“Do you think God stays in Heaven because he too lives in fear of what he’s created here on Earth?” These are the words spoken by Steve Buscemi’s mad scientist in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. If there was ever a line more emblematic of the risk and the insane disregard for normalcy taken by a kids movie franchise, we’ve never heard it.
If you’ve been on the internet at all the past few weeks, then you’ll have noted some discussion floating around pertaining to the new Spy Kids reboot. It seems cruel, given that we’ve already been through the wars with the likes of The Flash, Indiana Jones 5, and Gran Turismo this summer, that we should have to endure what is likely another godforsaken CGI bloat which is cheap, lazy, and unnecessary.
Well, I won’t endure it. I simply won’t watch it. Not just because it’s likely that this Spy Kids reboot stands as much of a chance of being good as a hug from a porcupine, but because it’s disrespectful to what is perhaps one of the best family movies of all time.
Actually, ‘family movie’ might be an overstatement, because the original 2001 Spy Kids wasn’t a movie for the whole family. It was a movie for kids and kids alone, dammit. And therein lay the beauty of the spy movie — it wasn’t patronizing, and it wasn’t dumb. Movies today try to mold themselves into what they think will be the most palatable and appealing adventure for children.
Spy Kids didn’t try to be something it thought we wanted when we were young. Spy Kids told us what we wanted.
The 2000s movie came up with a world in which there were inventions and gimmicks that even I, during the height of my imaginative abilities, couldn’t dream up. Machines that distributed McDonald’s at the press of a button, acid crayons, closets that turned into escape pods… Robert Rodriguez made me believe in a world that was far cooler than anything we would ever really experience. It’s the cruelest trick a god could play.
Spy Kids was for kids, but it was everything that kids shouldn’t want. It was sexy. It was wild. It was downright the most disgusting-looking movie ever made. There were men wandering around in the form of giant thumb people. But my God, it had flair.
Terrible visuals made with intent are a style choice, not a result. The ugliness felt intentional, and thereby created some of the greatest world-building seen even in movies today. Part of this can probably be attributed to the influx of ‘gloss’ in modern movies, but it’s mostly because of the sheer innovation used in producing Spy Kids.
The world of Floop’s Fooglies felt like a real show, and the running iconography of the fictional Troublemaker theme park (named after the studio that produced the movies) raised no questions of logic from me, a child, ever. In terms of aesthetic, Spy Kids was essentially our grindhouse cinema. It was hideous, it was disturbing, and it was glorious.
Part of the outrage against the new Spy Kids reboot comes from its casting: Zachary Levi and Gina Rodriguez. Anyone who grew up with the original would have let out a collective, yearning groan for Antonio Banderas upon hearing this news. It would be unfair, really, to directly criticize Levi and Rodriguez for this (though we’d like to).
It simply would have been impossible for any on-screen duo to ever live up to the legacy of Banderas and Carla Gugino. The chemistry is unmatched. The relationship is ripe with sensuality. Never before seen, and never seen since, honestly.
Spy Kids wasn’t a cool kids movie. It was a cool movie that happened to be for kids. Part of this is probably due to the fact that Rodriguez was well versed in creating darker, grimier adult cinema with movies like From Dusk Till Dawn and Desperado.
If there’s any reason to hold out hope for the upcoming reboot, it’s that Rodriguez is returning to direct, and wrote the movie alongside his son, Racer, who was a child and a major influence during the creation of the original Spy Kids. And if Spy Kids: Armageddon is good, then I’m prepared to eat my words with extra hot sauce. But it’s hard to imagine a world in which the new Spy Kids will ever live up to the original, let alone outdo it.
The reason for this doubt is because Spy Kids is just as enjoyable to me as an adult as it was when I was young. It’s a lightning-in-a-bottle type situation, and few filmmakers or studios realize this nowadays. Take another similar Rodriguez film, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. This came out after the original Spy Kids trilogy, and though it might still be quotable as hell, it’s no masterpiece.
Whether Spy Kids: Armageddon turns out to be a surprise success or another dead-in-the-water reboot of a beloved and once great children’s franchise remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Robert Rodriguez does not live in fear of what he’s created.
For more undercover action, take a look at how to watch the James Bond movies in order. We’ve also got breakdown of who we think will be the next James Bond, as well as a guide to the entire Mission Impossible cast. We’ve also got everything you need to know about the Mission Impossible 8 release date, and you can check out our Mission Impossible 7 review to see what we thought of the new movie.