"No replays, no restarts."
Not that you'd want to, if you ever saw 'Spy Kids 3: Game Over' (also known as 'Spy Kids 3-D' in some circles). The third 'Spy Kids' film in three years, it seems that the well had long been tapped dry.
This installment in the popular, very financially successful series throws its viewers right into the plot from the moment it starts, with no prolonged backstory. Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega) has found herself trapped in a virtual world, on assignment to shut down a virtual game called Game Over before it takes over the world. Her brother, retired agent Juni (Daryl Sabara) must enter the game, overcome its obstacles, make friendly with its beta testers, find Carmen, and stop the evil Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), the man behind Game Over.
While the third entry into the series still features the majority of the cast it had accumulated, this fact is a hair misleading, as beyond Vega, Sabara, Judge, and Montalban, the others only appear ever so briefly in a cockameme finale that only exists in order to throw them in, an "all star segment," if you would. It's painfully obvious, lazy, and amazingly ineffective, with no chemistry or interaction, due to the way each element was filmed separately and compiled. Lifeless, just the way all great films end!
Never you fear, they kept the best elements....right? Right? Oh...This time around, Sabara takes on a far greater role, as for most of the film he runs without his normal partner. Rather, he has a few new cyber friends (Ryan Pinkston, Robert Vito, Bobby Edner, and Courtney Jines) who set out to test him, to see if he's The Guy, the profile from the game artwork. But who is the Deceiver, a false messiah, a prophet who will lead gamers down the wrong path? Is it one of his friends? Is it Juni?
Yes, folks, a thinly veiled messiah vs antichrist storyline applies here, with the ever so tense build up of doubt inside the group of their own intentions. No, wait, scratch that, the Deceiver is thrown in at random near the end, an irrational plot twist that serves no real purpose. It's as if director/writer/editor/etc./etc./Etc. Robert Rodriguez and his kin wanted to make a scene dramatic, and the best way they found to do that was to make a sidestep that doesn't fit in with the rest of the story whatsoever, an unwanted, unnecessary "twist" that is a forced contrivance and little more.
The problems with 'Spy Kids 3' don't have so much to do with the story (which is awful in its own right), but with the execution, making me wish execution were an option rather than finishing the film (it, sadly, isn't). Stallone plays numerous roles, with his evil mastermind, and three consultants to himself, in the forms of a general, a professor/doctor, and a monk. It's bad, it's just plain bad. There is no mo-cap here, just green screen filming, one character at a time, and the interaction never feels genuine, the acting never genuine, the characters, if we can call them that, never genuine. It's hard to not be bored watching the screen legend embarrass himself. It is hard to pity him, since he surely cashed his paycheck.
Montalban is an absolute disaster, through his acting, and the script for his character, in the final non-voice acting only role the actor would have before his death. The "physically handicapped" (as his profile forces down our throats) grandfather of Juni and Carmen is selected to be his mentor, his assistance in the game, and immediately, he is given a power up named "mega legs." Seriously. Why does the one handicapped character in the game have to have a super powerful armor (that is ridiculous in proportion to the others, like a twenty foot Superman), that enables him to walk, ride bikes in a Mario Kart/'The Phantom Menace' inspired racing segment, and surf through lava on a stone surfboard? It's insulting, and done so terribly, especially with his dopey words of wisdom (even during the race, as a competitor...), that it's impossible to take him seriously. If anything, you feel sorry for the veteran actor. Considering the pain he was in at the time, it's really just shameful that he was brought back in such a cheesy, disrespectful manner.
The film isn't so much an assault on taste as it is an assault on intelligence. From the V Boxx video game console, and a later hallway that glows green in an "x" pattern, the entire set up feels like a tie in to some silly video game itself (after some research, I found this obvious tie-in was not exploited, amazingly) for the Xbox platform. It doesn't matter. George Clooney, Salma Hayek, Elijah Wood, and Sly did their friend a favor, and were made to look like fools for doing so. Me? I was made the fool for being tricked into wasting nearly an hour and a half of my DLP burn time on this one. Again. Game over. Sadly, not series over, though. Will a sequel eight years after this previous entry work in the continuity of the series, or will it be yet another sore thumb, yet another family focussed failure on Rodriguez's resume? On the bright side, it surely can't get any worse than this.
