HTF REVIEW: "Spy Kids 2" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 4, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Spy Kids 2
    The Island of Lost Dreams

    Studio: Dimension
    Year: 2002
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 99 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English & Spanish


    When this week's assortment of screeners brought me
    Spy Kids 2: The Island Of Lost Dreams, the
    first bit of fear that went through my mind was that
    I would have to review this title never having seen
    the original film. But that little problem didn't
    stop me from having the absolute time of my life
    watching this wildly fun and clever sequel that
    needs very little introduction.


    I went into Spy Kids 2 only knowing the
    basics: In the original film, Carmen (Alexa Vega)
    and Juni (Daryl Sabara) were two regular kids,
    sister and brother, who discover much to their
    amazement that their rather ordinary parents
    (Antonio Bandares and Carla Gugiono) are actually
    international spies. In the original film, they
    were recruited into the family business when they
    had to rescue Mom and Dad.


    As this second film opens, the brother and sister
    team have made the transition to second-generation
    spies. The OSS organization has recruited additional
    teams of children, including egocentric Gary and
    Gerti Giggles (Matt O'Leary and Emily Osment). Both
    families of spies are vying for top political status
    but thus far the Giggles seem to be one step ahead
    thanks to the fact that their Dad (Mike Judge) has
    just been elected head of the organization.

    There are more serious problems at hand here however,
    as an all-powerful device known as the Transmooker
    has been stolen, and the safety of the world hangs
    in the balance. The kids secretly head off to the
    Island of Lost Dreams, a mysterious island that is
    nowhere on the map and is rumored to be ruled by
    all sorts of monsters. It is there that they meet
    Romero (Steve Buscemi), a mad scientist who has
    engineered a breed of miniature animals that through
    a botched experiment, have now grown excessively
    large and are now ruling the entire island.

    When the parents discover their kids are missing,
    you can bet that they get involved in a rescue
    mission. The one thing they didn't count on, however,
    is their Grandparents (Ricardo Montalban and Holland
    Taylor)are coming along for the ride.


    I don't know where to start in describing how much
    I enjoyed this film. This entire premise of kids
    taking on a James Bond role is very new to me, and
    I just loved the wildly imaginative way that over-
    the-top sets, strange creatures and an abundant use
    of gadgets were used to tell this fun story. Sure,
    the CGI effects were a little cheesy at times, but
    I chalked up the experience to that of watching an
    old Ray Harryhausen film. In addition, I just
    couldn't get enough of the cameo appearances by such
    veterans as Alan Cumming, Tony Shaloub, Bill Paxton,
    Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin and Ricardo Montalban.

    How is the transfer?

    If I am correct in what I have read, this entire
    film was shot on digital video after director Robert
    Rodriguez saw what George Lucas did with Episode
    . This would explain a few things, such as
    why this film has many of the same characteristics
    and flaws of the Episode II DVD. On the plus
    side, image is razor sharp with background surface
    that is smooth and totally noise-free. This is a
    highly colorful film and each scene seems to burst
    with a vivid assortment of yellows, reds, greens
    and blues. Colors seem very well saturated, although
    flesh tones seem to be a little too red.

    I have the same problem with the look of the film's
    effects on this format as I did with the Episode
    DVD -- that is, the digital CGI effects don't
    seem to match the clarity level of the human
    counterparts. This creates interaction between the
    two that is not always seamless. As I noted earlier,
    I was able to tolerate these differences simply
    because of the overall campiness of the film.


    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is outstanding, though not
    as aggressive in the rear channels as I had thought
    it would be. Set mostly in the front channels, you
    can expect bass-heavy audio that bursts at the seams
    with outstanding dynamics. You'll be astounded by
    the collection of kettledrums, horns, brass and other
    sorts of percussion that generate a real sense of
    action and movement here. All of this is underlined
    with a noticeable amount of LFE response. The rears
    do an admirable job of reproducing every whizzing,
    whooshing and roaring noise that appears throughout
    the film. As I noted above, I just sensed the mix to
    be a little more front-heavy.

    Special Features


    I just loved the overall design of this DVD starting
    with packaging that arrives in a sturdy cardboard
    slipcover that houses the innard Amaray case. Also
    noteworthy is the spectacular array of menu designs
    that are cleverly produced with all sorts of cool
    interchanges and overlays.

    First up here is an outstanding commentary
    by director Robert Rodriguez. Why am I so quick
    to praise it? Simple. The commentary is designed
    for kids and feeble-minded adults like myself.
    Rodriguez, sounding wildly excited throughout, really
    simplifies his narration, describing what it is
    like to work with multiple film crews that work
    on both location and sound stages. With each passing
    scene, Rodriguez gives us all sorts of tips on how
    he saved money by carefully composing his shots,
    keeping everything contained in order to deal with
    the smaller sets that were built. The director reveals
    the most important job in making a film is...anyone?...
    anyone?...anyone?....CREATIVITY. Once you have this
    creativity you can easily jump from project to
    project without knowing much about the skill and
    technical levels of filmmaking. We also learn how
    pleased the director was with his child stars and
    the fact that they spoke their dialogue in a very
    natural manner, not sounding a bit forced. I can
    just about promise you that if you just barely listen
    to this commentary, you can learn how to make your
    own film on a limited budget. Certainly one of the
    most enjoyable commentaries one can listen to.


