The energy and inventiveness contained in Robert Rodriguez' Spy Kids could fuel a half-dozen Disney movies. The movie is clean, agile, and extraordinarily conceived: Willy Wonka meets Roald Dahl in a high-tech Latino funhouse. Rodriguez' B-movie flair for breathless pacing and visual dash are in full effect here. And where is here, exactly?
Spy Kids unfolds in a sugar-rush world. Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are top-notch superspies who fell in love while on assignments to assassinate each other. Now they're parents. One final mission gets botched and the Cortez's two kids (Alexa Vegan and Daryl Sabara) must go undercover to save Mom and Dad from an evil kids show host (Alan Cumming) with unpleasant plans for Nielsen success up his sleeve.
The plot stays coherent as it sprints from one madcap scenario to the next. In the world of superspies and gadgetry, nearly everything is possible. This is a kids' movie but it lacks all elements of condescension and forced cuteness. Banderas gives a particularly worthwhile performance, gently mocking his Latin lover status while remaining as handsome as ever and getting in some great gags. One hopes other filmmakers for young audiences will watch Spy Kids and learn a little.