'Spy Kids 3: Game Over' was the highlight of the Canadian box set, both in audio and video, and is once again the top dog in this original trilogy on Blu-ray. Lionsgate brings the Miramax title to their fold with an AVC MPEG-4 transfer at 1080p. Honestly, I had my concerns, considering the amount of content (including extras) jammed on a BD25 disc, but apparently this shorter film, plus all SD features, meant I was worrying over nothing. Well, except the fact that I had to watch this film again. Can't win 'em all!
This Blu-ray looks very strong, but it does have its issues, inherent and otherwise, that keep it from being a top tier title. I really don't know how many people are going in expecting that, but it's still a solid release. Colors are very powerful, striking, and bold, detail levels are frequently strong and occasionally eye popping. Picture depth? Well, considering this is intended to be a 3D film, there are plenty of moments that definitely go beyond deep. In fact, the constant pop, and towards the camera effects found here make the lack of a Blu-ray 3D release somewhat criminal.
Textures are regularly interesting. Interesting in that they're sometimes great and eye catching, and other times a tad flat, too digital and nondescript. It is a strength to this disc how much the digital effects stand out and refuse to integrate into the picture; the way CG Juni Cortez or Grandpa Montalban never quite look real and improperly draw the eye, the way random characters seem to hover, or the fact that absolutely nothing has a sense of weight to it that pulls you right out of the show, digital realm or otherwise. It's a bizarre blend, the smoothed digital nature and the gruff and sharp live action characters who often work in front of very flat, borderline undefined backgrounds, and this disc captures this peculiarity as well as any could. Edges are natural, and skin tones are absolutely perfect throughout.
The grain in the opening real life elements is a tad hefty, and blacks have problems resolving until the film goes all 'Tron.' There are a few spots with very minor banding issues, but no other artifacting issues arise. There are random jagged edges in sharp diagonals, and random objects in the game world that can't stand still, with a weird bit of digital noise sometimes, and the inability to look static due to random unintentional movement and shifting popping up on more than one occasion. A few spots in the game world have blown up lower resolution objects that pixelate due to such. Also, I have to say, the Pogo Frogs, or whatever the film wants to call those abominations, they look like utter crap here, their bright neon green never fitting in, creating some bleed issues.
'Spy Kids 3: Game Over' is a solid release overall, but it has issues that are pretty darned easy to spot, and over the course of the film can be a bit much at times, taking one out of the film to notice the random mistakes and issues.
The Audio for 'Spy Kids 3: Game Over' is also a step up on this American disc, with a rocking DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. There really isn't a technical deficiency to be found here, and only falls short of a perfect score due to the fact that many other discs have much more depth to them. That isn't so much an insult as it is the truth, as this film tries to be the biggest actioner of the series, but its inherent limitations keep it far, far short of a plethora of other films.
Now then, why does it sound good? For a kid's film, there's more than enough information thrown out there. Rears get a very good amount of presence, localized effects spread through the room frequently throughout the film, and bass levels, when present, have a great power to them (they just aren't as present as they could and/or should be). Dynamics are perfect, the soundtrack is engaging, and the film really puts the viewer right in the middle of the action, as a participant in the film experience. It's really a shame such a good sounding disc is for such a bad, bad film.
I hate 'Spy Kids 3: Game Over' like I hate onions on cheeseburgers, "reality" television in all its incarnations (including the plethora of shows littering the cable channels like 'Pawn Stars' that sucker audiences into believing everything they see), or being stuck behind an obliviously slow elderly driver. I hate almost everything this film represents. It's an insult to the great Ricardo Montalban, coherency in cinema, and every video game ever made, even the really, really bad ones. Does it have "Mega Legs" and hold up on repeat viewings? Hardly. It's a convoluted, insipid little antichrist allegory meshed in with bad acting and horrible CG. This film makes George Lucas's modern dependancy on green screens seem natural and lively. It's as dumb as the day is long, and any day that includes a viewing of this is a very long day, indeed.
Lionsgate does a great job on this Blu-ray release, which is the best looking and sounding release in the series, and there are enough extras to keep Robert Rodriguez fans satisfied. So...fans, you're going to buy it anyways. Completionists, it may collect dust, but you know you're buying it. Newcomers? I highly doubt that anything in this film would really be pivotal for the next 'Spy Kids' film, which is sure to bow on Blu-ray come December or January, so you really don't have to sit down to this painfully long 82 minute joke. For fans only...fans who are much more patient than I.