When a film homages movies or themes of cinema past, and does it properly, it is often called a love letter, or tribute. The opposite, when a film digs up and mutilates a cinematic corpse, cashing in rather than showing respect, then it is called 'Spy Kids 2.'
Following up on the original, the Cortez children are top spies at the OSS, with their father in line for a promotion to be head of the spy company. That all changes when the fabled Transmooker device gets stolen from under everyone's noses. Juni is thrust into infamy, no longer the top Spy Kid, as Gary and Gerti Giggles (Matt O'Lear and Emily Osment) become the top agents, under the lead of the new director, their father Donnagon (Mike Judge, in a role that expanded tremendously from the previous film).
The Cortez children steal an assignment meant for the Giggles kids (that just sounds so wrong), and set off for a mythical fabled land full of unusual creatures, encountering a bizarre scientist (Steve Buscemi) who is responsible for the odd hybrid animals stalking the hidden land. The Cortez' are soon again troubled by the Giggles kids, and their father, as the Transmooker is fought over between the two spy families. Khan himself (Ricardo Montalban) guests as the unnamed grandfather of the Spy kids.
'Spy Kids 2' is a film incapable of standing on its own two feet. All the major players (sans Robert Patrick) reprise their roles, including other Rodriguez faves, but the film is more like a self tribute, for more reasons than the cast, including the naming of a theme park (complete with matching mascot) that is modeled after Rodriguez's Troublemaker brand.
'Spy Kids 2' has improved humor, especially the bits surrounding the interactions between the secret service, and the daughter of the President of the USA, and the new inventions from Machete, including a watch that can do everything but tell time. Again, the parents are helpless, as the kids are tasked with saving the world (you'd think an entire agency of spies would have at least a few competent employees over the age of fifteen...), and all of the existing gags (including the not-child friendly shit...ake mushroom joke with a huge pause) recur, though seemingly forced. Again McDonald's product placement is front and...must...buy...Big Mac and large fries....
The film picks up when the island scenes begin (after some horrible sea serpent scenes), as the set up is much more dry this time around, but, unfortunately, the computer generated effects that look like Harryhausen rip offs make the entire affair laughable at best. Creatures act like they did before, but, due to technology (and budget) constraints, they look like low-res cousins, with less proportion and more jerky movement (how that is possible is beyond me). After the first film made so much bank, it would have been nice if they reinvested it in effects work. That, and having more than one scene with Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming) would have been nice.
'Spy Kids 2' is a typical uninspired cash-in that again did splendid at the box office, setting the stage for yet another sequel, the third 'Spy Kids' film in three years. Considering the quality of the third film, that is yet another strike against this second entry, as it is responsible for the continuation of the series. Curse you, 'Spy Kids 2!!!'
This time in 1080p, 'Spy Kids 2' looks much better than on the previous Blu-ray dump release. That said, I still have more than a few nitpicks with the picture. In fact, while taking notes for this review, I didn't write down a single positive element to praise. The only faint praise was a note that had a but in the middle of the sentence, bringing up that even the positives have negatives that go along with them. In retrospect, I really, really wish I scored the Canadian release lower.
I didn't mind the soft CG effects in the "Troublemaker" theme park (worst idea...ever), as the effects laden third act features much stronger added in elements. I didn't mind so much the jagged eyes on the character head of the "vomiter" ride, as it was somewhat brief in appearance. I did mind the way skin tones would randomly grow warmer and warmer, or the way the picture is regularly flat. I really mind how shadow detail is a giant wash, and dark sequences get flatter than the rest, while Vega's hair turns into an absorbing black blob. I really liked the bold colors in OSS Junior, but they had hint of banding to them that I did not like one bit. Meanwhile, eagle eyes will spot artifacts, though the noise issues (particularly behind the juggler ride and the treehouse) are almost impossible to miss.
While it's too late for me to downgrade a previous review, I can fix that by not rewarding a lazy release. This disc looks better, but that's faint praise, faint praise indeed.
The audio for 'Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams' comes by way of a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. It is a step up from the previous entry, with new highs, new excitement...and new issues!
I must say it's rather frustrating that the opening titles have roller coasters running through the room at all angles, and when the film starts, the room goes utterly dead. At an amusement park. In fact, rears don't get proper activity, not for a film of this ilk, with some light score elements and really little else. This isn't what one would call immersion. Bass levels are much, much improved, with some light thumps early that could have used more beef, but as the film goes on, it gets harder and harder. I must say, though, prioritization is a bit off, as this is a film with some random volume spikes, and that's all well and good, but not all elements spike, with sound effects completely obliterating music and other effects, along with a few lines of dialogue.
This is a step up from the Canadian release, but honestly, it could have been a bit more.
Everything important from the DVD found its way here.
'Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams' has good intentions, very good intentions in fact, but the end result is hardly noble. Randomly poor, distracting special effects and little real story makes this sequel an interesting entry in the saga, but hardly a memorable one, and a noticeable step down from the first. This Blu-ray from Lionsgate has video that's improved from the Canadian release, but it's still bothersome, but the audio is much improved, and there's a bevy of extras, many of which fans will surely enjoy. This release has a ton of bang for its buck, but really, really should have been housed on a bigger disc. Double the content of the original film, half the storage space. I don't get it. Either way, worth a look if you enjoy this series.