    Robert Rodriguez: Ten Minute Film School - "Big
    Movies Made Cheap"
    may just be the longest titled
    featurette I have ever reviewed. Here, director
    Rodriguez promises us that within 10 minutes he
    will show us how all the effects work for the film
    was accomplished on a rather limited budget. Faster
    than a speeding bullet, we whiz through all the
    major effects sequences as we learn how the building
    of massive sets were compromised by using miniatures,
    CGI additions and blue-screen effects. Let me
    tell you, folks, this is pretty amazing stuff!
    (length: approx. 10 minutes)


    A new kind of stunt kid takes a look at
    the fun things that can happen when you have kids
    doing their own stunt work. Both Alexa and Daryl
    brought their own individual talents to the table
    (gymnastics and martial arts), which gave them the
    opportunity to really shine in this film. Other
    kids wound up in harnesses, flying around sets and
    doing stunts 200 feet off the ground. Despite all
    the danger, the kids seem to have had a great time
    doing it all themselves.
    (length: approx. 6 minutes)

    There are eight Lost Scenes that include:

    * An earlier amusement park introduction to
    Carmen and Junie that shows Jumi has a crush on
    the President's daughter.

    * Antonio Banderas in a arm wrestling match and
    then a goofy dance number that ends in an unplanned

    * Extended office dialogue between Bandares and
    Mike Judge (a personal favorite scene of director

    * Inside the submarine, the kids chew on Lollipops
    that have secret mission orders inside.

    * Steve Buscemi leaving his compound and facing
    his darkest fears.

    All of these lost sequences are rather short. If
    played together, the total running time is a mere
    8 minutes. Not only are the added scenes in
    pristine condition, but they are fun to watch.
    You can opt to play these scenes with commentary
    by director Robert Rodriguez.

    Equipped with essential gadgets to put on a roarin'
    concert, the kids perform the Isle of Dreams
    music video. I promise you'll really enjoy
    watching this!

    School at Big Bend National Park is an
    interesting look at the land of borders, situated
    on the boundary with Mexico along the Rio Grande.
    Join the cast as they explore a place that merges
    natural environments, from desert to mountains. Big
    Bend is some of the wildest area left in the United
    States and you and your kids will certainly enjoy
    learning a little bit about it all.
    (length: approx. 4 minutes)

    Essential Gear: the gadgets of Spy Kids has
    cast members raving about all their favorite
    gadgets from spy watches to the treehouse, Dragonfly-5,
    spychair, and...oh yes...Ralph.
    (length: approx. 3 minutes)

    Loads of fun are these little Behind-the-scenes
    that take us from Costa Rica to the
    Amusement Park and include various stunt work along
    the way. What's cool about this feature is that
    this is just basically raw video footage with some
    added remarks from the cast members. A real hoot
    is watching actor Bill Paxton getting sprayed with
    pressurized vomit.
    (length: approx. 12 minutes)


    Total Access 24/7 - A day in the life of Spy
    looks to be the standard cable-TV promotional
    fare where cast and crew give us an overview of
    the film. What's a little different here is that
    this featurette concentrates on the film's kid
    stars, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara as we visit
    their homes, watch them do ordinary kid things,
    and then get up the following morning to get to
    the studio where they are made up just prior to
    appearing on the set. In between their shooting,
    we watch them going to school inside a studio lot
    trailer. No doubt teens will have a blast watching
    their favorite actors do many of the normal things
    that every teenager does. Good stuff!
    (length: approx. 21 minutes)


    A Stills Gallery offers many publicity and
    behind-the-scenes photos directly from the set while
    an Art Gallery offers dozens of conceptual
    drawings of creatures, gadgets and various stunts.

    Shall we play a game?! Transmooker Trouble
    is a "set top game" where you answer a set of
    multiple-choice questions in order to successfully
    disarm the transmooker device. The questions all
    relate to the film and are fairly easy.

    The film's teaser trailer is offered here,
    but noticeably absent is the film's final trailer.

    DVD-ROM content includes website access,
    a preview of the Spy Kids Mega Mission Zone
    Computer game and another version of Transmooker

    Final Thoughts


    What a thoroughly fun and refreshing film! Spy
    Kids 2
    so wonderfully infuses the world of
    spy genre to the family film with a delightful
    mix of parody, breathtaking action sequences, and
    lots of fun gadgetry. This film is certainly more
    fun than any recent James Bond film in memory.

