Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (Blu-ray)
One of the defining characteristics about Robert Rodriguez films is the feeling of fun. Rodriguez loves making movies and he positively shines when he’s sharing that love with us as an audience. This feeling is present in everything that he’s done, but it is never more present than in his kids movies. SPY KIDS 2 is the culmination of that love and it has never worked better than it does here. I’ve struggled on where I would rate this one, and I think honestly it is my favorite of the SPY KIDS movies. It’s not the origin story (a comic book term, this is me showing my geekdom), which means that we get to see the kids as spies through the entire movie… and here that means a payoff for the audience.
Picking up shortly after the first movie, SPY KIDS 2 is the continuing story of Carmen and Juni Cortez (Vega and Sabara reprising their roles). Following the successful completion of their first mission, the OSS (the spy organization in the film) has established a full Spy Kids unit. In some ways, this movie is actually the reverse of the first movie. The kids start out with amazing gadgets and then have to rely on each other and their own strength to get them through the problems posed. Vega and Sabara both cut their teeth on the first movie; here they both chew the scenery and show how far they’ve become.
As the movie opens, we are greeted by a smiling Bill Paxton in a great cameo as the owner/operator or Troublemaker Studios. The park is full of crazy rides with fun, childish names (the Vomiter comes to mind). The US President’s daughter is at the park to try out a new ride called the Juggler (which spins and throws families through the air). She is ostensibly there to try out rides and bring some promotion to the park, but her real motive is something that any parent (or former child, for that matter) can understand. She wants her father to stop what he’s doing and pay attention to her. To accomplish her goal, she hijacks the ride and gets stuck. There isn’t room with the ride running to get an adult up to save her… they need someone smaller.
Enter Carmen and Juni – now referred to as SK1 and SK2, the top Spy Kids. As they move to save the President’s daughter they are faced by another brother and sister spy team – Gary and Gerti Giggles. Gary and Gerti are good at what they do, but they accomplish their goals without regard to what could happen to others. It’s an interesting way of showing how a strong family strengthens everything. Soon we cut to the family preparing for a party at which they presume Gregorio Cortez (Banderas) will be named Director of the OSS. But things don’t work out the way they (or we) want, and by the end of the party we’re unsure about the entire family’s future with the spy agency.
The kids then go on a mission to locate a stolen device, on a place that doesn’t appear on any maps [an “island of dreams”?], where there are fantastic creatures and the field (against Gary and Gerti) is leveled. Additionally, this movie has a feel that isn’t present in the other two movies, as it is inspired by both old spy movies and fantasy pictures (SINBAD, CLASH OF THE TITANS, etc.). Another Rodriguez standard included here are fantastic performances by the main characters: Banderas and Gugino are back as the master spy parents, Vega and Sabara (as discussed above); Mike Judge returns as Mr. Giggles, the new head of the OSS (and father to Gary and Gerti); and there are small roles or cameos for lots of great character actors including Ricardo Montalbon (STAR TREK II), Holland Taylor, Emily Osment, Matt O’Leary (FRAILTY), Steven Buscemi (LIVING IN OBLIVION), Cheech Marin, Alan Cumming, and Tony Shalhoub (most recently of MONK fame).
It’s amazing how far special effects have come in the short 18 months between the first and second movies. Everything looks great and it is hard to believe that this movie was made for the same budget as the first one. An interesting note – SPY KIDS 2 was one of the first movies to be completely shot in full HD video. For us today it means that we get to see the film in the way that it was originally intended, and it looks and feels like a dream. The colors are inspired.
Just like the first movie, SPY KIDS 2 is a virtual sandbox for kids and adults alike. The kids and the adults aren’t perfect, but they are more real for their flaws. Watching this movie I’m reminded of a time when I enjoyed sequels because they tended to be fewer and further between than in today’s cinematic landscape. I think you’ll feel the same.
Video: (1080p, 1.78:1 Widescreen) This movie is 9 years old but you wouldn’t know from looking at the picture. From the high-tech scenes at the front to the fantasy island we visit during the movie, it all looks smooth and new on Blu-ray. We are truly transported to their world.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital) The sound is great. I find it incredible that Rodriguez did so much of this movie on his own (including writing the music). The sounds keep us involved in the story.
Commentary with Director Robert Rodriguez (01:40:17) This is a great commentary for anyone who wants to learn about making a big effects movie on a limited budget. Rodriguez shares his experiences and how he challenged himself working on this film. Very, very technical but he talks through the entire thing and has some really interesting things to say about making movies.
Ten Minute Film School (09:55) A nice, quick group of special effects; Rodriguez’s short gives us the chance to find out how he pulled of some of his stunts on a limited budget. A great featurette for young aspiring filmmakers.
A New Kind of Stunt Kid (06:41) This special feature gives us another glimpse into process. These kids changed a lot from the first movie to the second. They trained really hard in between movies to make things look real.
Lost Scenes with Optional Commentary by Robert Rodriguez (07:50) Like most deleted scenes, there really isn’t anything here that gives us something that we miss. There are a couple of funny scenes, but there isn’t any reason that any of them should have been included. Rodriguez gives another good (but technical) commentary here.
The scenes include: ”Intro to Spy Kids”, “Donnagan Intro”, “Dad Fires Juni”, “All Out of Heroes”, “Lollipop Synchronization”, “Gary and Gerti Return”, “Romero Escapes”, and “Grandpa Lays Down the Law”.
Isle of Dreams Music Video (03:30) This video is included during the credits, but it’s fun. The kids do a good job with a pretty catchy pop song. The video includes shots from the movie – was this an attempt to get Vega a crossover career?
School at Big Bend National Park (04:57) the kids do a featurette about how they attend school when they are out on a shoot. Here they have a park ranger come to talk to them about the significance of the area where they shot some of the Island shots.
Essential Gear: The Gadgets of the Spy Kids (03:15) A featurette in which Rodriguez talks about the cool gadgets the kids got to use in the movie, and why and how he came up with them.
Behind the Scenes Montages (11:58) Rodriguez shot video while they were on location. The kids had fun telling Rodriguez about the things they learned in school, and how they worked on the special effects on location. Pretty inside, pretty technical – but it’s all good fun when kids are involved.
Costa Rica This one contains shots of the kids talking about the volcano they visited in Costa Rica.
Cliff Stunt The stunt coordinators show how they harness the kids for the cliff scenes.
Inflate-A-Suit Quick shots cut together to show how they practically achieved the inflate-a-suit scenes.
Spy Gala The same idea here, we get to see how Rodriguez put together the choreography and stages the scenes in a small sound set.
Theme Park This one is the most impressive to me, as you get to see how they shot inside a working theme park.
Romero’s Hideaway More video footage of the cast and crew bringing the image to screen.
Total Access 24/7: A Day in the Life of a Spy Kid (21:41) The kids share their experiences working on the movie. They became pretty good friends with each other working on the movie. It’s like watching kids experience the kind of summer camp that we all wanted to attend! A fun featurette that even my 2 year old son enjoyed (for a few minutes). This one includes interviews, film shots, and behind the scenes montages. I enjoyed this one because it’s literally the kids talking about their daily activities on a film set.
The Teaser and Theatrical Trailer are also included on the disc.