2. Spy Kids (2001)
Spy Kids Review
The first instalment of the Robert Rodriguez quadrilogy brought Spy Kids to the screen in 2001, and it has been in our hearts ever since.
Spy Kids focuses on Carmen and Juni, who find out that their parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are spies. When their parents are kidnapped and imprisoned by the not-so-evil villain Floop (Alan Cumming), the children must assemble their spy gadgets in an attempt to free their parents from a nasty scheme.
This film hits all the marks in terms of teaching kids good messages: the family learn healthy communication; Machete helps his niece and nephew despite a family feud and is ultimately offered forgiveness by his brother Gregorio; and Floop redeems himself after realising that Minion (Tony Shalhoub) was the real villain all along.
The overarching plot of the super strength evil children is also interesting as it plays on the idea that children are overlooked as being less smart or not strong enough to have their own agency, which is what the film is trying to fight against, and so Spy Kids becomes an empowering kid’s film that champions children using their brains to outwit the bad adults who underestimate and overlook them.
Forgiveness also plays a large role in Spy Kids, as many characters not only learn to forgive others when they admit their wrongdoings, but also to forgive themselves – by the end of the film there is no one left feeling guilty for what they have done.
Finally, you can’t talk about this film without mentioning the closing cameo of George Clooney as Devlin, the head of the OSS, who ends up returning in our number one film on this list…
1. Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is hilarious and brilliant in equal measure.
It’s a film that relies heavily on CGI, which isn’t the best but isn’t the worst by far and is still watchable to a nostalgic audience today.
Game Over starts off with Juni being called back to the OSS to help find Carmen who is trapped in a videogame made by The Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone). Once he’s in the videogame, Juni makes new friends, we get another random cameo – this time from Elijah Wood (who would have still been filming Lord of the Rings at the time) – and the film finishes with a fight scene that brings all the icons of the film series together.
The message of this film is very clearly that videogames can be unhealthy and addictive, as The Toymaker’s plan is to enslave all the children who play his game; a message still relevant today that worked really well as the basis of the plot for the third instalment of the series.
It is, however, the beginning and the ending of the film that really bump it up to the top of this list.
The opening is hilarious, showing Juni to be something of a hardened private investigator. The filmmakers use all the tropes detective films would use, but have an eleven-year-old at the centre of them. It makes for brilliant comedy, especially as he is solving ‘kids crimes’ like lost toys and closed water parks. Even in his meeting with Devlin, and subsequent mini coffee date with Gertie Giggles, his lines are written and spoken as though he is a disgruntled retired detective.
The ending is also tremendous fun in both its action and emotion. Action-wise, the final scene of Game Over really is the Endgame of the series, with every notable character from the previous movies coming together to fight The Toymaker and his giant robots. At first only Carmen and Juni’s immediate family are called in to help, but after Juni remembers what Gertie said at the beginning of the film, he calls in everyone from Floop to Romero because they are all considered to be family. The emotional climax comes when Grandpa flies up to the biggest robot to defeat The Toymaker, and Grandpa forgives The Toymaker for putting him in a wheelchair. If only this had been the true finale to the franchise.
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