It has been 20 years since the first Spy Kids film was released, and 10 years since the last. From director Robert Rodriguez, who has confirmed that his Spy Kids films take place in the same universe as Machete (yes, the Spy Kids’ Uncle Machete (Danny Trejo) is that Machete), these are the family friendly stories that inspired a generation of kids to know they could be just as smart and strong as their parents are or were.
Featuring empowering representation and with strong messages regarding the importance of family, the Spy Kids franchise is something of a staple of its generation; a film brimming with famous names and faces who zillenials still point at in any other film and say “Hey! They were in Spy Kids!”.
In this edition of Ranked, we here at The Film Magazine are looking back on the four entries of Robert Rodriguez’s cult family franchise to judge each in terms of quality, longevity and nostalgia. These are the Spy Kids Movies Ranked.
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4. Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (2011)
Easily the worst in the Spy Kids series is 2011 franchise comeback vehicle All the Time in the World.
It is easy not to associate this film with the first three in the franchise since it came out so much later and focuses on a different family (sort of). All the Time in the World follows Carmen (Alexa PenaVega) and Juni’s (Daryl Sabara) Aunt Marissa (Jessica Alba) and her family as they try to stop The Time Keeper from speeding up time to the point of it running out. Ironically, for a film about not wasting time, it feels like a massive waste of it.
So much of this film simply doesn’t make sense – the idea of time speeding up being completely forgotten about until the moments in which it’s convenient to the plot; Marissa’s husband is a spy hunter; and Ricky Gervais plays possibly his most annoying role ever (and that’s saying something).
There are a couple of redeeming moments of nostalgia – such as the returns of Carmen and Juni, some of their iconic catchphrases and the smallest Machete cameo – but beyond that, All the Time in the World feels like a bad rehash with a lot more fart jokes thrown in, which must have been even worse in the 4D smell version that was shown in cinemas.
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3. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002)
Just because this is next on the list doesn’t mean its anywhere near as bad as Spy Kids 4. In fact, The Island of Lost Dreams is a great watch.
This 2002 Spy Kids sequel takes place on an island invisible to the outside world where genetic scientist, Romero (Steve Buscemi), keeps his giant hybridised animals that were born of a freak accident with a growth serum. For 2002, the animation isn’t terrible and many of the hybrid animals still look realistic by today’s standards, as do the skeletons that reanimate on the island.
This is also the first film to include the Giggles family who, despite being framed as rivals to the Cortez family, actually become quite beloved characters by the end of the third film. We are also introduced to Carmen and Juni’s Grandparents (Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor) who bring a new facet to the Cortez family and help with finding the kids.
Spy Kids 2 is a perfect sequel as it takes what was good about the first film – the star studded cast, family values, and a kid-friendly spy concept – and expands them to create something that is similar to the original but with a new and interesting plot. Oh, and it features one of the best lines in cinema history…
“Do you think God stays in heaven because he too lives in fear of what he’s created?”