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"Real spies... only smaller"
—tagline, Spy Kids

Spy Kids (stylized as SPY kids) is a 2001 American spy adventure comedy film written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, produced by Elizabeth Avellan and Rodriguez, and starring Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Robert Patrick, Tony Shalhoub, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, and Mike Judge.

The first installment in the Spy Kids film series, the film was theatrically released in the United States on March 30, 2001 by Dimension Films.[1] It was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $147 million worldwide.[2] Three sequels were released: The Island of Lost Dreams in 2002, Game Over in 2003, and All the Time in the World in 2011.

The film was nominated for Best Fantasy Film at 28th Saturn Awards, but lost to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Plot[]

Ingrid and Gregorio Cortez are rival spies who fall in love. They retire and have two children, Carmen and Juni Cortez, whom they shield from their lives to protect them from inherent danger, and the children are none the wiser of their parents' previous career. The couple work for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) doing desk work, but are suddenly called back into the field when four agents went missing. Gregorio suspects that a children's TV show star Fegan Floop has kidnapped the agents, and mutated them into his "FoOglies," creatures on his show, Floop's FoOglies. The children are left in the care of their uncle Felix Gumm.

The couple are captured by Floop's "Thumb Thumb" robots whose arms, legs, and head are made of thumbs, and are taken to Floop's castle. Felix is alerted to the parents' capture, activates the fail-safe, and tells the children the truth about their parents, and that he is not their uncle, but rather an agent assigned to protect them. The house is ambushed by Ninja Thumbs, and Felix gets captured while the children escape alone on the N-I-X Super Guppy that's set to auto-pilot to a safe house. At the safe house, the children learn of their parents' past as they decide to rescue them.

Inside of Floop's castle, he introduces his latest creation to Mr. Lisp, small robots in the shape of children. He wishes to replace the children of world leaders, bankers and corporate leaders with these super-strong robots to control the world. The androids are "dumb", and cannot function outside of their inherent programming. Lisp is furious, demanding usable androids. Floop, along with his second-in-command Alexander Minion, interrogate Gregorio and Ingrid about the 'Third Brain'. Ingrid knows nothing about the Third Brain, while Gregorio claims that he destroyed the brain years ago.

Gregorio reveals to Ingrid that the Third Brain was a secret OSS project he once worked on: an AI brain with all the skills of the world's best super spies. The project was scrapped as being too dangerous, and the materials were to be destroyed, but Gregorio couldn't bring himself to destroy the final prototype.

Back at the safe house, the kids are visited by Ms. Gradenko, who claims she works for the OSS and is there to help the children. Gradenko gives Carmen a bracelet as a sign of trust, and asks about the Third Brain, but Carmen does not know anything. Gradenko orders the house to be dismantled, and Juni sees Ninja Thumbs outside sabotaging the Super Guppy. With Gradenko's intentions revealed, Juni accidentally exposes the Third Brain, and a BuddyPack chase ensues. Carmen eventually recovers the brain, and she and Juni escape. Carmen realized too late that the bracelet Gradenko gave her was a tracking device, and she and Juni are attacked by their robot counterparts. Although he tried to destroy the Brain, Juni was unable to, and the androids fly off with the Third Brain. With it, Floop can achieve his goal, but he wishes to continue his children's show. Minion has other plans and takes over, locking Floop into his "virtual room", the chamber where he films his TV show. The siblings receive reluctant help from Gregorio's estranged brother and the siblings' unknown uncle, Isador "Machete" Cortez when they come to his spy shop. When Machete refused to accompany them, they steal some of his gear and take his spy plane, the RX Express, to fly to Floop's castle. After a few mishaps, Juni crashes the plane into the castle, and the two swim inside the underwater entrance.

While their children storm the castle, Minion takes Ingrid and Gregorio to the "FoOglilizer" Gregorio also reveals that Minion used to work for the OSS, but Minion was fired after Gregorio reported him tampering with the Third Brain project, just before Minion transforms Gregorio into the exact likeness of Juni's FoOglie Drawing. Juni finds and rescues Floop, who helps him and Carmen release their parents, and they head to the control room. Floop theorizes he can reprogram the androids. They trap Minion on the FoOglilizer and, confronting Lisp and Gradenko, the family are beset by 500 robots. Machete busts through the window, reconciling with Gregorio and joining the family to fight. The 500 super-strong robots quickly overpower Minion, Lisp, and Gradenko. With advice from Juni, Floop introduces the robot versions of Carmen and Juni on his show.

