Review by Michael Jacobson
Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo,
Robert Patrick, Tony Shalhoub, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Theatrical & Teaser Trailers
Length: 88 Minutes
Release Date: September 18, 2001
“Never send an adult to do a
There seem to be at least three certainties in life:
death, taxes, and Disney finding a way to screw DVD fans.
Only a couple of months after proclaiming them “most improved DVD
studio” in our semi-annual Studio Scorecard, they’re back to their old
tricks with Spy Kids.
Remember the so-called special edition that came back to
theatres only recently? The
official word was, a certain effects sequence involving a cave filled with
sleeping sharks was supposed to have been part of the original movie, but
writer/director/producer Robert Rodriguez couldn’t finish it owing to
budgetary concerns. After the
picture became a hit, he was allowed to complete the scene.
The “special edition”, the studio proclaimed, was in fact the real
and complete version of the film.
So…why the hell is the previous incomplete version being
released as the official DVD offering? I
ask the question like I don’t already know the answer…somewhere down the
line, the “special edition” will show up, and Disney will once again sucker
fans into paying twice for the same title.
Hey, I’ve never objected to later DVD editions coming out with a lot
more bonus material, but come on…why withhold the so-called complete version
from digital fans?
The studio’s rape-and-pillage policy notwithstanding, Spy
Kids is one heckuva cool film. Rodriguez,
know for fun, over-the-top action pictures like El Mariachi, Desperado and
From Dusk Til Dawn, pulls out all the stops here like a rabid kid going
nuts in the biggest toy store on the planet.
The resulting movie is fast, funny, sleekly designed, imaginative, and
best of all, a perfect family film.
Gregario (Banderas) and Ingrid (Gugino) seem like normal,
placid suburban parents with two typical kids, daughter Carmen (Vega) and son
Juni (Sabara), but they harbor a secret (told in a terrific flashback sequence
near the beginning). They were once
two of the world’s greatest spies, but had long since retired for the sake of
But when an old nemesis, Minion (Shalhoub) arranges the
kidnapping of many of the couple’s former comrades, they jump back into action
one last time…only to find they are not quite as smooth as they once were.
Minion has enlisted the help of a popular kids’ show host, Fegan Floop
(Cumming), who has discovered a way to keep the good agents under control (while
boosting his ratings at the same time).
Meanwhile, the kids, who had no idea about their parents’
alter egos, are suddenly thrust into the middle of an adventure they never saw
coming. With the help of some wild
and unpredictable gadgetry and a newfound confidence in themselves, they set off
to save the day…and Mom and Dad as well.
Mere words can’t describe what an imaginative thrill ride
this picture is. Rodriguez
obviously remembers what it’s like to be a kid, and he’s designed a
production that will not only appeal to children, but to the kid inside the
parents as well. His digital toy
box is colorful and limitless, and you’ll see such wonders as thumb robots
(all appendages are giant thumbs), super fast jet packs, SUVs that turn into
submarines, and much more. The
events come in such rapid fire fashion that you may find it hard to catch your
The youngsters, Vega and Sabara, are quite appealing in
their roles. Their performances
range from bickering and name calling like any real kid siblings to an almost
stoically philosophical approach to what their new duties are.
Truth be told, even as the title characters, they are only a small part
of what makes the movie magical.
Parents, you can feel good about this film.
There is no profanity, and only the most broad type of cartoon style
violence. The overall message about
family unity and believing in ones’ self is a good and universal one, to be
sure…it’s just never been told in a manner that’s been this much fun.
This DVD really took me back…to a time when Disney
transfers were pure crap. This one
is anamorphic, to be sure, but it’s quite problematic from beginning to end.
Rodriguez’ rich and wild color schemes have no balance or contrast.
Bleeding is an issue time and time again, as well as unnatural
over-saturation of scene after scene. Flesh
tones are horrid, often coming across as too yellow or too orange.
The image is a bit soft throughout, which doesn’t help the color
containment. If one color is
brighter than the rest of the scene, it spills over.
I don’t know who was QC’ing this transfer for the studio, but he or
she must have been watching a different movie at the time.
Again, frustration abounds.
This could have, and should have, been a dynamite audio experience.
There is action from every direction in scene after scene.
Crossovers are smooth and fluid, BUT…the whole thing lacks dynamic
range. It just never gets as loud
as events on the screen seem to warrant. There
also seems to be a bit of a mix error in some scenes…as dialogue comes through
the center channel, it often does so at a noticeably higher volume than the
other channels…it keeps certain bits slightly off balance. Again, a little more care at the QC level could have made a
Only a teaser and a full trailer.
Great movie, bad DVD. You don’t get the so-named “complete” version of the film on this disc, and that’s just for starters. The substandard video and audio quality make this a shameful reminder of Disney’s stigmatized past with the format. Objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear after all, I suppose.