Spy Kids [2001]

Carmen and Juni Cortez will soon find out that their favorite bedtime story, "The Spies Who Fell in Love," is really the story of their parents. So begins this affable fantasy, a James Bond adventure for wee ones with all the trimmings. When Dad and Mom (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) mess up their first mission after coming out of retirement, their kids must come to the rescue, equipped with some cool gadgets. The Cortez family gets involved in a bizarre plot hatched by a Pee-wee Herman-type entertainer named Fegan Floop (a wonderfully hammy Alan Cumming) that's as giddy as it is ridiculous. Needless to say there is plenty of derring-do concerning long-lost uncles, goofy monsters, double agents, evil robots, look-alikes, and energized chases. Did we mention the gadgets? Although Banderas and Gugino make terrific impressions, the movie is carried (as it should be) by the younger Cortezes, winningly played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara. Who would have thought an action/horror studio (Dimension) and writer-director Robert Rodriguez had this pleasing family film up their sleeves? Rodriquez (who produced with his wife Elizabeth Avellán) seemed to be mired in cheesy horror films but here breaks out by capitalizing on the talent that gave him instant status with his debut, El Mariachi (1992). Spy Kids has plenty of verve but never swerves into potty humor (OK, there is one good potty joke) or wicked gunplay. All 7-year-olds should have a film as fun as this in their movie-going lives. --Doug Thomas

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