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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (Blu-ray)
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (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 16, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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The second installment in the Spy Kids film series delivers the action and thrills in the way only a truly good sequel can -- by raising the stakes and increasing the momentum without losing sight of the most important element (i.e. in telling a good story). This is one of those rare sequels with almost as much to offer audiences as the original outing and that is both a delight and surprise for what could have been a one-hit franchise from the extremely gifted film-maker extraordinaire Robert Rodriguez.

The most exciting thing about Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams is that the great setup established in the first film allows for the action to jumpstart the entire film and things are immediately more thrilling. The first film had to establish Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) as spies first. The characters had no idea that their parents (played to perfection by Carla Gugino and Antonio Banderas) used to be spies and go on exciting missions.

This time around Carmen and Juni are much more proficient spies than before and an early scene in the film is used to perfectly demonstrate their skills in battling it out with the bad-guys. Things become a lot more complicated for the pair as they wind up traveling to an island overrun with countless zany creatures that were created by a mad scientist named Romero (performed by the amazing Steve Buscemi). Carmen and Juni are also joined by two new Spy Kids: Gary (Matt O' Leary) and Gerti (Emily Osment) Giggles. They must try and work together but these new spy kids pretty much act as a rival group along the way.


The reason this film works so well is primarily because of the fact it serves as an exciting follow up to an already established plot-line. The creativity found in the first Spy Kids film was absolutely stellar, but it is here that Rodriguez seems to be having the most fun with the premise (and The Island of Lost Dreams is indeed the most thrilling of the entire series to date). The CGI landscapes and effects have also shown considerable improvement with this sequel and the atmosphere is greatly improved as a result. Rodriguez also pays respect to the works of Ray Harryhausen with the many creature designs and effects used in this Spy Kids film.

Rodriguez remains an incredible craftsman with the series. He wisely gave his best effort at adding new elements to the series by implementing a rival spy kids group, introducing the spy grandparents of our lead heroes (Holland Taylor and Ricardo Montalban), and by taking us into the foundations of the spy organization and the mysterious happenings of the island full of wonders. Rodriguez works in several aspects as the writer, director, editor, producer, director of photography, score composer (with John Debney), and as a technical master who puts forth a great deal of efforts into the creation of effects. This is astonishing and quite an achievement in and of itself. The fact that the final product is actually a well made movie is almost icing on the cake considering the amount of effort surely put forth into crafting the film.

Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega both continue to carry the series on their young shoulders, and both actors prove worthy of such a challenge. The characters of Juni and Carmen are convincing as siblings (as always) and perhaps equally convincing as young spies who are capable of fighting for what is right. That's remarkable. Two films in and these are actors who are definitely capable of carrying the series to even greater heights.

The film has few glaring issues but does occasionally suffer somewhat from not having quite as much unpredictability and originality when compared to the original. This won't surprise many as it's a typical issue with many sequels. Once you have established some inkling of what to expect the film has to try twice as hard to be as surprising. Luckily, this is still an exciting enough adventure to satisfy even the biggest fans of the first film. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams is as satisfying a sequel as anyone could reasonably expect after the delightful Spy Kids.

 

The Blu-ray:  


Video:

The PQ for Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams is even more impressive than the transfer for Spy Kids is on Blu-ray (and that was a notable upgrade as well). The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1 and it seems pretty clear this must have been filmed using High Definition camera. This is a very impressive release PQ wise with appropriate contrast, strong color reproduction, and the image is clean and clear. Who knew the film could look this good in High Definition? It's the perfect way to experience the special effects (which seem improved over the first film) and to marvel in the Harryhausen inspired creature designs. The 1080p presentation is easily going to satisfy even the most critical eyes. 

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 2: The Island of Lost Dreams:  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 equally impressive on this Blu-ray release with DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound that brings the film to soaring life. The sonic sound-stage for the film seems built for the action scenes and the number of sound effects used is remarkable. The score by Robert Rodriguez and John Denby also sounds as silly and fantastic as one might expect. 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:

The biggest downside to the extras for Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams on Blu-ray is that there isn't anything new to excite viewers who already saw the bonus materials created for the previous DVD release. Owners of said DVD will already be pretty familiar with the included materials. This shouldn't be a major draw-back though as the material is quite strong and should even warrant being revisited.

The best extra is easily the feature-length audio commentary with Robert Rodriguez. Anyone who has ever listened to a commentary by him should realize how entertaining and informative he can be. This commentary was no exception. He gives great insight into his ideas for the Spy Kids film and about things related to the shooting process.

Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film School gives viewers a glimpse into how a large number of the special effects were created and done at a budget-level. It's an insanely informative dosage of logical and easily understandable film-making tips. Anyone who wants to make movies (or already does) should consider it worth a look.

Lost Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary is exactly as it sounds. These are certainly scenes worth taking a look at (some are nearly finished while others are clearly from early stages in the production) but Rodriguez's comments makes it pretty clear why each piece was removed from the final cut of the film.

School at Big Bend National Park is essentially a mini field-trip like video where someone educated on the park gives a historical rundown for the kids in the film. This was an OK extra but it was actually kind of amusing to see that some of the kids seemed a bit, well, bored by their history lesson. At least that's how it seemed to this particular viewer.

Essential Gear: The Gadgets of Spy Kids gives a rundown on the many different gadgets featured in the film and some of the actors explain what their favorite gadget was and exactly why they picked them.

Behind the Scenes montages gives some brief but interesting footage of the making of the film.

Total Access 24/7: A Day in the Life of Spy Kids is an episode of the television series Total Access 24/7, and gives a glimpse into the lives of Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, the lead actors in the film. It's a pretty well-edited episode that proves how these kids lives were actually pretty normal despite all the adventures had filming these movies.

Lastly, trailers are included for Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams and for recent or upcoming releases (including the latest Spy Kids entry - All the Time in the World).


Final Thoughts:

This is an amazing sequel to an excellent family film. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams solidified the original Spy Kids as no mere fluke and proved that this could be a franchise series. The Blu-ray PQ/AQ is pretty stellar and the extras are excellent (even if there aren't any new supplements). If you saw and enjoyed the original Spy Kids make sure to see its equally entertaining sequel.  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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