The third and supposedly final installment of the Spy Kids series starts with a promising enough premise. Young Juni has self promoted himself from a secret agent to a Private investigator, in a sequence decidedly out of a 40's noir flick. We find out that he has gone solo and is no longer part of the secret service agency he used to be associated with. However once he returns home he learns that his sister Carmen is missing in action, prompting him to return once more to the life he lead in the first two films of the trilogy.
Apparently the Toymaker (a silly Sylvester Stallone) has created a game called "Game Over". Why he isn't called the 'Game maker' is never explain, when clearly that is his forte. The game is less a distraction for the youth than a form of imprisonment whereby players get ensnared when they reach the 5th level, a trap to which Carmen has also become prey, whilst on a mission to prevent more evildoings. The solution consists of Juni plunging into the game to save his sister and stop any more children from being trapped, a moment that also acts as the point at which the audience don their 3D glasses.
For someone who had never seen 3D movies, I was giddily excited about the prospect of watching the world of Spy Kids and its wobbly effects take form in the third dimension, especially having enjoyed the first two parts. While the effects are the focal point this time around, they sadly dampen the overall experience, which seems to revolve around it. Perhaps it was the fact that wearing the cardboard red and blue glasses over my spectacles for most of the short 90 minute running time was cumbersome and made my eyes twitch, or that the visual experience, while new and engrossing, also cheapened the quality of the visual color. Is it better than conventional cinema? Initially yes. But once the 'WOW' factor sinks in, the absence of any semblance of a fun plot, performances or excitement quickly become obvious.
Much of the movie is also a one man show for Daryl Sabara as Juni, and while he carries on what he and Alexa Vega (the actress who plays the character of Carmen) started, it's visibly stressing for both him and the audience. Gone is the unity of the Cortez family, save for the presence of Grandpa and a trite, forced reunion of sorts consisting of all the major characters from this and the previous movies, for one final showdown. Stallone as the villain, unmistakably being given an opportunity by director Robert Rodriguez to do some good here with his 'former superstar' presence, also adds little value. The movie thus becomes a slave for its effects, and those too feel deliberate when objects are purposely thrown at the screen to prove the full potential of the 3D effect.
There are patches of exciting visual sequences such as a fast paced chase on futuristic bikes or a robot fight that is controlled by the miniature sized people who inhabit their heads. The tradition of numerous guest stars making appearances also continues with George Clooney as the president of the US and Salma Hayek as a scientist. What is puzzling is why both Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino, are reduced to mere cameos as well. While I can understand that they were never the true stars of the series, their continued presence acted as a safety net for the relatively young main stars, without being distracting. While the movie is never terrible as some of the other summer movies have been this year, it is also nothing that that can be recommend wholeheartedly, especially if the prospect of a 3D movie does not excite you. While the effects in Hollywood have made progress with leaps and bounds over these years, 3D has remained relatively retro and sans innovation. It's a reminder of why this technique is never employed more often and its revival now, while understandable, seems curiously dated. - Faizan Rashid