family movie review



Movie Review
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
by Donna Schwartz Mills

Distributor: Dimension - Miramax
MPAA Rating: PG (for "action sequences and brief rude humor")
Mom Rating: 4 out of 5
Kid Rating: 5 out of 5
Cast: Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Danny Trejo, Alan Cumming, Cheech Marin, Mike Judge, Steve Buscemi, Ricardo Montalban, Matt O'Leary, Emily Osment, Bill Paxton, Holland Taylor, Tony Shalhoub 
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Director: Robert Rodriguez

I used to have a rule regarding any movie title with a numeral in it:  Rent the original. It's kind of like making photocopies: each subsequent generation gets weaker and weaker.

But as the studios become more and more frightened of creating anything new, anything that makes a buck is destined to become a series. I guess the goal is to create a franchise, much the way MGM was able to do 40 years ago with James Bond.

And if the producers are true to the movie we loved in the first place, it can be almost comforting to see the same thing hashed over again in a newer version.

So I was eagerly anticipating Spy Kids 2. After all, the first movie was my favorite family film of 2001.

But it is, after all, a sequel -- and not as good as the original, which had a wonderful, romantic setup as sheltered children Carmen and Juni discover that their seemingly boring parents are international spies - and were in danger.

Granted, it would be difficult for writer/director Richard Rodriguez to create the same sense of discovery now that the kids are part of the secret OSS spy organization themselves. So instead, he borrowed from the tried and true James Bond formula by opening the movie with a
frenetic caper in which Carmen and Juni are called upon to rescue the President's daughter from danger at an amusement park. When they are upstaged by rival Spy Kids Gary and Gerti Giggles, the plot careens into motion.

Don't get me wrong: This very fast-paced, busy movie is entertaining enough, with loads of cool gadgets and special effects. The relationships between Juni and Carmen and their parents, Gregorio and Ingrid continue to delight and introducing Ingrid's parents (also spies!) added some fun wrinkles to the inter-generational interplay. (The cast is superb, with Holland Taylor and Ricardo Montalban doing a wonderful turn as the grandparents who never quite cottoned to Antonio Banderas as a son-in-law.)  There simply wasn't enough of this.

However, while I longed for a little less action and a little more relationship comedy, my 6-year-old was in movie heaven, giggling hysterically at sight gags involving "camel poop" and gadgets that can pick noses. (Yes, the PG rating is for "action and rude humor.") Juni and Carmen had to deal with some scary looking monsters (which turned out to be less dangerous than they seemed) and a stunning battle with some enchanted skeletons - but over all, this movie was a lot less nightmarish than "Scoobie Doo" - and a lot more fun, too.

So I guess I can bury my old rule about sequels where this film is concerned... at least, until next year. I understand they have already started production on "Spy Kids 3."

Donna Schwartz Mills took film classes in college and spent 13 years working in the entertainment industry before  "retiring" to marry a "non-pro" (Variety's term for anyone in any other business) and become a mom. Today, she's lucky if she can attend two "R" rated films per year -- but she feeds her movie habit by dragging her little girl to every family film that comes out, often on opening day. 

Donna is Webmaster Mommy of, a new resource for moms in Southern California. She is also the work-at-home expert behind and editor/owner of

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