Director/Screenplay/Photography/Production Design – Robert Rodriguez, Producers – Robert Rodriguez & Elizabeth Avellan, Music – Robert Rodriguez & John Debney, Visual Effects Supervisors – Robert Rodriguez & Daniel Leduc, Visual Effects – Cinesite (Supervisor – David Lingenfelser), The Computer Cafe, Digiscope (Supervisor – Brad Kuehn), Hybride Technologies, Janimation, Reel FX (Supervisor – Dale Carman) & Troublemaker Digital Studio, Special Effects Supervisor – Darrell D. Pritchett, Makeup Effects – Kurtzman Nicotero Berger EFX Group Inc. Production Company – Troublemaker Pictures/Dimension Pictures.
Alexa Vega (Carmen Cortez), Daryl Sabara (Juni Cortez), Antonio Banderas (Gregorio Cortez), Carla Gugino (Ingrid Cortez), Matt O’Leary (Gary Giggles), Emily Osment (Gertie Giggles), Mike Judge (Donnagon Giggles), Steve Buscemi (Romero), Taylor Momsen (Alexandra), Ricardo Montalban (Grandfather), Holland Taylor (Grandmother), Christopher McDonald (President), Cheech Marin (Uncle Felix), Danny Trejo (Uncle Machete), Bill Paxton (Tinky Winks), Alan Cumming (Floop), Tony Shalhoub (Alexander Minion)
Carmen and Juni Cortez conduct a rescue of the President’s daughter at an amusement park, only to find themselves upstaged by brother and sister spy kids Gary and Gertie Giggles. Gary and Gertie’s father Donnagon is appointed the head of OSS over Carmen and Juni’s father and immediately makes Gary and Gertie the top spy kids. After a top-secret experimental device is stolen, the Giggles kids are given the assignment of tracking it down. Instead, Carmen hacks into the system and sends the Giggles kids to the Gobi Desert, while they take the assignment. Following the trail to a mysterious area of the ocean, they discover an island that radiates an electrical field that negates all of their gadgetry. The island is inhabited by giant-sized creatures that have been crossbred between different animals by the eccentric scientist Romero. As the Giggles kids arrive, a fight ensues to obtain the artifact, which could have deadly consequences for the whole world. Carmen and Juni then realise that Donnagon Giggles is the one masterminding the scheme and that he is planning to kill them.
Spy Kids (2001) was an instant hit – even before it came out. This sequel was greenlit by Robert and Harvey Weinstein before the original film hit theatres. The sequel reunites all the basic cast of the original, even down to cameo appearances from Alan Cumming’s children’s show host villain and Tony Shalhoub as Minion. Robert Rodriguez, the director known for films such as El Mariachi (1993), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Sin City (2005), is back in the director’s chair and this time is seemingly determined to wear as many creative hats as possible – in the original he directed, wrote the screenplay, co-produced and co-supervised the visual effects; this time he adds production designer and co-writing the music to his list of credits as well (which must surely be some type of record for the number of job descriptions worn by one individual during the course of a big-budget studio feature. Although, Rodriguez would surpass this in subsequent films).
Spy Kids 2 is slightly the lesser of its predecessor, although is by no means unenjoyable. The first film won through the sheer cuteness of its novelty – of seeing kids enacting James Bond-type antics and the charmingly over-the-top gadgetry. The sequel lacks have the same originality value and Robert Rodriguez makes the mistake of stripping all the gadgets out of the film for at least two-thirds of the running time. The plot is fairly much the same as before – the kids rush into action to stop a supervillain who wants to get his hands on a device; this time the parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) come to rescue the kids rather than vice versa but still play supporting roles.
The sequel also lacks the snappiness of the original – the scenes on the island in the middle feel padded with creature encounters, especially the skeleton fight, which looks like it has strayed in from another film. [Robert Rodriguez is clearly a fan of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animated creature features – the hybrid creatures are strongly reminiscent of Mysterious Island (1961), while the battle with the skeletons has clearly been conducted as a cheeky revamping of Jason and the Argonauts (1963)].
Its’ problems here aside, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams is consistently charming. The Spy Kids series certainly displays more creativity than its contemporaneous rival, the Austin Powers series. The gadgets – from the watches that do everything but tell the time and the priceless moment when Emily Osment takes to the air with a device that turns her pigtails into helicopter rotors – are a great deal of fun.
The real fun is some of Robert Rodriguez’s cutely wacky surrealism – the hilarious image of Taylor Momsen’s president’s daughter dancing inside a cordon of stony-faced Secret Service agents and Daryl Sabara inviting her to dance where the only style she knows proves to be ballet; or the image of a cordon of black presidential motorcade vehicles all flying in using helicopter vanes. As before, Alexa Vega gives a good performance – she is someone that one can clearly see has a career as a teen, if not adult actress, ahead of her.
Robert Rodriguez and all involved went onto make two further sequels Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003) and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2011), followed by the animated tv series Spy Kids: Mission Critical (2018- ). Rodriguez has also made two further unrelated children’s films with The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005) and Shorts (2009).
Robert Rodriguez’s other films of genre interest are the vampire/getaway thriller From Dusk Till Dawn (1996); the witty teen body snatchers film The Faculty (1998); the graphic novel adaptation/film noir pastiche Sin City (2005) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014); the children’s film The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005); the zombie film Planet Terror (2007), half of the Quentin Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse (2007); the children’s film Shorts (2009); Machete Kills (2013), a sequel to his earlier Mexican-themed action film that frequently enters into science-fiction territory; the manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel (2019); and the kid superheroes film We Can Be Heroes (2020). Rodriguez has also produced From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (2000) and Predators (2010), as well as developed the tv series From Dusk Till Dawn (2014-6).