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'Game Over': Promise?

The recent installment of Spy Kids is worthless, unless you're into headache-inducing, low-dough 3-D effects.

By STEVE PERSALL, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2003

[Photo: Dimension Films]
Sylvester Stallone is the Toyman in the third Spy Kids film.
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Hands down, the worst movie of 2003 is Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, a movie so awful that those headaches spurred by the film's shoddy optics effects seem minor by comparison. I had a kidney stone attack during a screening of Newsies 11 years ago and didn't feel this out of sorts afterward.

Writer-director Robert Rodriguez, formerly the most promising talent in cinema, really went off the deep end with this one. Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is nothing but a cheat's guide to the video game now available in stores. It focuses on the least appealing actor of the first two Spy Kids flicks: Daryl Sabara (a.k.a. Rob Schneider's Mini-Me). Meanwhile, actors such as Antonio Banderas, who's shown in commercials to sell tickets, don't show up until the last five minutes. If you're smart, you'll be gone from the theater by then.

But it's the painful 3-D effects that should make moviegoers demand ticket refunds. The gimmick has been imposed because every other decent Spy Kids idea was spent in the enjoyable first film and it showed in the repetitive second episode, Island of Lost Dreams. But someone's still greedy. Same thing happened to Jaws. Rodriguez opted for the cheapest 3-D method available and got less than his money's worth.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over uses the inferior anaglyph system, identifiable by the red and blue lenses in the cardboard glasses handed out at theaters. Anaglyph technology doesn't require any special screen or projection equipment to be installed, so the cost beyond production is minimal. So is the quality.

By comparison, the more expensive polarized method, using plastic glasses with a single tint, requires special screens and equipment that a distributor would have to buy and install wherever the movie plays. Polarized 3-D has far superior clarity, depth and definition, as evidenced by the Terminator 3-D attraction at Universal Studios Florida or the IMAX 3-D films at Channelside Cinemas. James Cameron's Ghosts of the Abyss used the technique, but only in a very limited number of theaters due to the expense.

Spy Kids 3-D injects secret agent Juni Cortez (Sabara) into a video game to rescue his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) from the clutches of the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone, a shoo-in for another Razzie award as worst actor). The Toymaker developed the game to steal the minds of children around the world. What he plans to do with them is never mentioned. It's just an excuse for Rodriguez to create a cheesy virtual world where pogo-frogs, robots and Tron-like speeders get in Juni's way, in hopes of juicing real-life video game sales.

The 3-D glasses drain almost all color from the screen except for an annoying pinkish-gray tint. A field of green grass and Juni's yellow robotic uniform provide the only noticeable contrast. The depth is pathetic, not much better than 2-D projection. Viewers have two choices: Take the fast headache by watching the blurry images without the glasses, or wear them and let the headache settle in slowly, durably.

Apologists for Rodriguez will marvel that the movie even exists, created almost entirely in the filmmaker's garage in Austin, Texas, with state-of-the-art digital technology, outside the traditional Hollywood system. Just because I can fry an egg on the sidewalk in the summertime doesn't mean that anyone should eat it. Spy Kids 3-D looks cheap, plays cheaper and denigrates the entire concept of going to the movies. Please, for your own sake, stay away.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Grade: F

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Daryl Sabara, Sylvester Stallone, Ricardo Montalban, Alexa Vega, brief appearances by Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Salma Hayek, Bill Paxton, Steve Buscemi, George Clooney

Screenplay: Robert Rodriguez

Rating: PG; mild action violence

Running time: 88 min.

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