The beginning of the 2000s marked a unique moment in the history of cinema, especially when it came to children’s entertainment. Most of the movies of the time are obsessed with random CGI easily outclassed by today’s most lackluster toothpaste commercials. As a result, it’s easy to get carried away with nostalgia for the more serious efforts of the time. An unlikely example? 2002 Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreamsthe most underrated delivery of the spy kids franchise.
Fresh off the wild hit of 2001 spy kids, director/writer Robert Rodriguez wasted no time in following up. Just a year later, most of the original cast returned, with Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara reprising their slightly older roles as Carmen and Juni Cortez. They were now fully realized spies working for the newly formed children’s division of the Organization of Super Spies (OSS).
One of the main benefits of making a spy kids The sequel so soon after the original was Rodriguez’s ability to continue the story while these young actors were still young. And unlike the first movie, The island of lost dreams it is a pure and independent adventure. There’s no need for compelling origin stories or grooming kids to be diminutive, believable agents. Furthermore, Rodríguez had the good sense to avoid preparing a third film, possibly because he envisioned an episodic approach from the start.
Spy Kids 2 opens with Carmen and Juni handily saving the president’s daughter from an amusement park ride gone haywire, while deftly presenting two plot wrinkles: rival spy kids Gary and Gerti Giggles (played by Matt O’ Leary and Emily Osment, respectively). What follows is a “more of everything” spy kids movie. More action, more gags, more runtime.
The actual premise of The island of lost dreams it is embarrassingly inconsistent. It’s almost charming, really. The plot device and evil machinations that bring Carmen and Juni to this nightmarish island will have little kids scratching their heads at the myriad of logical inconsistencies. But you are not aware of the plot. And despite its messy setup, Spy Kids 2 he manages to take advantage of a decent conflict for his heroes.
Despite being the original spy girls, Carmen and Juni are not the top of their class. Instead, they are constantly outdone by their new friends, one of whom Carmen has a crush on. It’s a clever way to continue the character development of the previous film, in which they stepped up to save their seasoned spy parents from a ridiculous world-conquest scheme in a surprising pastiche of Latin pop culture.
This time, the Spy Kids are up against better versions of themselves. Gary and Gertie are basically a future reboot staring them in the face. Smoother, better braces and even better hair. Sure, we have no idea why they have to be on this island fighting hybrid animal creatures with Steve Buscemi, but at least we know why they want to be here. They proved themselves to their parents and now they want to do the same with their peers.
Speaking of the parents, once again Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino play them, and they occupy a considerable background, although it is understandable. They have to make room for the grandparents, played by Ricardo Montalbán and Holland Taylor, who have a frenzy of fun in the final act against the movie’s bland, aggressive villain. Although the film’s original marketing was intended to be more of a “spy family”, it is actually a box office hit dedicated to Carmen and Juni.
Nothing Spy Kids 2 could never be mistaken for serious or pretentious cinema – one scene has the characters literally riding on a magnet, while another has them listening to each other’s thoughts, which makes it all the more remarkable that Steve Buscemi essentially stops the film to deliver a jarringly profound aside that would make any sci-fi auteur director blush. The words and delivery of this quote are quietly uncanny for the movie it’s in, as the context refers to a troubled scientist whose lab experiments have turned against him and now roam the island like free animals. but dangerous.
“Do you think that God stays in heaven because he too lives in fear of what he has created here on Earth?”
I’m not sure why Robert Rodriguez, or whoever invented this line, decided that this was the time and place to sow a crisis of faith in the hearts of children around the world, but we have no choice but to applaud his audacity. .
As mentioned, the visual effects in Spy Kids 2 they’re atrocious and disgusting, even for 2002, the same year live action was born Scooby Doo movie. The kids at the time, myself included, probably didn’t notice or care. But watching as an adult, the uncanny valley shown is actually so bad and so painfully distant from anything believable that it takes on the surreal, otherworldly quality it ironically seeks. Most of the film’s gags and production design behave similarly, with the Nickelodeon-esque settings and color palette almost foreign to anyone watching in 2022.
In a quick 100 minutes, The island of lost dreams it’s one of our liveliest, but utterly insane, time capsules from the first decade of this century. Until the Latin pop live concert number in character as Alexa Vega that ends the film as grandly as it began. Robert Rodriguez, Hollywood’s eponymous troublemaker, certainly had a dream for this series, and at least for Spy Kids 2he had yet to see it turn into an IP nightmare.