It’s been almost fifteen years since there was a new “Spy Kids” installment and one of the last times Robert Rodriguez released a film in theaters (he’s apparently locked in to Netflix like Adam Sandler). Sadly, these days Robert Rodriguez seems more committed to delivering low budget kid accessible entertainment more than anything else, and “Spy Kids: Armageddon” allows him to kill two birds with one stone. Not only is he able to continue his line of mediocre family films, but he gets to revive his long stagnant action franchise for a new generation.
And the results are decidedly a mixed bag.
Siblings Patty and Tony Torrez are the children of Nora and Terrence, two of the world’s greatest secret agents. After they unwittingly help powerful game developer Rey Kingston unleash a worldwide computer virus that gives him control of all technology, Patty and Tony train to become spies themselves in order to save their now captured parents, as well as rescue the world from living under Rey’s perpetual video game.
It’s pretty clear by now that Rodriguez isn’t making his movies for all audiences, as he’s aiming mainly for the streaming audiences between the ages of 8-11. And it shows as he co-writes the movie with his son Racer Rodriguez. That’s both a pro and a con, as while Rodriguez has insight in to the younger mind set, the movie often sounds like it was written by a twelve year old. The dialogue is often stagnant and you can just feel the actors trying to force out clumsy interplay and attempts to muster up tension. As I mentioned, so much of “Spy Kids: Armageddon” is a mixed bag. There’s so much to like about the movie, but there’s also so much that keeps it from reaching the bar that the original trio of movies set.
So much of the plot feels old hat and recycled from previous films. We’ve seen so much of these plot elements and spy gags before and to a better degree with the goofy weaponry—correction: “Gadgets,” as well as the obligatory robot sidekick. There’s also the villain who is a rotten master gamer, which we pretty much saw in “Spy Kids 3D.” While Billy Magnussen is threatening in his own right, Stallone just did it better. Also, Rodriguez is a fan of the same tired story formula. It’s always an affluent nuclear family that takes on a bad guy who is usually a petulant, childless man baby who is always evil because of some deeply rooted resentment toward the spy family or just kids in general.
Rodriguez has yet to explore the out of the ordinary family. There are families out there with one parent, mixed race parents, interfaith parents, and often kids can be raised by their aunts and uncles, or grandparents. I’d love to see Rodriguez spotlight a family where the kids realize that their grandfather who raised them is a world famous spy like James Bond or something. The whole sense of self awareness is also completely gone, in favor of more sugary wholesomeness that does everything to evade any sense of danger. The original film had Danny Trejo training the kids, and now it is goofy computers.
That said, the special effects are neat, and I enjoyed a lot of the goofy monsters and robots that Rodriguez hurls at us at almost lightning fast speeds. His monsters and villains tend to be pretty inventive all things considered. It’s pretty obvious “Spy Kids: Armageddon” just isn’t meant for me, but in the end it’s not Rodriguez’s worst film. I just wish he’d retire the formula and start thinking of introducing different kinds of families he can expose his young audience to. It’s a big world out there.
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