by Andrew Wright

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

dir. Rodriguez

Opens Fri July 25

Various Theaters

As any unwilling post-teen matinee attendee could testify, the average children's film shouldn't be wished on even that tubby paste-eating kid down the block. Cutting-edge CGI and flavor-of-the-month vocal talent aside, the overwhelming sensation from 99% of modern family fare is that of a group of middle-aged guys pacing around a boardroom, frantically trying to cram one last nugget of theme park synergy into their product. Not so with the Spy Kids series, which feels (thanks to the efforts of writer/director/ editor/visual effects supervisor Robert Rodriguez) like it sprang directly from the brainwaves of the archetypal 10-year-old, with nary a trace of test marketing or demographically determined product placement.

Set inside a world-threatening virtual reality video game, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over retains the homemade virtues that made the earlier installments such an un-selfconscious delight: pleasingly clunky visuals, arch-villains (here, Sylvester Stallone, loose as a goose and filled with self-mockery) who end up seeing the light instead of getting blasted into atoms, and family friendly morals that don't stick in the craw. Adding to the wow factor is Rodriguez's decision to shoot in 3-D, which results in an awesome variety of objects gleefully flung directly towards the audience's eyeballs. Imagine if the makers of Tron had indulged in a three-day Sugar Smacks and Pop Rocks bender immediately before filming; that gives you an idea of the unholy energy on display.

A few minor speedbumps to report: the plot is perhaps a tad too defiantly nonsensical, and the cyber-bound environment unfortunately reduces the involvement of the adult characters to mere cameos. Ultimately, such small quibbles pale beside the monstrous good cheer of the whole shebang, especially the ecstatic-beyond-words finale, in which every character from the entire series joins forces to smack down an army of giant robot Stallone-apes. Cheech Marin with a jetpack and a power-assisted Ricardo Montalban: these are the images that our future generations should be taught to embrace.