Being a parent has many advantages. For starters, I like to call my kids “minions.” C’mon, that’s flat out cool. Who doesn’t want minions? Second, if you raise em right, there’s a good chance one of them will get rich or marry well and then you won’t have to be in a nursing home when your 80. However, there is a dark side to raising miniature versions of you. On occasion, the little tyke’s view of entertainment and yours will violently clash. For every quality Pixar flick they want to see, they also clamor for bottom feeders like Garfield or The Piglet Movie. It’s like a roulette wheel of pain for this parent/critic. Do I really need to tell you in which category I need to file The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl? With horrible 3D rendering, bad acting, and a storyline that seems awfully familiar to another children’s classic, Shark Boy and Lava Girl continues Robert Rodriguez’s schizophrenic ride as a Hollywood director.
I’m surprised that in 2005, I would have a major complaint on the visual flair of a major release. Shark Boy’s gimmicky 3D is without question the worst visual rendering I have ever seen in theaters. For starters, nothing “leapt” from the screen. Second, the whole damned movie was red tinted. What’s the point in Lava Girl having vibrant pink hair when the glasses make it look reddish-brown? None of the vibrant colors survived. I found myself begging for the 2D scenes where I could actually disseminate colors. If Rodriquez would have dropped the antiquated 3D gimmick, the movie’s other flaws possibly could be overlooked. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it.
The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl comes from the mind of Rodriguez’s son. Well, the characters come from his kid (I’ll get back to where I think the story came from). The story focuses on Max (Boyd) who lives in his dream world where he created the characters of Shark Boy and Lava Girl. Max’s fantasy world, entitled Planet Drool, is his escape from the depressing real world where his parents fight, bullies torment him, and a teacher urges him to give up on his dreams. One day Shark Boy (Lautner) and Lava Girl (Dooley) show Max they might be more than a dream when they whisk him away to Planet Drool so that he can help save the dream world from the approaching nightmares created by Mr. Electric (Lopez) and Minus (Davich). Hey Rodriguez! I liked it the first time it was called The Neverending Story. I’m not going to say this is a blatant rip off, but let’s compare similarities. Both movies try and get a young boy to save their fantasy world from doom. Both worlds are threatened by similar enemies (I’m trying not to spoil the better of the two movies). Heck, the robot in Shark Boy and Neverending’s Luckdragon even talk similarly.
Yet the two movies have differences. The acting in Shark Boy and Lava Girl is atrocious. When David Arquette gives one of the better performances you have to think something is amiss. I hate to criticize children’s acting but I have to here. Whether due to a horrible script or poor directing, Boyd ‘s performance as Max is uninspired and is a better fit for a school play than for the big screen. Lautner isn’t as bad but he’s nothing special either. Dooley on the other hand, has a spark of potential. She at least expresses emotion and delivers her lines with a bit of excitement. Of all of the kids, she’s the only one I expect to see working again. The adult acting, sadly, is only a shade better. Lopez is fine as Mr. Electricidad but I found him to be as bored by the surroundings as I was. On the other hand, Max’s mom, (Kristin Davis from Sex and the City) should be ashamed. This is truly the worst acting I’ve seen since Catwoman. She’s either a terrible actress whose inabilities were masked on HBO for years or she just doesn’t care anymore.
With many children’s movies you end up with a film that might lack something: acting, story, or presentation. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl captures the Triple Crown. With an amateurish 3D gimmick, an unoriginal story and acting that would make Screech cringe, Shark Boy and Lava Girl are best left in the imagination when a director can’t rise to the levels of his own son’s creativity.