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Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003)

3rd Mission. 3rd Dimension

Directed by:

Robert Rodriguez

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 84 minutes

UK Certificate: U

Many children's films begin with a narrator reading from the pages of an opened book, as though to bridge the gap between the world of fairytales and that of cinema. Robert Rodriguez is too knowing and inventive a director to adopt a cliché without giving it a new spin, and so the third film in his 'Spy Kids' franchise opens with a pop-up book, to herald the film's use of 3D. No doubt some will claim that for his third film Rodriguez has turned to a tired old gimmick, but 3D is ripe for revival, given that the last film to be made in this format came out long before this film's target audience was even born. Rodriguez is in fact the first to combine 3D with computer generated images, and the result is a unique look for this film, both visually striking and technically innovative. I defy any viewer, child or adult, not to be duly gobsmacked by all the stunning eye candy, starting up where 'Tron' left off.

The story begins with Juni (Daryl Sabara) narrating his situation like some film noir anti-hero. After being 'burnt', he has left his family and the agency to become a private gumshoe (with, literally, gum on his shoe) – but he returns to rescue his sister Carmen (Alex Vega) from the mysterious Toymaker, who has imprisoned her in a virtual reality game, with which he plans to enslave the world's children. Helped by his wheelchair-bound grandfather (Ricardo Montalban) and a group of young 'beta testers', Juni works his way through the game's challenging levels, leading to a final confrontation in the 'real' world with the Toymaker.

Rodriguez has managed to reassemble the high-powered cast from both previous films, and the obvious fun being had by all involved is infectious. 'Newcomer' Sylvester Stallone clearly relishes playing not just the computer-programming Toymaker, but also his three virtual alter egos – a soldier, a guru, and a boffin – in a hilariously schizophrenic performance.

One of these split personalities asks: 'We have the children's attention, but what are we teaching them?' In fact this is Rodriguez's forte – for he manages both to spin an attention-grabbing adventure full of excitement and creativity, and yet to weave into its fabric a range of positive lessons – respect for the disabled and elderly, the importance of cooperation, the seductive danger of illusion, the power of forgiveness, and, most importantly, the value of family – all made palatable by the wit of the script. And how many other mainstream Hollywood films can you name featuring Hispanics who are neither treacherous criminals or Jennifer Lopez?

It's Got: a 3D spinoff game to match. George Clooney doing an impression of Sylvester Stallone, and Sylvester Stallone doing three impressions of himself. Forget Rocky - for true Sly fans it doesnt get better than this.

It Needs: a 3D spinoff game to match

Alternatives:

Avalon, Existenz, Tron

Summary

The 'Spy Kids' films set new standards in children's cinema, and this one is no exception. Imaginative, pacy, and a whole lot of fun – and with some unpatronising values smuggled in.

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