" I can safely say at this point that we are lost. "
— Heather Donahue, The Blair Witch Project

MRQE Top Critic

Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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Robert Rodriguez is back as the ultimate cheap, fast, and always-in-control filmmaker with the Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over DVD, a two-disc set, packaged with four pairs of 3-D glasses and instructions for ordering additional sets.

Trapped in the Game

Kid-recommended SK3 breaks even with adults
Kid-recommended SK3 breaks even with adults

At age 11, Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) is a disaffected former government secret agent who has decided to go into business for himself as a private investigator (a real gumshoe, he says, a puddle of gum between his shoe and the pavement). He’s solving mysteries, but they’re all small potatoes.

The OSS keeps trying to get Juni signed up with the agency again, but he’s got a chip on his shoulder after being “burned” in his last adventure. When he learns that his sister, Carmen, who still works as a secret agent, is stuck inside one of the levels of the biggest video game ever, playing the game to rescue his sister is a call he can’t refuse.

The video game, of course, is a trap designed to ensnare children’s minds, created by the nefarious Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone). Reaching Level 5 is said to reward the player with “untold riches.” But the game is programmed to trap kids who reach Level 5 forever.

When it’s time for Juni to embark into the world of the game, bold screen titles advise, “GLASSES ON.” We experience pogo toads, robot battles, evil Tinkertoys, and surfing in canyons of molten lava in all their 3-D glory.

I missed big sister Carmen (Alexa Vega), who remains trapped out of sight in Level 4 limbo for most of the film. She’s a competent big sister to Juni’s clumsy hero. Many of the other characters that enlivened the first two movies are back for the third, but with only bit parts. New to the franchise is Sylvester Stallone as the Toymaker and the three warring sides of his conscience, a little Greek chorus that quibbles about the right thing to do.

SK3 delivered just the right amount of heartfelt morals to make me feel good about seeing it with kids. Its reliance on the contrived digital texture left me cold, but may engage you if you love your Nintendo.

DVD Extras

SK3D comes as a two-disc set. One disc contains the 3-D version of the film (just wait for the “GLASSES ON” instruction); the other has the 2-D version.

This DVD set is chock-full of excellent special features that include an informative director’s commentary track, Rodriguez’ “Ten Minute Film School” with “How to Make Cool Home Movies,” must-sees for any aspiring digital or animated filmmaker, and “An Adventure Into The 3rd Dimension: Making of Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.” And I didn’t even know my DVD remote had an “Angle” button until I used it to switch between storyboards, green screen shots, and the final finished sequences in one of the DVD’s extras.

The acting and 3-D graphics seem more impressive than they were in the theater, after learning in the special features that 90 percent of the film was made in a “green room,” where most of the large cast were not in the same room at the same time. Once again, tight timelines and budgets have forced Rodriguez to create convincing effects (about 1,400 of them, according to his commentary).

Video game-playing kids will love SK 3-D – and will be thrilled by the novelty of the virtual-reality environment of the movie, enhanced by the 3-D goggles. It’s likely that kids are already commandeering their families’ camcorders to make home movies, inspired by the multitalented Rodriguez’ simple tips and his perennial advice to “Have fun and be creative.”