The once reliable Spy Kids franchise finds itself, somewhat, back on track with the Netflix feature Spy Kids: Armageddon. It isn’t a flawless endeavour, but the movie offers enough reassurance from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez that audiences will believe that the series may actually have potential to be rebooted properly in the future.
The key to a good Spy Kids movie is giving the titular tykes power. Spy Kids and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams did a great job of making heroic and tactical leads that young audiences could identify with. There was a slight interest in gadgets and gizmos, but the gear was appropriately treated as props or background detail. That interest eventually pushed its way to the forefront – both in the story and how audiences watched the movies. As much fun as Spy Kids 3D: Game Over is, there’s no doubting that it was a jumping point for a different, much flashier Spy Kids movie. This direction would quickly be squashed by the abysmal Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, which offered viewers post-converted 3D and a flavourless use of “Aroma-scope”.
Spy Kids: Armageddon, thankfully, gives the power back to the kids. Rodriguez still allows the movie to play with a goofy arsenal of toys, but there’s more attention on rising stars Everly Carganilla (Yes Day) and Connor Esterson. The young actors play Patty and Tony Torrez-Tango, two unlikely heroes who are given duties to overthrow a maniacal video game designer known as The King (Game Night’s Billy Magnussen) after he locks most of the global population out of their security. Passcodes and passwords are replaced by an RPG that users must beat in order to log in. Adults fail at playing despite their confidence (one agent gloats that he was once really good at Goldeneye, in a funny one-off joke), which makes tech-savvy Patty and Tony integral pieces to the plot and gives them the right support when confronting The King.
Spy Kids: Armageddon is yet another retread of the series’ former films; with the kids discovering that their parents (this time played stiffly by Shazam’s Zachary Levi and Awake’s Gina Rodriguez) are secret spies, and then having to save mom and dad when they’ve been captured by the villain (all while saving the world, mind you). But by bringing the plot back to basics, Rodriguez (co-writing with son Racer Max) creates an exciting enough flick for children that only becomes frustratingly inaccessible when the screenplay obsesses about the world of coding and gaming.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie