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Robert Rodriguez
Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Steve Buscemi, Mike Judge, Taylor Momsen, Ricardo Montalban, Matthew O'Leary, Emily Osment, Holland Taylor
Writing Credits:
Robert Rodriguez

Little Spies. Big Attitudes.
Box Office:
Budget $30 million.
Opening weekend $16.711 million on 3307 screens.
Domestic gross $85.57 million.
Rated PG for action sequences and brief rude humor.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 2/18/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Rodriguez
• “Ten Minute Film School”
• “A New Kind of Stunt Kid”
• Lost Scenes With Optional Director’s Commentary
• “Isle of Dreams” Music Video
• “School at Big Bend National Park”
• “Essential Gear: The Gadgets of Spy Kids
• Behind-the-Scenes Montages
• “Total Access 24/7: A Day in the Life of Spy Kids
• Still Gallery
• Art Gallery
• Teaser Trailer
• “Transmooker Trouble” Game
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD-ROM Materials

Score soundtrack

Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 11, 2003)

The little movie that could, 2001’s Spy Kids hit screens without too much fanfare and emerged as a decent-sized hit with families. A flick that entertained kids and adults, the movie raked in a fairly solid $112 million, which ensured a solid profit given the flick’s modest $35 million budget.

Talk of a sequel began virtually immediately, and one hit the screen ridiculously rapidly. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams made it to multiplexes in August 2002, a mere 16 months after the initial release of its predecessor. Because it came with much more hype than the original, it actually seemed like Dreams didn’t do very well at the box office. I think everyone expected it to be an absolute smash, but it didn’t do all that terrifically as it took in $85 million.

Nonetheless, given the fact Dreams also boasted a low budget of $30 million – less than the cost of the first flick, which seems stunning – the sequel still turned a nice profit and ensured the creation of a Spy Kids 3. (According to IMDB, Spy Kids 3 will arrive in July 2003, which means it comes to us only 11 months after Dreams!) I enjoyed the original movie and also liked the sequel for the most part, though I must admit it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Dreams starts without too much exposition. It begins at Troublemaker Theme Park, where owner Dinky Winks (Bill Paxton) welcomes the President’s daughter Alexandra (Taylor Momsen). She decides to ride a rather spectacular attraction called The Juggler, but she find a way to halt it midway so she can attract the attention of her somewhat negligent world leader father. Small agents need to take the forefront, so Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) – the burgeoning spy kids we met in the first flick – take the initiative. Unfortunately, they have competition from Gary (Matt O’Leary) and Gerti Giggles (Emily Osment), another pair of agents who seek to upstage the Cortez kids.

That sets the stage for the rest of the flick. We go a reception in which Carmen and Juni’s dad Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) expects to be named the head of the OSS, but instead it goes to Donnagon Giggles (Mike Judge) under moderately suspicious circumstances. We learn of a mysterious device called the Transmooker, and it becomes a big deal when strange magnet-headed dudes known as the Magna Men incapacitate the adults at the banquet and try to make off with it. All the little spies there – unaffected by the tainted champagne since they couldn’t drink any – try to stop the baddies, but they fail, and due to Gary’s sleazy lies, Juni gets the blame.

This leads to his termination as a spy kid, and Gary and Gerti land the plum assignment to track the Transmooker. However, Carmen hacks into the system and reassigns the Giggles kids so she and Juni can take over the investigation. This leads them to an island on which their many spy gadgets won’t work, and it also sends Gary and Gerti on their tail when they discover they’ve been misled. The kids discover all sorts of weirdness at this location. In addition, when the kids go missing, Gregorio and wife Ingrid (Carla Gugino) try to track them, and her parents (Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor) – retired spies who never liked Gregorio – come along for the ride.

While not up to the level of the first flick, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams manages to offer a reasonably clever and entertaining experience. It mostly falters during the first act, mainly due to the preponderance of gadgets and gimmicks. Some of these seem fun – like Juni’s computer-animated robotic bug sidekick R.A.L.P.H., who presents more charm than most of the human actors – but Dreams pours on too many of them. On its own, something like the spinning pigtails that allow Gerti to fly seem cool, but when added to eight million other gags, the different elements lack much impact and they grow tiresome. We need to get this kind of material presented in a slower manner so it’ll mean something; seeing so much all at once dulls the excitement.

At least the first act manages a frantic pace that helps make it go despite the excess of gimmickry. Perhaps because of the relentless energy seen in the first half hour or so, the second act can drag at times. Part of the problem stems from the fact that Dreams relies much more heavily on the children than did the first flick. We see much less of the adults this time, and though most of the kid actors hold their own, they lack the skill to carry the movie alone.

