Spy Kids 2: The Island Of Lost Dreams (2002)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 8/7/02
Written, Directed, And Edited By: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Ricardo Montalban, Steve Buscemi, Bill Paxton

Awesome! This film is a logical sequel to the original "Spy Kids" (2001) and still manages to keep the spirit and flair that made the first film so much fun. Carmen and Juni (super-cute Alexa Vega and charming Daryl Sabara) have grown up a bit and are itching to go on a "real" assignment. Unfortunately, they have some dirty rivals to deal with in the guise of Gary and Gerti Giggles, two obnoxious kids who always seem to get the upper hand. To complicate things, Carmen has a crush on the insolent, arrogant, and generally unpleasant Gary Giggles, which all too painfully reminds me of my youth and begs the age old question of why women always fall for jerks... After Carmen and Juni are reported as MIA, their parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are dispatched to rescue them. But something is very wrong...

Apart from some bizarre editing, the film is exceptionally well made and full of non-stop action. The special effects nicely complement the fun and zany tone of the film, and pay homage to all of those wonderful Ray Harryhausen adventure films that I watched as a kid. (it also features a great "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" (1981) spoof) Some of the effects are unimpressive and draw unwanted attention to themselves, but Rodriguez never fails to keep everything fast, fun, and interesting. While the story is rather outlandish and convoluted, it's very imaginative, magical, and adventure oriented. But perhaps most importantly, it's not condescending and it doesn't pander to children. Alexa Vega is absolutely wonderful and I found Daryl Sabara to be extremely engaging this time around (and his Angus Young impersonation is quite amusing). Carmen and Juni's action scenes are great, and even though Carmen gets a good solid punch in on Gary, I was really hoping for an all-out melee between the two of them - but maybe that's a little too perverse and morally irresponsible for a children's movie... Great stuff, although the musical number at the end might make you a little uncomfortable.