Spy Kids was a considerable change of pace for Robert Rodriguez in that it is a childrens film when Rodriguez was only known up to that point for his action films. It is something that made you do a double-take when you first saw the poster with his name on it in the theatre lobby. The second thing you think about is the concept, which treads a line between being potentially amusing and so cute it could be nauseating. The good advance word on Spy Kids was that Miramax thought so highly of the result that they greenlit a sequel even before the first film had been released.
When seen, Spy Kids is an unpretentious and unabashed delight. It falls into the new post-Soviet Union genre of spy movies, typified by the James Bond spoofs begun with Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery (1997). Unlike the Austin Powers films, Spy Kids is not a parody, rather it is a straight adventure but where the spy genre tropes have been hyper-realised to the point that the film inhabits a tongue-in-cheek fantasy world. There is so much visual invention to the film from the surreal design work, which is like a mad scientists castle version of a Playschool set (along with Alan Cumming as a host who has been clearly modelled on Pee-Wee Herman) to the exhilarating action scenes and Rodriguezs assuredly deft hand with humour the romance between Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino at the start of the film with the two never able to meet is an absolute delight.
A great deal of the films fun comes in the gadgets. These go beyond the mere novelty of the James Bond films to a point where the film attains a kind of rubber elasticity where everything houses a gadget inside it from the laser in the wedding ring to Carla Guginos makeup containers that act as makeshift keyboard to explosive bubblegum, micro-sized videocameras, spraycans of instant cement and the ever-so-delightful moment where packaged food rehydrates as a perfect tray of McDonalds. Spy Kids is one film where the fun the filmmakers are having clearly spills over to the audience.
Robert Rodriguezs other films of genre interest are the vampire/getaway thriller From Dusk Till Dawn (1996); the witty teen body snatchers film The Faculty (1998); the graphic novel adaptation/film noir pastiche Sin City (2005) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014); the childrens film The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005); the zombie film Planet Terror (2007), half of the Quentin Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse (2007); the childrens film Shorts (2009); and Machete Kills (2013), a sequel to his earlier Mexican-themed action film that frequently enters into science-fiction territory. Rodriguez has also produced From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangmans Daughter (2000) and Predators (2010), as well as developed the tv series From Dusk Till Dawn (2014 ).
(Nominee for Best Actress (Alexa Vega) at this sites Best of 2001 Awards).