The family's breakfast is interrupted by Devlin, the head of the OSS, who has an assignment for Carmen and Juni in the Far East. They both accept on one condition; that the Cortezes work together as a family.

Cast[]

Production[]

Robert Rodriguez's first family-oriented production was the short film Bedhead in 1991; since the release of El Mariachi a year later in 1992, he desired to make the same type of full-length family features as he experienced in his childhood, saying "People who saw my short Bedhead have been saying, “When are you going to do a movie like that?” I was trying to figure one out. I thought I would do a movie of that, that kind of action and adventure".[4] Rodriguez first thought of the idea for Spy Kids in 1994, but held off on making the movie because of the special effects he needed to incorporate into the story. Rodriguez explained, "I felt like it was going to be a big movie, effects-wise, and I didn’t have any effects experience back then. I wanted to learn how to do all those things." The effects he used in the movie overall are 500 effects shots, which earn him additional credit in the credits for special effects. The lack of family movies was what fueled Rodriguez’s desire to make Spy Kids and called family films "the neglected genre". Rodriguez knew he wanted Spy Kids to be something more than a typical family film and stayed away from the "root canal experience" that family films often times deliver to adults because filmmakers cater to children and forget about the parents sitting in the movie theaters. Rodriguez says he set out to deliver a strong family message at the core of Spy Kids and to make his movie as entertaining and imaginative as possible. He stated that he wanted to restore a more magical element in children’s movies adding that is why "the whole movie feels like a little kid’s creative dream. I really wanted it to make it like a child created this movie".[4][5][6] He didn't want the main protagonists to be the type of "kids in movies you want to smack around".[4]

Rodriguez's favorite movie as a child was Escape to Witch Mountain, and admits that film, alongside Willy Wonka, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the James Bond films influenced and inspired him while he was working on Spy Kids.[4][5] His initial plan for the film was children initially not knowing their parents were spies until they had to save their captured parents, and an antagonist with the juvenile fantasticism of Willy Wonka. He noted the villains' imaginativeness was the man who seems to be the main bad guy at first turns into a protagonist and his comedic sidekick becomes the main villain.[4] The Thumb-Thumbs were based on drawings that Rodriguez himself drew when he was an adolescent, and won a contest for.[4] He also "got to put all [his] childhood dreams" into creating the Safe House, the N-I-X Super Guppy and the RX Express for the protagonists in Spy Kids.[5] Spy Kids was also inspired by Rodriguez’s vignette in the 1995 film Four Rooms, which has four parts, each written and shot by a different director.[6] Rodriguez’s portion featured Antonio Banderas, but it also was about a family, whose costumes started the thought process that lead to Spy Kids. When filming Four Rooms, Rodriguez cast Banderas first, and then looked for the best child actors he could find. The mother was hired last and picked based on her resemblance to the kids, which was why the family in that film had an Asian mother, as one of the children was Asian. Rodriguez was in the exact same situation with Spy Kids when casting the family members in that film, specifically the two main protagonists, and was adamant that he wanted actors who were at least half Latin in background. By late September 1999, he had narrowed down his choices to Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega. Originally, at some point during test screenings, Sabara's hair was dyed black, to match the hair of his onscreen dad Antonio Banderas, until it was decided to dye Carla Gugino's hair red instead, since Sabara is a redhead.[7][8]

Rodriguez started writing the script at the end of 1998, and turned it in in 1999. Changes such as altered lines and new dialogue were made until release.[6] Although Rodriguez had the Spy Kids idea in mind for years, actual production wasn't planned to begin until October 1999, which was then pushed to March 2000.[9] During the time between the original 1999 start date and the new 2000 start date, Rodriguez travelled to Chile and the Bahamas to shoot second unit photography for Spy Kids.[10] Production of Spy Kids was plagued with setbacks. Principal photography was delayed for 15 months, and its digital effects required labor-intensive post production.[11][12]

