Written & Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring Daryl Sabara, Alexa Vega, Sylvester Stallone, Ricardo Montalban, Courtney Jines
My Advice: Matinee.
Juni Cortez (Sabara) is no longer an OSS operative. He's a bitter ex-agent gumshoe, though, doing freelance investigation work and dodging calls from the OSS to come back. However, they can be very persuasive, especially when they call in the President (George Clooney) to get Juni back on the case--and especially when said case involves his sister (Vega) being in trouble. She's gone into a virtual reality world to shut down the evil plans of the diabolical Toymaker (Stallone)...and been trapped there. Juni has to go in, shut down the VR world, save his sister and derail the Toymaker...all within twelve hours.
Let me tell you straight up with this flick isn't. It's not your typical spy flick, and it's an entirely different animal from the rest of the series. First of all, the focus is on Sabara's character, with cameos from pretty much everybody and his brother Bob. You get him, Vega, the kids in the VR world, and Montalban and Stallone--which by itself is such a strange concoction, it demands to be seen. Even their parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are reduced to cameos.
The flick is, however, an orgy of 3-D delights--a shameless excuse for Rodriguez to play with his toys. And hey, if you can get it into your head that it's a film for kids with a little bit of humor in there for adults, you'll enjoy yourself. Why do I say "orgy"? Well, you know how most 3-D flicks will find cheesy little "excuses" to have stuff hurtle at you? The knife thrust or some other projectile? This film doesn't need excuses. It will throw anything and everything at you. A battle with staves has every single thrust spinning out somehow at your head. Roller coaster-like "rides" through wild environments are completely in your face. Strange globular particulars seem to show up, if nothing else will work, to float at you. In short, if you're ten and like video games, you'll think this film is a gift from God.
So as a sheer 3-D carnival ride, it's good. How is it otherwise? Well, Sabara doesn't have to work terribly hard at carrying the film, since the effects pretty much do that for him--but he's not bad. Montalban is clearly having a blast and Stallone is rather amusing. Stallone has always been an underappreciated comic actor and is more known for being funny when he doesn't mean to be (Judge Dredd, anyone?). This isn't exactly a Travolta/Pulp Fiction role or anything, but he gets points. The kids inside the game do a decent job as well, especially the strange Demetra (Jines).
Like I said, it's a film aimed at kids and adults who remember how to enjoy movies for kids. It's not breaking any new dramatic ground, and nobody expects it to. It even manages to somehow avoid being mired in schmaltz, although the script tries towards the end. But when you're trying to make a point about family that involves Steve Buscemi riding a giant flying pig--it's hard to drown in Velveeta. Catch a matinee, but do catch it. With kids, your own or a couple of ones you lease.
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