    In addition to a highly acceptable digital transfer,
    This Collector Series DVD is jam-packed with fun
    extras that will interest both teenagers and parents.
    In short, this is the perfect family DVD and one that
    will easily make its way into a bestseller over the
    next few weeks.

    Release Date: February 18, 2003

    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. James L White

    James L White Supporting Actor

    Jun 29, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Great review, don't feal bad Ron I ahven't seen the first one either, :b I might have to at least give both films a rental.[​IMG]
  3. Joe Fisher

    Joe Fisher Screenwriter

    May 11, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Joseph E Fisher
    Memo For 2/18/2003: Buy both Spy Kids & Spy Kids 2.[​IMG] [​IMG]

    Thanks Ron [​IMG] [​IMG]
  4. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Feb 16, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Albany, NY
    I already had this on preorder, having loved it during it's theatrical run. Glad to see you liked it, and glad it's a better package than the bare-bones disc for the original (which was never the less a great DVD being a great movie).

    One note however, the director's first name is Robert not Michael. Just a little nitpick since the guy's a bit of a hero to me[​IMG]
  5. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Well, I enjoyed the first one and part 2 looks even better! Ron, thanks for the review. [​IMG]
  6. Ron Kaye

    Ron Kaye Agent

    Nov 21, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Michael Rodriguez is Robert Rodriguez's twin brother.

    Robert gets the girls. Michael is the genius writer.

    Oops....thats Charlie & Donald Kaufman. My mistake.

  7. kevin_asai

    kevin_asai Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 12, 2001
    Likes Received:
    I will buy this title for sure. [​IMG]

    Thanks, Ron.
  8. Jason Whyte

    Jason Whyte Screenwriter

    Jun 3, 1999
    Likes Received:
    I absolutely adore this film; one of the most visually creative films I've ever seen, and easily one of the most fun movies I saw in 2002.

  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    I made the change in the review. My apologies
    for typing "Michael" instead of "Robert" With
    all the typing I do, I often find myself making
    mistakes with first names that the spellchecker
    cannot pick up.

    Moving on....

    I really wanted to make this title a HIGHLY
    RECOMMENDED review, but could not fit it in the
    title bar. It really deserves special recognition
    for being the aboslute fun movie of the year.
  10. Joshua_Y

    Joshua_Y Screenwriter

    Dec 19, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I saw it and thought it was really funny, but wasnt sure about getting the DVD. I will now.
  11. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

    Mar 16, 1999
    Likes Received:
  12. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Dec 15, 2001
    Likes Received:
  13. Chad A Wright

    Chad A Wright Supporting Actor

    Jul 22, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I agree, there should be some way to denote the Highly Recommended for this title. Even if it's abbreviated, people should know how good it is.
  14. Brian Kleinke

    Brian Kleinke Supporting Actor

    Sep 9, 1999
    Likes Received:
    I liked this movie a lot, but on first viewing I still liked the first one better, perhaps that will change as after I see the second one more [​IMG]

    The first was a mega surprise to me, it's likely in the top 5 most watched DVDs I owned, Something about it is just way too fun [​IMG]

    I'll agree with ThomasC about the Highly Recommended tag, I was really worried when I saw the link without it. Anyway thanks for the great review Ron. I'm definitely picking this one up.

  15. Garrett Adams

    Garrett Adams Supporting Actor

    Sep 27, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Ron the name of the mother is incorrect it's Carla not Carlo. Big gender difference I believe. [​IMG]
  16. David Coleman

    David Coleman Supporting Actor

    Jan 5, 2000
    Likes Received:
    So do we know that this is a direct digital tranfer?
  17. David Broome

    David Broome Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 2, 2001
    Likes Received:
    You know, I've always thought the (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) denotation in the list was a little hard to read. Why don't one of us artistic types make an HR icon that Ron can put in instead of spelling out HIGHLY RECOMMENDED?

    I skipped this one in the theater on purpose, because I knew my daughter would make me watch it on DVD as many times as she has the first one. And strangely enough, I enjoy it every time I watch the first one. Can't wait till this one comes out!
  18. Greg_C_T

    Greg_C_T Second Unit

    Oct 22, 2001
    Likes Received:

    Ron, check out his commentaries on the Director's Double Feature of El Mariachi/Desperado. He really gives an entertaining recount of the movie-making process and describes how he made the movies on a shoestring budget.
  19. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Cinematographer

    Jan 6, 1999
    Likes Received:

    Could you do me a favor? STOP reviewing DVDs, because,
    as a result I am becoming impoverished! [​IMG]

  20. Jason Merrick

    Jason Merrick Supporting Actor

    Mar 2, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Simi Valley, CA (Los Angeles)
    Real Name:
    Jason Merrick
    Am I the only HTF member who found this film to be completely unwatchable?

    My whole family was anxious to see this after really enjoying the first film. None of us enjoyed the sequel when we went to a theater to watch it. Even the kids had trouble paying attention.

    Prior to reading this thread, I had never heard a positive word about this film!

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