Despite these complaints, though, Dreams still remains reasonably entertaining at its worst, and the flick’s fun third act helps redeem its slow spots. Director Robert Rodriguez pays lively homage to the effects of Ray Harryhausen in a way that seems amusing and well integrated and not just self-conscious. (He also tosses in maybe the most subtle Raiders of the Lost Ark reference I’ve ever seen.)

I don’t like some of Rodriguez’ dependence on computer-generated effects, especially since many of these look a bit weak. However, the images appear better than in the first movie, and given the shockingly low budget of Dreams, the effects come across as stellar. I’ve seen much crummier work in substantially more expensive movies, so my criticisms have virtually nothing to do with the cost of Dreams.

Actually, I didn’t realize how little money Rodriguez required until after I watched the flick. During the DVD’s supplements, he explains how he made the movie for such a low budget, but although he cuts many corners, these don’t negatively affect the project. Yes, I think some of the material looks cheesy, but I feel that way toward many CG-dependent movies, and some of them – such as Spider-Man or The Scorpion King - demonstrate many more problems than does Dreams despite those pictures’ radically higher budgets. When you see Dreams, you’ll think it cost $100 million, not $30 million.

Of course, a cheap budget and profitability don’t make a movie good; if they did, I’d have loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In the end, my feelings about Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams remain positive but not enthusiastically so. The movie presents some fun material, and it ends strongly with a third act that beats the prior segments. However, it lacks character development on a par with the original movie and it also seems a little too obsessed with flashy elements. Nonetheless, Dreams generally appears entertaining, and fans of the first flick should also get a kick out of it.

Footnote: stick with Dreams through the end of its credits. Plenty of extra goodies show up while and after the text runs.

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio A- / Bonus A-

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The original flick provided a strong picture, and the sequel lived up to those expectations.

Shot digitally, Kids looked terrific across the board. Sharpness seemed solid. The movie always came across as nicely tight and distinct. No issues related to softness marred the presentation. Instead, the flick always looked crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I did notice a smidgen of light edge enhancement at times. Due to the digital format used for the movie, it suffered from no forms of source defects, though I discerned some artifacting related to the computer-generated effects.

Colors seemed excellent. The movie presented vivid and lively hues that matched the cartoony action of Kids. I saw no issues related to bleeding, noise or other problems during this concise and vibrant palette. Black levels also came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not overly opaque. The minor concerns kept Spy Kids 2 from perfection, but it still looked terrific the vast majority of the time.

In addition, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Spy Kids 2 presented a fine experience. The soundfield worked very well and added a lot to the film. Audio moved nicely across all five channels, and the different speakers displayed a lot of activities throughout the entire movie. Music demonstrated solid stereo imaging, and effects were placed appropriately in the spectrum. They transitioned neatly between speakers, and the surrounds added a good level of involvement to the package. The many action sequences gave the track an opportunity to shine, and the mix created a fairly seamless and involving piece. Some of the best sequences appeared early via the rides at the amusement park, but the movie’s many action scenes also contributed involving pieces.

Audio quality also seemed positive for the most part. Though dialogue remained clear and intelligible, speech appeared somewhat stiff at times. This was a major concern during the first film, but here it came across as less severe and it didn’t strongly affect my impression of the soundtrack. Music sounded terrific across the board. The score seemed bright and dynamic, especially in the way it conveyed excellent depth and power. Highs also came across as clean and distinct. Effects were accurate and vivid, as they lacked any issues related to distortion and also showed fine bass response. Low-end seemed tight and rich. Ultimately, the audio of Spy Kids 2 seemed very positive.

This “Collector’s Edition” of Spy Kids 2 packs a sizable roster of extras. We start with a very brisk audio Commentary with director Robert Rodriguez. He offers a running, sporadically screen-specific piece and rarely comes up for air. This track may contain more information per minute than any other commentary I’ve heard. Especially at the start, Rodriguez speaks so quickly that I started to laugh after a while; he seems so excited and full of details that he really tears through the movie. Almost no empty spaces occur, so when one does pop up, it comes as a shock.

Rodriguez goes over just about everything you could want to know about the flick, or at least as much as he can fit into a 100-minute movie. He chats about his inspiration for the story, working with the actors, functioning as editor, composer and cinematographer as well as writer and director, and about a million other issues. Rodriguez attempts to educate us how to make movies on our own and offers lots of tips for filmmaking – those elements dominate the commentary, which may frustrate some who wanted a more screen-focused affair. However, Rodriguez covers so much that I felt very satisfied. He even plays us some demo tracks of music! Rodriguez provides a simply terrific commentary that speedily informs us about zillions of issues, and it works very well.

