In SPY KIDS, two kids, following in the footsteps of their parents, get a
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE assignment into a WILLIE WONKA land. Writer and director
Robert Rodriguez, whose unlikely background is in R-rated films such as THE
FACULTY and DESPERATO, makes an impressive jump into a barely PG-rated
world. An intelligent picture that doesn't talk down to the kids or the
adults, SPY KIDS is that rare film that can wear the badge of "family fare"
with pride. It's also imaginative, well cast and quite funny.
Just before they become parents, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez, played with
humorous bravado and just a hint of sensuality by Antonio Banderas and Carla
Gugino, have to give up their day jobs as secret agents. Now telecommuting
as espionage consultants, they're itching to get another save-the-world
field assignment from the OSS. But, when they do, all they can think of are
the kids, 12-year-old Carmen (Alexa Vega) and 8-year-old Juni (Daryl
Sabara), who are at home under the watchful eye of "Uncle" Felix (Cheech
Carmen is a confident charmer, who makes a great role model for young girls.
A spunky hero, she says what goes for the story's only profanity. "Oh
shiiiiitake mushroom!" she exclaims once when things go really bad. And
Juni, who conquers fears so intense that they used to cause warts, shows how
a youngster can summon the courage within him to rise to the challenges of a
The kids, who bicker like typical siblings, are sure that their parents'
lives are dull and boring. "What are you talking about?" Carmen asks her
Uncle Felix when the literal "Red Alert" warnings going off in their house
force him to tell them the truth about their parents' profession. "My
parents can't be spies. They're not cool enough." (Let that be a warning
to children everywhere. Your parents may be hiding some amazing talents
that you know nothing about.)
The fun starts when the movie begins to show off its large array of
futuristic gadgets that would make James Bond envious. These goodies range
from electrostatic gum that stuns better than Mace to acid crayons for
cutting through jail bars. An evil Willie Wonka-like character named Fegan
Floop (Alan Cumming) kidnaps the parents. Floop, who has a popular kids' TV
show featuring humorously grotesque figures called Fooglies, is assisted by
a sappily subservient Tony Shalhoub as Minion.
Among the many humorous characters, none are better than the bad guys known
as the Thumb-Thumbs. Their torsos have large thumbs where the head, arms
and legs should be. These clumsy oafs are, well, all thumbs. Writer and
director Rodriguez, however, has the steady hands of a surgeon as he
assembles a richly complex film that is a treat for the eyes, the mind and
the funny bone of those young and old, as my son and my mother can attest.
SPY KIDS runs 1:30. It is rated PG for action sequences and would be
acceptable for all ages, as our packed multigenerational audience amply
My son Jeffrey, age 12, loved the picture, giving it *** 1/2. He found it
funny, interesting and very creative. He particularly liked the way that
whole plot was constructed.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes