Spy Kids (Blu-ray)
When SPY KIDS was originally released (2001) I was 22 years old; probably older than the “target demographic” for a film like this, but I loved it. I think I’ve always loved movies that 1) I saw as a child and made a connection with or 2) make me feel like a kid in a candy store. SPY KIDS is just that kind of movie. When I watch it I feel like I’m lying on the floor in my pj’s late at night, watching JAMES BOND or STAR TREK movies with my Dad while everyone else is asleep (one of my fondest memories from growing up).
The premise is simple but interesting. What if the world’s greatest spies had children? Another question that this film addresses (as well as most of Robert Rodriguez’s kid flicks) is – Why don’t we get to see kids as spies, super-heroes, or doing all of the cool things we wanted to do when we were little? In SPY KIDS, we get to find out. The film opens with a bed-time story; Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are the top spies in the world and fall in love when they are sent to assassinate each other. The movie picks up 11 years later with these now-retired spies raising their family and trying to be “normal”.
In 2001 Rodriguez was not a filmmaker from whom I would have expected a children’s movie. His biggest success at the time was FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, a decidedly adult action-horror film featuring Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney. Thankfully he took the opportunity to make the movies he wanted to make. SPY KIDS was the first in a set of family films by Rodriguez and has all the hallmarks of a fun summer action flick without crossing any of the lines that usually make these movies inappropriate for kids.
SPY KIDS is, at its core, the story of a regular family in extraordinary circumstances. Carmen and Juni Cortez (played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, respectively) know that something is different about themselves and their family, but they have no idea how deep the secret goes. The movie works primarily because of the kids; they are natural and comfortable on screen and come across as real siblings. Carmen has always been told to watch out for her younger brother and feels trapped by her family, so she is keeping secrets from her family and skipping school. Juni is her nervous/introverted younger brother. Juni knows he is different and deals with being constantly teased; even his parents don’t understand what he is going through. His only solace is a children’s show called Floop’s Fooglies, where imaginary worlds and creatures come alive and everyone belongs.
We get thrown into the action when members of their father’s old unit disappear. Gregorio and Ingrid are delightfully played by Antonio Banderas (PUSS IN BOOTS) and Carla Gugino (SIN CITY), two favorites of Rodriguez. They have a natural chemistry with each other and are totally believable as former-spies-turned “normal” parents. It is interesting to see two spies deal with regular parenting issues at the start of the movie, like – how can they protect their kids without lying to them? They feel trapped in their normal life, unable to simply “save the world” as they have in their past, so they jump at the opportunity to take a mission.
However, they are soon captured and discover that Floop is the person behind the missing agents. A technological wunderkind, Floop has actually created many of the seemingly impossible things on his show. Floop is played by Alan Cumming (at the height of his popularity), and he is perfect as the misunderstood genius. Rounding out the cast we get some great scenes from Mike Judge, Robert Patrick, Danny Trejo (in the founding of the Machete character), and Teri Hatcher.
What’s nice about SPY KIDS is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Right from the beginning the movie gives you everything you ever wanted as kids: spy gadgets, jet packs, robots, submarine cars… it’s all there and you get to share in the fun that the kids are having. Rodriguez has done a great job here putting together a cast who really enjoy each other and making an enjoyable movie for kids and their parents. What’s surprising is just how much fun the movie is even now, 10 years later. This first movie doesn’t even feel dated; the effects are simple but effective.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) Another 10 year old movie with a near flawless transfer to High Definition. The effects look fairly nice (though some of the effects do show their age). This is a testament to the transfer and to the work of the creative team in building a world around real characters. Though they used a lot of computer effects, they really tried to build the world in reality.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital) The sound is great. The lows are just a touch low to me, had to fiddle with the volume a bit more than I would have liked, but in general you feel like you’re there with the kids on this incredible adventure.
Growing Up SPY Kids [Part I (21:17); Part II (19:53)] A two-part featurette about the making of the SPY Kids films. Put together for the Blu-ray release (and the imminent release of the 4th SPY KIDS movie), these include audition tapes, interviews from the original DVD release, and new interviews with the (now mostly grown) kids. Very fun.
Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School (08:06) One of the cool features that Rodriguez likes to include on a lot of his films, the Ten Minute Film school is a neat, quick look at how they put together a lot of the special effects. It’s pretty incredible the effects they did on a shoe string budget.
Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Cooking School (06:04) Another fun featurette usually included on Rodriguez special features, he teaches how to cook some interesting meals. Here is has help from the now-grown actors – Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara. The interaction between the kids and Rodriguez is really cool. This is new for the Blu-ray release.
Stunt Piece (06:48) An original piece on the stunts featuring the kids back in 2001. One of the important things about the SPY KIDS stunts was that they used the kids in their own stunts whenever they could… and when they couldn’t they used kids from stunt families. Pretty technical but fun.
Special Effects Piece (07:03) Another special feature brought over to the Blu-ray from the DVD release. This one looks at the creation of Floop’s Fooglies and the Thumb-Thumbs. Very technical aspects but told in an interesting way.
The Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer for the film are also included.