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Spy Kids proved to be one of the biggest surprises of 2001. It received worldwide praise when released, and added another hit to director Robert Rodriguez’s impressive catalogue. The reason it was a surprise success was the fact that Rodriguez is not renowned for making children’s adventure movies.  In fact with past credits including ‘From Dusk till Dawn’ and ‘The Faculty’ you would be forgiven for thinking that Spy Kids was a bad idea. Rodriguez even stated himself that one of the main reason he released the movie was to keep his kids amused. Read on and find out why Spy Kids is such a great success.

Spy Kids
The movie centres on the mundane life of the Cortez family. Well mundane would be the word the children would use when describing their parents lives. However, what Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) don’t realise is that their parents are retired spies. Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) Cortez used to be international spies for OSS. Due to a worrying new trend, the husband and wife have been forced out of retirement. Several of their colleagues from the OSS have mysteriously vanished, so the couple decide to take on one last assignment.

Things don’t go to plan and the couple end up being taken hostage by evil television presenter Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming). Floop plans to build an army of robot children to take over the world, and that is why he has captured the Cortez’s. Floop needs a special device called the ‘Third Brain’ (which Gregorio once made) to complete the army of children. Floop uses his television programme to capture the children, and the ‘Third Brain’ is the final piece in the jigsaw.

While their loving parents are out being spies the children are left at home being looked after by Uncle Felix (Cheech Marin). When news breaks of Gregorio and Ingrid’s capture, the kids are informed of their parents’ secret.  Chased by Floop’s henchmen they are determined to become heroes themselves. They decide that they are going to rescue their parents and stop Floop in the process. Aided by various different gadgets, the children have to overcome many obstacles in order to save their parents.

For a film that only cost a reported $35 million to make, Spy Kids is a joy to watch.  The film has something for all generations. There are plenty of action scenes which kids and adults will enjoy. The storyline is original and there are also plenty of laughs throughout the film.  Spy Kids is well paced with very little time between action scenes for the audience to lose interest. Rodriguez’s films are not renowned for character development, so at every opportunity he tries to use exciting action scenes. One of my favourite scenes involves the jet packs. The special effects are very impressive throughout the movie, and look more striking than the budget suggests. There are plenty of other chase scenes involving boats and planes.

Spy Kids
Spy Kids is a fun movie, which if thought about probably seems a little unbelievable. For example, the fact that the children had no idea that their parents were spies seems a little far fetched. I think I would be able to tell if my parents were trying to be James Bond! Also the speed at which the children learn how to use the gadgets and vehicles left me with doubts. However these things can be ignored as Spy Kids has many other good points. Rodriguez has somehow found the right ingredients to make an excellent kids film which can be enjoyed by all generations. With the sequel about to come out this summer it will be interesting to see if Rodriguez can match this effort.

Spy Kids is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is an anamorphic transfer which is very impressive. Roadshow have provided us with another delightful presentation with very few faults. Due to the nature of the film, there are often bright colours displayed on the screen. The transfer copes with the varied lighting with ease. There is no sign of grain or artefacts. Edge enhancement was also nonexistent during the movie. As mentioned, colours are dealt with expertly and flash tones also seemed to be accurate. One of the good points of this disc has to be the clarity and sharpness of the transfer. I would go as far as to say that Roadshow have provided us with a transfer that is near reference quality. Spy Kids is a larger than life movie, so any problems with the transfer would have been obvious. Fortunately what we get is a first class presentation which complements the movie.

Spy Kids is an action-packed movie so I was expecting a powerful soundtrack. Thankfully that is exactly what is provided on this disc. The movie has plenty of opportunities for the use of rear speakers. Planes, cars, rocket packs and submarines are all brought to life effectively with this soundtrack. There are also plenty of opportunities for the subwoofer to show what it can do. Explosions are very realistic and you really feel like you are in the middle of chases. Sometimes dialogue can be lost and muffled with blockbuster soundtracks but not with this one. Dialogue is clear and precise and there seemed to be no lip-synch problems. This is an all-round soundtrack which will keep all types of home entertainment fans happy.

The main extra contained on this disc is the Behind the Scenes featurette. This featurette has a running time of over twenty two minutes and is very detailed.  It is narrated by the two child stars, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara. Most areas of the film are covered. There are several short interviews with all the main stars in the movie and lots of footage is shown from behind the scenes. During the interviews the stars talk about the characters that they play. Robert Rodriguez talks about his love for Bond movies which gave him the idea of making Spy Kids.  The featurette is also split up into a few parts which show key elements from the movie. The first area shown is entitled ‘Swimming with sharks’.  In this section Robert Rodriguez talks about how he likes to make his films as real as possible. During the making of the film he took real-life footage of sharks which he filmed personally.  Another section detailed in the featurette is about the gadgets. Many spy films have been made before, so the makers of Spy Kids found it challenging trying to create new gadgets. The last main area covered is entitled ‘How to be an action star’ and details the stunts some of the actors were involved in. Like most Behind the Scenes featurettes it is advisable only to watch it after seeing the movie. Lots of the key moments are shown and it gives away too much of the story.

Spy Kids
Also included on the disc are two trailers and a preview. The preview is for the children’s comedy ‘Cats & Dogs’. The two trailers are for Spy Kids. The first one is entitled ‘Teaser Trailer’ and lasts for one minute and forty four seconds. It is quite an exciting trailer, which shows lots of the special effects and best moments from the film. The other trailer is the actual theatrical one and is about ten seconds longer than the teaser trailer. The two trailers are very similar. The theatrical one probably has more action shots, but you would be hard pushed to find much difference.

Spy Kids deserves all the praise that it gets. It is harmless fun for all the family. Robert Rodriguez has created a movie which surpasses any recent children’s adventure movies. The movie is not just for children though, as it has enough special effects and adult humour on offer to keep all generations happy. The disc contains an impressive video transfer and the sound on offer is also first class. The extras are a little disappointing though. Apart from the ‘Behind the Scenes’ featurette there is little else available to keep fans content. Ignoring the lacklustre extras, the disc is definitely worth purchasing.