Filming took place during the summer of 2000, ran for 67 days and finished in 48 days.[13][4] It was shot in and around Central Texas, with some exterior shots done in South America[4], and employed nearly 300 crew members and more than 1,500 extras from around the state, including Richard Linklater and Mike Judge, who were friends of Rodriguez. Austin Film Society board members and longtime Rodriguez champions like the Austin Chronicle's Louis Black and UT Radio-Television-Film professor Charles Ramírez-Berg also appeared in the film.[11] Rodriguez spent the next few months working on a rough cut and tinkering with the movie's effects.[13] He put together the teaser trailer himself, which hit theatres in November 2000, immediately generating buzz. Rodriguez was thrilled but not surprised by the overall response. "I always felt that would be my most successful film", he said years later.[14]

Music[]

Spy Kids Soundtrack

Soundtrack album by Various artists

The film score is written by John Debney and Danny Elfman, with contributions from a variety of others, including director Robert Rodriguez and Marcel Rodriguez. Among Elfman's contributions is "Floop's Song (Cruel World)", which is performed by Alan Cumming. Los Lobos covers the Tito Puente song, "Oye Como Va" (adapted as "Oye Como Spy" by David Garza and Robert Rodriguez). The song was nominated for "Outstanding Song in a Motion Picture Soundtrack" at the 2002 ALMA Awards. The closing theme, "Spy Kids (Save the World)", is performed by the Los Angeles indie pop band, Fonda.[15]

The score won an award at the ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards.

Track listing[]

  • "Cortez Family"
  • "My Parents Are Spies"
  • "Spy Wedding"
  • "Spy Kids Demonstration"
  • "Parents on Mission"
  • "Kids Escape House"
  • "Pod Chase"
  • "The Safehouse"
  • "The Third Brain"
  • "Buddy Pack Escape"
  • "Oye Como Spy"
  • "Floop's Song (Cruel World)"
  • "Spy Go Round"
  • "Minion"
  • "Sneaking Around Machete's"
  • "The Spy Plane"
  • "Floop's Castle"
  • "Final Family Theme"
  • "Spy Kids (Save the World)"

Release[]

In March 2001, Spy Kids screened for exhibitors at the ShoWest in Las Vegas. The buzz continued to build over the next few weeks before its March 30 release.[14][16]

Spy Kids was the first film to be promoted as a part of a two-year between Miramax and Pop Secret signed on June 2001. Formalized thanks to the successes of Spy Kids and Bridget Jones' Diary, the deal stated annually, and for five films, Pop Secret popcorn would be present at theater screenings and as tie-ins for video releases. For Spy Kids, Pop Secret popcorn was in theaters for the August re-release, while on home video Pop Secret Special Editions were issued that came with collectibles and tickets to win prizes. Target also offered purchasers of Spy Kids copies free Pop Secret popcorn.[17]

Former promotion executive vice president at Miramax, Lori Sale, admitted the McDonald's tie-ins for the first three Spy Kids film were the very best of the company.[18]

Home Media[]

Spy Kids Blu-ray

The Blu-ray cover for Spy Kids

The film was released on VHS and DVD in the United States on September 18, 2001 by Dimension Home Video.

On August 2, 2011, the film was rereleased on Blu-ray for the tenth anniversary of the franchise and to coincide with the fourth film, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.[19]

Reception[]

Box Office[]

Spy Kids opened theatrically in 3,104 venues on March 30, 2001, earning $26,546,881 in its first weekend and ranking first in the North American box office.[20] It held the number one spot for three weeks before being toppled by the second weekend earnings of Bridget Jones's Diary, which was also released by Miramax.[21] The film ultimately grossed $112,719,001 in the United States and Canada, and $35,215,179 overseas for a worldwide total of $147,934,180.[2]

Critical reviews[]

Spy Kids received high critical acclaim upon release. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 93% approval rating based on 129 reviews and an average rating of 7.20/10, while audiences scored at 46% based on over 250,000 ratings, with an average rating of 3.1/5. The site's critical consensus reads: "A kinetic and fun movie that's sure to thrill children of all ages".[22] Metacritic reports a 71 out of 100 score based on 27 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[23]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3.5/4 stars and called it "a treasure". He wrote, "Movies like "Spy Kids" are so rare. Families are often reduced to attending scatological dumber-and-dumbest movies like "See Spot Run"--movies that teach vulgarity as a value. "Spy Kids" is an intelligent, upbeat, happy movie that is not about the comedy of embarrassment, that does not have anybody rolling around in dog poop, that would rather find out what it can accomplish than what it can get away with".[24] Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "It's entertaining and inoffensive, a rare combination in kids' films, which are usually neither".[25] Lael Loewenstein of Variety observed, "A full-blown fantasy-action adventure that also strenuously underscores the importance of family, "Spy Kids" is determined to take no prisoners in the under-12 demographic, a goal it sometimes dazzlingly achieves. Robert Rodriguez's film, in which two kids become real spies to save the world from a mad genius, fulfills kids' empowerment fantasies and features enough techno-wizardry and cool f/x to satisfy those weaned on videogames".[26]

