Review: “Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams”

The first “Spy Kids” was a light and shallow but very impressive looking family-friendly piece with a sense of wild adventure and comical fun. Now comes the sequel which lacks the charm and off-beat style of the original, and yet expands the scope and has a better sense of pacing and action than the first film.

The result is Rodriguez has created a sequel about equal to its original with some elements both stronger and weaker than the first. Its much like “American Pie 2” was to its progenitor – visually slicker with wilder on-screen antics and yet lacks the tender edge and heart of the original, as well as a more believable and thought out story.

Both Sabara and Vega especially are more relaxed and enjoyable as the kids this time around. Gone are some of the more cheesy family morality lessons and kiddie humour, now both are just having fun which gives the film a lot of its energy. Matt O’Leary and Emily Osment make likeable foils as the rival Spy Kid family – the Giggles.

Banderas and Gugino are relegated to more supporting roles but again are having a good time, whilst there’s fun cameos from Holland Taylor, Ricardo Montalbahn, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Bill Paxton and Danny Trejo. Buscemi is a decent albeit somewhat disappointing ‘master of ceremonies’ as such, the role feels a little underwritten sadly and Mike Judge’s evil boss character also has a rather underwhelming feel.

Once again Rodriguez has taken on practically every role behind-the-scenes and it works. SK2 has about twice the number of FX and complexities than the first film and yet this was done in about equal or less than the same amount of time as it took to make the first one.

Rodriguez has a great sense of pacing and direction, action sequences flowing smoothy and overtly displaying his love of the stop motion monsters of the Ray Harryhausen-era. In many ways this whole film is a tribute to Harryhausen’s work and while it does go on a little too long and some of the subplots aren’t as well incorporated as they’d like to be, it nevertheless proves a fun-filled ride that’s safe for the whole family. Congrats Rodriguez, you’ve made an impressive franchise in the short space of a year.