Technically, it only clocks in at nine minutes and 56 seconds. Anal nitpicking aside, the Ten Minute Film School offers a cool look at Kids 2. Essentially it features behind the scenes and different levels of effects footage paired with commentary from Rodriguez. We see those elements as the director relates how he accomplished them on the cheap. It’s a nice examination of the cost-saving methods he utilized, and it helps illustrate his filmmaking processes.

For something a little more traditional, we go to A New Kind of Stunt Kid. This six minute and 42 second program offers some film clips, shots from the set, and interviews with Rodriguez, actors Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, and Matt O’Leary, and an unnamed stunt coordinator. (The program never specifically tells us the identities of any participants, but obviously I recognized the ones I mentioned.) The discussion of the stunts seems a little dry, as mostly the kids tell us how awesome it was, but the cool behind the scenes material makes this one more useful.

Next we find a collection of eight lost scenes. These last a total of eight minutes. They contain some interesting bits, but none of them seem particularly interesting. More compelling is the optional director’s commentary. Still manic, Rodriguez tells us lots of good notes about the shots and also relates why he cut each of them.

In the cutesy vein we get the “Isle of Dreams” music video. Performed by Alexa Vega, this three-minute and 33-second clip essentially shows the sequence from the end credits minus the text plus some extraneous movie clips. It’s moderately fun.

Aimed more at the kids in the audience, School at Big Bend National Park takes us on a tour of that location. Introduced by Alexa Vega, the four-minute and 59-second piece shows some of the cast and crew as they tour the park along with archaeologist Tom C. Alex. It adds a little information but doesn’t seem particularly thrilling. Oddly, it looks like actors O’Leary and Emily Osment retain their dirty make-up from the camel dung scene.

The next featurette is called Essential Gear: The Gadgets of Spy Kids. It runs three minutes, 16 seconds and mostly mixes movie clips with sound bites from Rodriguez and actors Osment, Taylor Momsen, Chris MacDonald, Sabara, Danny Trejo, and Ricardo Montalban. The director tells us what inspired his design for the spy watch, but otherwise “Gadgets” exists just as an excuse to show some film snippets and have the actors tell us how cool the different things are.

After this we get six Behind-the-Scenes Montages: “Costa Rica” (one minute, 48 seconds), “Cliff Stunt” (2:20), “Inflate-a-Suit” (0:58), “Spy Gala” (2:57), “Theme Park” (2:30), and “Romero’s Hideaway” (1:33). These snippets offer exactly what the title states: videotaped pieces shot on the set. Mostly we see this candid footage, but we also get a few impromptu soundbites from actors Vega and Sabara plus assorted crewmembers. While nothing tremendously interesting arises, these bits do offer a reasonably nice glimpse of the production.

A promotional feature, Total Access 24/7: A Day in the Life of Spy Kids offers a 21-minute and 38-second examination of the movie. The program offers the usual mélange of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear formal soundbites from Rodriguez, and actors Vega, O’Leary, Sabara, Mike Judge, and Steve Buscemi. In addition, some impromptu comments from others appear throughout the piece. Much of “Day” follows the standard format, but it becomes more interesting because it focuses on the life of a child actor. Granted, it remains relentlessly puffy and cutesy, but it’s still kind of cool to examine this other side of things.

Next we get two collections of images. The Still Gallery includes 48 movie shots and behind the scenes clips. It seems fair but not anything terribly interesting. On the other hand, the Art Gallery gives us 76 conceptual sketches, and it offers some good stuff.

In addition to the film’s Teaser Trailer - presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio – we find a “set-top game” called Transmooker Trouble. This includes trivia questions about the movie. These don’t seem tough if you’ve seen Kids 2, but they do require a screening of the flick. No real reward greets you upon successful completion of “Trouble”. The Sneak Peeks area offers promos for Bionicle: Mask of Light the Movie, Inspector Gadget 2, Air Bud Strikes Back, MVP Extreme, Pokemon 4Ever, Kim Possible and the Spy Kids 2 Soundtrack.

For those with DVD-ROM drives, the fun continues – sort of. We get a few minor DVD-ROM extras. Based on its title, the “Website Archive” implies that it keeps Internet material on the DVD itself, but it looked to me like it just linked to the Spy Kids site. “Spy Kids Mega Mission Zone Preview” just sent you to another link. We also get a connection to the Dimension Films website, and that’s all she wrote in DVD-ROM-land.

While not on a par with the first movie, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams nonetheless provides a reasonably entertaining piece of work. The movie falters at times but it offers enough fun and excitement to merit a look. The DVD features excellent picture and sound along with a nice roster of supplements highlighted by a simply outstanding audio commentary. A good family film and a solid DVD, Spy Kids 2 earns my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7391 Stars Number of Votes: 46
4 3:
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