Extended version[]

Spy kids special edition movie poster

Special Edition poster for Spy Kids

A Special Edition version was released to theaters on August 8, 2001, with a deleted scene not present in the original theatrical release or the DVD. It was also supposedly released in specially marked Kellogg's boxes for a limited time in Canada, alongside three other movies.[27][28] There were plans to release the special edition to DVD, and it would've included a director's commentary, interviews and deleted scenes that didn’t make it to the special edition, but it was cancelled for unknown reasons, despite the fact that the commentary and interviews were already recorded for it.[29] However, that version is available on the film's Blu-Ray rerelease, albeit with only one deleted scene.

Trivia[]

  • Robert Rodriguez named several characters after members of his family, including his sister Carmen or Maricarmen, his brother Juni, and his uncles Gregorio (who was a special agent in the FBI) and Felix.[30]
  • Ms. Gradenko's name is a reference to a song by The Police on their 1983 album, Synchronicity.
  • Angie Harmon was considered for the role of Ingrid. Harmon’s role on the 1990 TV Series Law & Order prevented Harmon from accepting the role in the film.
    • Another actress that was decided for the role was the late Kelly Preston. Rodriguez was so happy about casting Preston, saying "Kelly was perfect because she was warm and she was already a mother yet sexy. All the things that she had to be – tough, spy-like". Preston then became unavailable, having just given birth to her second child Ella Bleu, thus she couldn't recover in time and Rodriguez didn't want to postpone production any further.[6][7][31][32]
  • One of Gugino's biggest challenges was kissing her co-star Banderas. She had to repeatedly kiss her on-screen husband in a careful manner that was deemed appropriate for the film's target audience, which didn't bother her.[33]
  • Tony Shalhoub joined the project as a Rodriguez fan and a father of two children wanting to act in a children's film. After reading the script, he met Rodriguez and his wife Elizabeth Avellan, and was shown concept drawings of designs and animations for the actor to get an idea of the style of the film. When acting, Shalhoub's experience of reading books and playing with his kids enabled him to view Rodriguez's child-like scenarios from the perspective of his children.[34]
    • The distorted heads growing out of Alexander Minion when turned into a FoOglie were gel molded by Rodriguez himself and, according to Shalhoub, "very lightweight".[34]
  • The San Diablo aerial view is actually an aerial view of Santiago de Chile.
  • All the child actors did their own stunts. Vega and Sabara were adament on doing as many on-screen stunts as possible.[35]
  • Spy Kids was the last Rodriguez movie shot on film. Post-production was done at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch where he introduced Rodriguez to High-Definition digital filmmaking.[36]
  • Rodriguez edited Spy Kids and its sequels in an editing studio in his home that he calls his "garage".[37]
  • John Debney, one of the composers for Spy Kids, was a huge fan of spy shows from the 1960s, particularly Peter Gunn, The Man from UNCLE and I Spy. The theme songs for The Man from UNCLE and I Spy were two of Debney's favorites and were the main inspirations for composing the music of Spy Kids.[38]
  • Spy Kids cost only $36 million dollars to make, and Rodriguez knew how to make the film for that budget, despite a third of the movie being effects. In an interview with The Guardian, Rodriguez commented on his budget savvy approach to film-making and stated, "The first person you usually hire on an effects-based movie like this is an effects supervisor. I didn’t – I wanted to figure out how to do it myself. It’s just a case of being more creative: it looks like an expensive movie, but it’s all magic tricks. I edited it in my garage, and it had to feel personal or it would be like one of those studio-made kids' movies that are just awful. It's a big home movie, basically".[39]

Legacy[]

