`Spy Kids' squanders intriguing premise

Movie reviews

March 30, 2001|By Knight Ridder/Tribune

`Spy Kids'

Rated PG

Sun score: **

"Spy Kids" is about a pair of kids with surprisingly cool parents and lots of cool gizmos, who go on some really cool adventures.

Problem is, the movie's not nearly as cool as the setup.

Oh sure, really young children might enjoy it. But here's betting older kids, those raised on "Star Wars"-caliber special effects, who expect movies with action and exciting stories, are going to find this effort wanting.

And adults aren't going to be roped in either, not even by a wholesome ending that feels like it was grafted on at the last minute in one last effort to make a film the whole family can not only see but also embrace.

The kids in the title are Carmen and Juni Cortez, average children leading an apparently average life. Older sister Carmen (Alex Vega) is a chronically bored pre-teen afflicted with dullard parents and a sibling who's the whipping boy for every tough in school. That sib, Juni (Daryl Sabara), is an insecure daydreamer who loses himself in the characters populating a wretched Saturday morning kids' show called "Floop's Fooglies."

Unknown to them, the bedtime story their parents have been telling them for years - about international spies, once rivals, who fell in love, got married and continued fighting the Cold War even after starting a family - is really the true story of how the Cortez family got started.

Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are international spies renowned for getting the job done, no matter what. But when one last big mission comes along, the two are caught and prepared by the bad guys for a fate worse than ... well, worse than whatever you can think of.

But then, who should come to their aid but ... Carmen and Juni? (One of the film's first mistakes is letting the audience know who the Cortezes really are long before the children find out; a surprise or two would have juiced things up.)

"Spy Kids" imagines itself a James Bond film for the younger set, but it never really moves beyond the potential of that idea. The special effects are so-so, the bad guys (led by Alan Cumming as the inexplicably insidious Fegan Floop) just plain silly, and the big moments involving Carmen and Juni just not all that exciting.

Sure, director Robert Rodriguez ("El Mariachi," "From Dusk Till Dawn") has his heart in the right place. Unfortunately, that doesn't make up for everything else.- Chris Kaltenbach

`Tomcats'

Rated R (sex, nudity, adult language, violence)

Sun score: *

"Tomcats" achieves a new low in gross-out humor. Jerry O'Connell plays a cartoonist who, to win a pot of money, tries to con his best friend (Jake Busey, who is creepy beyond the demands of a creepy part) into marrying a woman (Shannon Elizabeth), then accidentally falls in love with the woman himself.

The jokes are haphazard. They don't build to anything as they did in, for instance, "There's Something About Mary," and, as a result, "Tomcats" is a grim reminder that only a month ago we had the equally bad "Monkeybone," in which Brendan Fraser also played a guy who doodled for a living.

At this rate, I may be able to fill my entire year-end, 10-worst list with dreadful comedies about cartoonists.

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