Cool Zone: Submitted for your approval: Spy Kids 3D: Game Over

We talk a lot about 2D and 3D in this industry, but the 3D commonly referred to still exists on a two-dimensional plane. What writer/director Robert Rodriguez’s latest addition to the popular Spy Kids franchise offers is a fun opportunity to experience 3D animation in three-dimensional space, something that has only been available in short films like the IMAX CG cartoon Santa Vs. The Snowman from Jimmy Neutron creator Steve Oedekerk and amusement park attractions like Universal Studios’ Terminator 3-D and Shrek 4-D.

When I was a kid, I remember rushing down to the 7-11 to pick up my pair of 3D glasses for special presentations of classic films like Creature from the Black Lagoon and Gorilla at Large on the local UHF channel. The 3D experience on a 21-inch Zenith always left a little something to be desired, but the novelty of watching it at home was a thrill none the less. However, it was a thrill that didn’t seem to catch on. Even with the brief ’80s revival, movies like Jaws 3-D, Friday the 13th Part 3, Amityville 3-D, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn and Parasite were bumped to 2D for broadcast and home video.

Kudos to Buena Vista Home Ent. for releasing Dimension Films’ Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over with a 3D version on DVD today, though it didn’t have much of a choice since the movie isn’t quite as watchable without the gimmick. Unlike the 3D films of yesteryear, which only had a few good gags here and there, this one is loaded with stuff poking at the audience and flying at the camera.

The storyline takes a page from the classic Disney fantasy flick Tron and sends Juni (Daryl Sabara) into a video game to rescue sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) and foil an evil plot to control the minds of children. Sylvester Stallone shows up as the film’s baddie, Toymaker. Spy family members Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino and Ricardo Montalban also make appearances, as does Beavis & Butt-Head and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge, who assumes the role of Donnagon Giggles. Also returning for brief cameos are Steve Buscemi, Alan Cumming, Bill Paxton and Cheech Marin.

It is unfortunate that most of the screen time goes to Sabara, the least interesting cast member in the series, especially now that he’s grown out of his cute stage and into his awkward years. Montalban’s role is thankfully increased this time out, but we only get a few minutes from the delightfully hammy Banderas and the beautiful Gugino. On the plus side, we get tons of digital animation, some of it fairly photorealistic and some more stripped down to resemble video game graphics.

Rodriguez not only scripted and manned the helm of this all-out, goofy actioner but he also served as visual effects director, along with Daniel Leduc, under his effects banner Troublemaker Digital. Also contributing effects work is Hybride, ComputerCafé, The Orphanage, Janimation, CIS and KNB EFX Group. See your July issue of Animation Magazine for more on the film’s effects.

The DVD features both 2D and 3D versions of the film, and comes complete with four pairs of 3D glasses. Before viewing the 3D version, you may have to adjust your TV’s color and tint settings. It is recommended that you go through the 3D set-up procedure in the DVD menu. Even then, you may have difficulty getting the effect to work just right on your set. I tried three different monitors and got different results each time, even after performing the set-up. A big-screen TV should also enhance the experience.

In addition to the fun 3D effects, the Spy Kids 3D: Game Over DVD includes a Mega Race set-top game in 3D and 2D versions, feature commentary with Rodriguez, a featurette on the making of the film and behind-the-scenes looks at the stunts, visual effects and more. It is now available for the suggested retail price of $29.99 DVD and $24.99 VHS (2D version only).