Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

It’s fairly obvious the biggest gimmick Spy Kids 3-D has going for it is… well, the 3-D. While those dazzling three dimensional effects were pretty cool on the big screen, one immediately has to wonder if they’ll be as impressive on smaller screens, or if it’s Game Over for the Spy Kid’s last movie venture. Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is the last installment (at least for now) in the adventures of Juni and Carmen Cortez, the Spy Kids. This movie focuses more on Juni, who, feeling betrayed by the OSS (the spy organization he worked for), has left the spy lifestyle behind to work in the private detective business. However, Juni is quickly pulled back into the spy fold when his sister Carmen turns up missing on her mission: a mission that was taking place inside the virtual reality video game world of “Game Over”.

Spy Kids 3-D kicks into high gear once Juni enters the video game world and its 3-D effects start. Assisted by a team of Beta Testers (Ryan Pinkston, Robert Vito, and Bobby Edner), the mysterious Demetra (Courtney Jines who looks surprisingly like Final Fantasy VII’s Aerith) and his grandfather (Ricardo Montalban), Juni seeks out his sister and attempts to find a way to shut down the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone) who created Game Over.

While the movie’s cast is predominantly made up of child actors, it never reaches a feel of forced acting. Writer/Director Robert Rodriguez either has quite a knack for finding and casting talented children, or is really good at giving them direction. The movie isn’t a serious drama, but the acting is exactly what it needs to be. On the adult side of things, Sly Stallone puts in one of the best performances of his career. He has spent recent years trying to do comedies and finally with Spy Kids 3D he finds a success. Lastly of note, Ricardo Montalban shows great range with some serious well played scenes, and a few that even rival Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for corniness.

All in all, the movie is great fun, and the actors seem to have fun being in it. It has its share of problems, suffering from green screen syndrome (actors poorly interacting with items that obviously weren’t there when the scene was filmed) but most of the movie’s target audience isn’t going to notice these things. Besides, by setting the majority of the movie inside a video game, the film immediately has some license in existing with those kinds of issues. In fact, with the help of some good writing, the movie even becomes a bit of a morality tale, teaching kids a lesson or two before the credits role. So, how do the 3D effects of Spy Kids 3D hold up in the conversion from big screen to small? Not so well unfortunately. No matter how you have your DVD player is set up (what kind of connection you use) you will see some ghosting (double images), blurry portions of images, and just plain ugly looking transfer. It’s assumed the higher quality type of connection you use, the less these issues arise. The majority of the 3D effects look fine, but the poorer looking effects can be bad enough to discourage the continued use of the 3D glasses. The DVD does include some setup help to improve the 3D effects, focusing on adjusting your TV’s Tint and Color to make things better. Watching the movie on a computer screen instead of a TV does show some improvement, but neither viewing is as impressive and solid as watching the 3D movie was on film.

Luckily Rodriguez took this into consideration (he even explains on the commentary track that some of it is due to the limitations of television standards) and the DVD has been released with both 3D and 2D versions of the film. The 2D version ensures the movie a greater replay value, as it is not subject to the blandness of colors watching the 3D version through cyan and magenta glasses caused. In 2D the film is still fun to watch, now washed in vibrant video game colors. Sure it doesn’t have the same gimmick as a 2D movie, but fans of the Spy Kids films will appreciate being able to watch the movie as opposed to having an extra coaster as they tire of the less spectacular 3D effects, or have more people around then sets of glasses, or inevitably lose the 3D glasses over time.

The rest of the DVD is full of highs and lows. A short “making of” documentary is included that unfortunately falls more into the extended commercial status that most included “making of” documentaries seem to be these days. It does have some interesting information on the history of 3D in movies and interview snippets with the kids, but does little to show most of the actual making of the movie. A short DVD player game (meaning you don’t have to have a DVD-ROM to enjoy it) of the race is included, but requires such precise and exact length touches to the controls that most people will quickly grow frustrated or tire of it. Footage from the Premiere party shows Alexa Vega performing the two theme songs from Spy Kids 3D (“Game Over” and “Heartdrive”) as well as “Isle of Dreams” from Spy Kids 2. The songs are enjoyable but the videos are awkwardly shot with lots of movement and don’t feel like professional concert footage. Also the brief dancing Vega does made me feel a bit uncomfortable, as watching a 16 year old girl wiggle and jiggle should do. Expect Vega to be right behind the Olsen Twin Legal Age countdown calendars on walls.

On the plus side, the rest of the Troublemaker Studios material is pretty good. A short discussion with Bill Paxton in “Big Dink, Little Dink” reveals that his son played his character’s son in the movie. “The Effects of the Game” is a short musically accompanied viewing of the movies special effects and the footage behind them, showing just how much of the movie was created in a computer. Rodriguez continues his “Ten Minute Film School” series with the most informative behind the scenes look the DVD contains, until you get to the commentary track. On the Commentary Track Rodriguez talks about ideas behind scenes, castings, stuff that didn’t get completed or outs they concocted in case scenes weren’t ready, and even rambles on about the poor technical standards of television, HDTV, and DVD. He continues to give commentaries on his movies the way they should be done!

If you’re a die hard Spy Kids fan and want the movie for its fun storyline and the continuation of just about every character that has been in previous installments, by all means pick this movie up. Otherwise I’d suggest renting the movie first and seeing if you can get past some of it’s weaknesses before making it a permanent part of your collection.