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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Spy Kids (Blu-ray)
Spy Kids (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG // August 2, 2011 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 15, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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Spy Kids
is the first film in a now four-part series that centers around, well, spy kids of course. The Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Sin City) helmed family picture is something many audience members probably didn't expect from the film-maker at the time of its original release but this first outing into spy kid land has become something of a staple family film in a truly impressive franchise that has managed to hold up over the years.

The original Spy Kids is easily the most impressive film in the series from a film-making perspective. It has a strong introduction to all of the core characters, a fun plot, a zany misunderstood villain, and creative special effects in the form of computer generated imagery and imaginative set designs.
 

The story introduces us to the Cortez family: the parents happen to be none-other than the electrifying duo of Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino (who amazingly manage to actually have some sex-appeal in a family-appropriate film) and of course the kids: Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara). The parents are international spies who are two of the most respected spies in the field. The kids, naturally, have no idea whatsoever that their parents ever did anything of the sort. The parents entered the world of spy-retirement for the sake of having a functional family.

Yet things start to go haywire when the adult Cortez's must reunite in spy-dom to work on an importance new mission. Things don't go quite as planned and the parents are kidnapped by Floop (Alan Cumming, in one of his best roles ever). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carmen and Juni must become kid spies to rescue their parents and help save the day. Wait a minute... what kind of family film is this?! All joking aside, the two kids must learn how to outsmart and defeat the evil adults (and misunderstood ones) who stand in the way of the Cortez family.

It sometimes surprises me to consider the fact that Robert Rodriguez was probably the first person to legitimately consider the idea of making a film surrounding the idea of kids being spies. There might be other films with similar ideas (made prior to Spy Kids, of course - knockoff's were produced in high quantity afterwards), but even if there are his idea was clearly the most interesting. This is a film that has a wide range of appeal for adults and kids alike: the style is original and compelling in just about every way for anyone who can enjoy imaginative film-making with a lot of genuine creativity on display. Rodriguez tackles the writing, directing, editing, and so forth with great skill.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the film is that Rodriguez never talks down to kids. The truth of the matter is that this DIY (do it yourself) indie-then-studio first class filmmaker seems like a kid at heart (even after some McGowan family-issues). He respects a kid's ability to be imaginative and wants to tell them that anything is possible. Whatever your dreams are... they can become a reality. This is a very importance message to send out into the world. Rodriguez does an admirable job in sharing his heart and mind with the film in that way.  

One of the reasons the film is so successful is that it realizes how silly the premise sounds and instead of talking-down to the idea or taking it too seriously it actually knows how to have fun with the basic premise. The film is a near-perfect blend of comedy and action. There is also respectable character-development. It combines several different styles of film-making and doesn't ever settle to just be an OK movie. The movie has large dreams and the cast and crew make them an impressive reality.
 

The efforts of Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara should not be mistaken as mere acting flukes: these talented kids really helped to solidify the worth of the entire Spy Kids series. This is one film series where the actors really helped to make all the difference, and anyone else being cast could have meant a far less interesting movie (let alone an entire series). Both actors do an incredible job of playing off the brother-sister dynamic and actually embrace the spy kid element extremely well. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino also bring a great deal of warmth to their characters and that makes one feel as though this could be a real family - which is important to the overwhelming success of Spy Kids as well.

The Special Effects might seem a tad dated today (but consider the low-budget approach Rodriguez used), but the sheer originality, strong casting, and child-like imagination on display make this a family film that should almost be considered required viewing. Even fans of Rodriguez (the ones who swear to never watch his 'kid' films) should give it a fair chance: those viewers just might be surprised and delighted (as countless cinema-goers surely were when the film hit theaters). Spy Kids is a blast of entertainment with real wit and heart.

The Blu-ray:  


Video:

Fans will be pleased to learn that Spy Kids has never looked better. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1:85:1 (preserving the look of the original theatrical exhibition), Spy Kids has a technically impressive presentation on Blu-ray. The High Definition image is considerably sharper and cleaner than the DVD edition and with stronger colors to boot. The major flaw might be that the somewhat-dated special effects appear somewhat hazy or out of focus during some major sequences, but this has more to do with the technical limitations of the time than with the transfer itself. When the image is focused on the actors and the sets the PQ looks significantly better than what was previously available on home media. The image quality doesn't represent a perfect home-run but it's a worthy upgrade.

Note:

The images featured in this review are from the DVD release and do not represent the High Definition Blu-ray picture quality.

There are two Blu-ray options for Spy Kids: 1) An edition with only the Blu-ray disc and 2) an edition including both the Blu-ray disc and a digital copy disc.

Audio:

The audio is surprisingly strong for this type of film. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound audio track manages to make the experience of viewing the film much more immersive and enjoyable overall. The film has a huge number of sound effects and these moments really shine through on the Blu-ray release. The score is also well reproduced. This upgrade to lossless audio is really no slouch and should satisfy fans as an upgrade. The film is also presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish. Subtitles are included in English, Spanish, and in English for the deaf and hard of hearing.



Extras:

Do you love the Spy Kids films (especially this first one), supplemental features, and have a Blu-ray player? If you answered yes to all three of those questioned criteria's then purchase this release. The original DVD didn't have ANY extras (something which is quite uncommon for Robert Rodriguez films). Rodriguez talked at great lengths in the past about wanting to release a special edition version of the film and such an edition seemingly never came to light... until now. Growing Up Spy Kids (HD) is an approximately 50 minute long bonus feature which features a newly-filmed sit-down interview/discussion between Rodriguez, Vega, and Sabara about making the three Spy Kids films. They are also joined briefly by additional cast members. The feature also includes archival clips from previous interviews, home movies of Rodriguez, and some fascinating behind-the-scenes material. This was the most entertaining extra to be included on ANY of the Spy Kids releases and as it's a new feature it's one that fans are sure to want to check out. Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film School (HD) is a new entry in the bonus features series that Rodriguez continues to make. It's a pretty entertaining and informative look at how the special effects were done. The only down-side is it's only around 8 minutes long. Ten Minute-Cooking School (HD) is also shorter than advertised (at only 6 minutes long!) but is another enjoyable inclusion. Rodriguez makes unhealthy but delicious-looking Texas-style grilled cheese sandwiches while Sabara and Vega make healthy smoothies. It's actually a pretty funny video as the group goofs off while making the food and tests the taste of the food for the first time.

This release also contains a Stunts Spy Kids Style and Makeup Effects featurette. The first extra covers the stunts done by the kids in the film, and the second discusses several of the visual effects used in the film and how they came to be.

Trailers are included for Spy Kids (Teaser and Theatrical), along with trailers for other new and upcoming films (such as Spy Kids 4: All The Time in the World).

Final Thoughts:

This is one of the most entertaining family films from the past few decades and certainly one of the most original creations. Fans of writer/director Robert Rodriguez will definitely want to see it at least once and longtime fans are likely to enjoy the film just as much today as when it was originally released theatrically. The PQ/AQ is significantly improved on Blu-ray and the inclusion of new bonus materials should help to make this an easy purchase.

Highly Recommended.  

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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