Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

on August 07, 2002 by Michael Tunison
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   It's a fact of life that even the most charming children will start to grow tiresome if you're around them long enough. So it is with the ankle-biting adventurers of "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams," writer-director Robert Rodriguez's quickly assembled follow-up to last year's sleeper hit. While the filmmaker's whimsical touches and loving homages to the superspy and action genres give rise to some amusing moments along the way, this second installment in the kiddie-targeted franchise doesn't have quite the same creative kick as its loopier, more free-flowing predecessor.

   In a continuation of Rodriguez's multi-generation goof on espionage flick conventions, secret-agent siblings Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) deal with the maneuverings of a rival brother-and-sister spy team ("Frailty's" Matt O'Leary and Emily Osment, Haley Joel's kid sister) as dad Gregorio Cortez (Rodriguez regular Antonio Banderas) loses his bid to head the OSS intelligence agency to the competing kids' father (Mike Judge, creator of TV's "Beavis and Butt-Head" and "King of the Hill"). Soon, both pairs of Spy Kids are racing to fulfill a high-profile mission on an island inhabited by a Dr. Moreau-wannabe animal-mutating mad scientist ("Ghost World's" Steve Buscemi).

   While it's hard not to like a movie that references "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Lord of the Rings" and "Jason and the Argonauts" in one extended action sequence, Rodriguez's storyline is too busy to have much emotional impact. A fun running element regarding the Kids' obsession with the latest fashionable gadgets is lost in the mix, and the introduction of the Cortez spy grandparents ("Fantasy Island's" Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor from "The Truman Show") is barely given enough screen time to register, much less pay off satisfyingly. The 13-year-old Vega and nine-year-old Sabara continue to delight in their unaffected way, but they have a little too much on-screen competition this time to steal hearts the way they did in their more focused original outing.    Starring Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Steve Buscemi, Mike Judge, Matt O'Leary, Emily Osment, Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, Christopher McDonald and Bill Paxton. Directed and written by Robert Rodriguez. Produced by Elizabeth Avellan and Robert Rodriguez. A Dimension release. Comedy/Action. Rated PG for action sequences and some rude humor. Running time: 100 min

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