floop
Taylor Momsen as Alexandra
Christopher McDonald as President of the USA

Special Features:
Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School: "Big Movies Made Cheap"
A New Kind of Stunt Kid
Feature Commentary with Robert Rodriguez
Lost Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary
Intro To Spy Kids
Donnagon Intro
Dad Fires Juni
All Out Of Heroes
Lollipop Synchronization
Gary and Gerti Return
Romero Escapes
Grandpa Lays Down The Law
"Isle of Dreams" Music Video
School At Big Bend National Park
Essential Gear: The Gadgets Of Spy Kids 2
Behind the Scenes Montages
Costa Rica
Cliff Stunt
Inflate-A-Suit
Spy Gala
Theme Park
Romero's Hideaway
Total Access 24/7: "A Day In The Life Of Spy Kids"
Still Gallery
Art Gallery
Teaser Trailer
Transmooker Trouble (Set Top Game)
DVD-ROM Weblinks

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) - Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Running Time: 100 Mins.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language Track

Synopsis:
Carmen and Juni Cortez return in Spy Kids 2, this time as veterans of the spy game. They are part of a new organization of spy children helping to save the world. However, this time they're not alone. Rivals Gary and Gertie Giggles upstage them at every turn. They have more gadgets and their father is the new head of the spy organization, OSS. It doesn't help matters that Juni despises Gary while Carmen has a crush on him.

When the dangerous "transmooker device" is stolen by the magna men, it's up to the spy kids to recover it. The Giggles children are sent to handle the job. However Juni and Carmen are eager to prove themselves and they redirect the Giggles to the wrong location. It's now up to the Cortez's to reach the Island of Lost Dreams and save the day. The only problem is that their electronic devices don't work on the island and they must face an array of genetically manipulated beasts and monsters in order to stop the bad guys and outsmart the Giggles.

"Spy Kids 2: The Island Of Lost Dreams" is rated PG for action sequences and brief rude humor.

The Movie:
I think I liked the first Spy Kids film better. It had the advantage of being a novelty and showing us some cool things that you may have never seen before. This sequel lacks the novelty and pretty much offers up the same material in a slightly different package. Spy Kids has been described as James Bond for children, and that's a pretty accurate description. However, children will probably be the only ones that really enjoy it. That's fine since it is what Rodriguez probably intended, but I think with a bit of tweaking he could have made the movie more entertaining for both children and adults.

Spy Kids 2 has all the elements of a great film, but they never seem to come all together and work right. The cast is perfect. Alexa Vega is wonderful as Carmen. She's tough, pretty, and funny. And as you'll see in the credits, she can sing, too. I think we can expect to see a lot more good things from this actress in the future. Daryl Sabara has grown up a bit, too, and he is a lot tougher in this sequel. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino not only make a beautiful couple, they seem to have a lot of fun in the film. They have a lot of comic potential that's barely tapped in the movie. Holland Taylor and Ricardo Montalban make an appearance as the grandparents, but they are way underutilized and don't have much to do with the overall plot. The typically weird Steve Buscemi appears as a mad scientist that creates the creatures on the island. He's always fun to watch, but he seems to be just going through the motions in this film.

The effects in this film are pretty cool, too. Rodriguez uses an incredible amount of green screen to make his films. For the most part, all of the effects look great. The animals and skeletons are made to look like Ray Harryhausen animated them. Being a fan of his old movies like Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, I got a particular kick out of this.

Unfortunately, where everything falls apart is in the story. It is just weird and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I appreciated the fanciful approach to the plot, but many of the elements of it were just plain dumb. I could go into excruciating detail, but suffice it to say that while 8 year olds will enjoy it the most, it also seems like an 8 yr old wrote it.

What makes this film particularly noteworthy is that it looks like a big budget film, but Robert Rodriguez filmed it on a really low budget. He shot quickly, filmed digitally, did a lot of work himself, utilized a lot of effects tricks, and also utilized a lot of traditional movie tricks. It all comes together to result in a low budget film that looks like a big budget blockbuster. It should be an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers.

Since Spy Kids 2 was shot digitally, the picture on the DVD looks first rate. The visual effects, which usually don't look as impressive on the small screen, still hold up well on the home theater system. The sound is also really good, too.

The Extras:
While the film didn't impress me so much, the extras are first rate and they make the DVD worth checking out. There are a surprising number of extras on this DVD though it is aimed at children. Here are some highlights:

Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School - Not only is this cool because it shows a lot of behind the scenes footage, but it's cool because Rodriguez unveils a lot of tricks of his trade and his ways of keeping the budget low. He reveals how he only builds small portions of the sets and then uses camera tricks to make them look bigger. Only half of the parent's submarine was built and he filmed footage separately and spliced it together to make it look complete. Liberal use of green screen allows him to create grand scenes in post-production. This should be inspiration for children who are thinking of becoming filmmakers.

A New Kind of Stunt Kid - The children show how they trained between films so they could do more of their own stunts. Alexa Vega particularly shows off her gymnastic talents that she got to use in the film. You also find out that the children in one of the big fight scenes are beating up on their own dads dressed as the bad guys. It looks like the kids had a blast.

Feature Commentary with Robert Rodriguez - Rodriguez aims his commentary more towards the creative process behind the making of the film. He discusses how he works with limited resources, how the script evolved over time, effects tricks, and more. He has interesting stories about the making of the film including one about how Disneyworld would not allow him to film at their park, thus inspiring him to create his own amusement park in the movie. This commentary should be required viewing/listening to anybody wanting to be a filmmaker.

Lost Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary - These deleted scenes are interesting to watch, but it is easy to see why Rodriguez opted to remove most of them. They either dragged the movie out or didn't fit into the spirit of the film. For example, "Intro To Spy Kids" shows a less dramatic intro to our heroes in the story. "Dad Fires Juni" shows a rather depressing scene where Antonio Banderas must kick his son out of the Spy Kids organization. In the end, it was a good choice to drop all of these scenes.

"Isle of Dreams" Music Video - This is the music video seen in the credits of the film. Seeing Alexa Vega sing, dance, and act may remind you of a pint sized Jennifer Lopez.

School At Big Bend National Park - While filming in Texas, the children got a tour of Big Bend National Park. While the segment is not very related to the film, it is interesting and educational thus making it a unique addition to a children's DVD.

Essential Gear: The Gadgets Of Spy Kids 2 - This is a quick look at the ships and gadgets in the film. Each of the actors discusses their favorite doo-dads in the movie.

Behind the Scenes Montages - These are home movies from the making of the film. You follow the young actors as they shoot in Costa Rica near a live volcano, in Texas as they shoot the skeleton fight atop an 800 ft cliff, and around Austin as they film the water scenes. It's cool to watch and it seems like everyone involved had a blast making the movie.

Total Access 24/7: "A Day In The Life Of Spy Kids" - This is an episode from the TV series from the ABC Family Channel. Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara show you around the making of the movie, what their day on the set is like, and more. You follow them home, into makeup, in school, and on the set. Vega gives a tour of the props shop and several of the kids ride go-carts and motorcycles at the house of the stunt coordinator.

About the only thing missing in the Extras is more info on the special effects. I would have liked to see more about how they created the robot bug Ralph, how they did more of the green screen, and other elements. Maybe we'll see more of that on another version of the DVD in the future.

The Bottom Line:
Kids will enjoy the movie while adults and future filmmakers will enjoy the extras.

Order this DVD @ Amazon

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