(2002) dir. Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez’s campy, over-the-top, comical sensibilities seem to have found their perfect output in the Spy Kids franchise. Rodriguez has always imbued his films with a certain verve and light-heartedness, while playing with the conventions of genre, such as action/adventure or horror. Actually, I don’t know if one could characterize any of his films as having too much seriousness or pretention. In fact, that seems perfectly counterposed to his character as a writer and director.
In Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, the conventions of multiple genres are employed, lampooned, and exploited. Essentially a “children’s” movie, something perhaps not so much a genre but as an stylistic application to various genres, the movie addresses itself to the spy film, but pays homage to other “classic” action/adventure films, including Jason and the Argonauts (1963) & Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Rodriguez tends to amp up certain motifs and conventions to outrageous extremes. In this sense, the events are not “grounded” in realistic depiction, but tend to expose the action sequences and sight gags for the entertaining eye candy that they are.
Rodriguez uses many well-known Latino and Spanish actors in all of his films, often as a pop cultural set of references as well as an aspect of character. In the Spy Kids films, the primary characters are either Latino or Spanish (I think perhaps the family is meant to be Mexican, though I am not sure if it’s specifically noted). I would suggest that this is a significant aspect of their depiction, though arguably one that doesn’t seem substantially explored outside of its general state of being.
True to his low-budget roots, Rodriguez led production design throughout the film, doing a great deal of the film in post-production with a heavy reliance on digital backgrounds and animation. I had read one comment that perhaps he relies on this too much,…which I would probably agree with. Overall, though, the film was a good deal of fun.