Retrospective pieces consider Spy Kids significant in 2001 for starring a Latino secret-agent family. Shalhoub added other reasons why it was a unique family film: "I don’t think there was anything ever like this before. So it had that whole component going for it, too. It was comedic. It was a little creepy in places. I think it had a bit of a darker side. It just checked a lot of boxes".[34]

Vulture writer Iana Murray positively described Spy Kids, with oddities like the Thumb-Thumbs, as an example of an era where films "could just be weird without having to explain themselves". He called Shalhoub's performance of the best in the film, reasoning he plays "everything so hilariously straight-faced that it only enhances the chaos around him".[34]

Other media[]

Novelization[]

Main article: Spy Kids: Junior Novel

Talk Miramax Books released a novelization of the movie in early March 2001. The novel was written by children's book author Megan Stine. The posters and end of the credits even say "Read the Talk/Miramax Books", telling the viewers to read the print retelling.[40]

Gallery[]

  • Click here to view this page's gallery.

Other[]

  • A list of the mistakes and continuity errors in this movie can be found here.

Videos[]

Trailers[]

Promos[]

Interviews[]

Behind the Scenes[]

Clips[]

External links[]

References[]

  1. https://catalog.afi.com/Film/62213-SPY-KIDS
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=spykids.htm
  3. p1.liveauctioneers.com/675/11081/2790208_7_x.jpg?auto=webp&format=pjpg&version=1163889266
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 https://www.creativescreenwriting.com/hispanic-blood-an-interview-with-robert-rodriguez/
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 https://web.archive.org/web/20180226102048/https://www.laughingplace.com/w/leg/?legacyasppage=news-id502420.asp
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 https://web.archive.org/web/20010626101915/http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue206/interview2.html
  7. 7.0 7.1 Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids. p. 281. ISBN 9780292778290.
  8. https://youtu.be/7eVEpXhEpfc?t=975
  9. Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids. p. 278. ISBN 9780292778290.
  10. Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids. p. 279. ISBN 9780292778290.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids. p. 274. ISBN 9780292778290.
  12. https://www.imdb.com/news/ni0070372?ref_=ttnw_art_hd
  13. 13.0 13.1 Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids. p. 283. ISBN 9780292778290.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids. p. 284. ISBN 9780292778290.
  15. http://www.allmusic.com/album/spy-kids-mw0000587634
  16. http://legacy.aintitcool.com/node/8348
  17. https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/miramax-inks-popcorn-deal-49776/
  18. https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/lori-sale-spot-87208/
  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20110518113749/http://www.dvdtown.com/news/spy-kids-films-are-headed-for-blu-ray/8727
  20. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2001&wknd=13&p=.htm
  21. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2001&wknd=16&p=.htm
  22. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/spy_kids/
  23. http://www.metacritic.com/movie/spy-kids
  24. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20010330/REVIEWS/103300302
  25. http://www.sfgate.com/movies/article/THE-KIDS-ARE-ALL-RIGHT-Rodriguez-makes-2937002.php
  26. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117797603/?categoryid=31&cs=1
  27. https://web.archive.org/web/20040428161201/http://www.kelloggs.ca/cgi-bin/klog-canada/promotion.pl?promotion=1013&company=2
  28. https://66.media.tumblr.com/0ba6e88c0d1e88b4d9500a52b8d073f1/tumblr_mit27pxrqh1ra640zo1_1280.jpg
  29. https://web.archive.org/web/20051123013033/http://www.latinoreview.com/interviews/rr-sincitydvd.html
  30. https://collider.com/spy-kids-representation-robert-rodriguez-interview/
  31. http://legacy.aintitcool.com/node/5851
  32. https://www.imdb.com/news/ni0055774?ref_=ttnw_art_hd
  33. https://www.imdb.com/news/ni0070503?ref_=ttnw_art_hd
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 https://www.vulture.com/2021/04/tony-shalhoub-spy-kids-interview.html
  35. https://www.imdb.com/news/ni0061830?ref_=ttnw_art_hd
  36. https://archive.org/details/CinefantastiqueVol34No5Aug2002/page/n48
  37. https://web.archive.org/web/20021019104823/http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2002/Aug/07/il/il02a.html
  38. https://www.soundtrack.net/content/article/?id=85
  39. https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/apr/11/artsfeatures1
  40. Credits
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