Review by Cole Groth
Growing up on the cheesy insanity that were the Robert Rodriguez-directed sci-fi/family Spy Kids films, it’s no surprise that Spy Kids: Armageddon didn’t do much for me. I’m not old enough to love the family element, nor young enough to easily ignore the generally weak filmmaking. Still, through a bad script and confusing performances, there’s much fun to have in the latest entry of the series — especially for children.
Spy Kids: Armageddon follows the children of two spies, who are forced to work independently to save the day after a mission goes rogue. The conflict here is similar to Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over: a villainous game developer, Rey Kingston (Billy Magnussen), has unleashed a computer virus in a video game, leading our new pair of spy children to go on a CGI-heavy adventure. This time around, the titular spy kids are Tony (Connor Esterson) and Patty (Everly Carganilla), the children of Terrence (Zachary Levi) and Nora (Gina Rodriguez).
This will undoubtedly elude older audiences like many of Robert Rodriguez’s movies. It’s a loud movie that moves at a nonsensically fast pace. The script is one of the most notable factors holding this back from being a better movie. Each line of dialogue is clunky and inhuman, bringing this to land in occasionally parody-esque territory. It’s infrequently funny but will land much better for children, who will appreciate the simplicity of the script. It was an excellent decision to replicate much of the third film because both that and this installment do a good job of incorporating video games while avoiding a lot of the annoyances of generic video games in film.
Robert Rodriguez’s filmography is famous for how ugly it is. An overreliance on CGI that frankly looks awful makes one of his films instantly recognizable. This film lacks a lot of that. It’s odd that an improvement in CGI could be almost perceived as a negative, but it does feel like something is missing in a Spy Kids movie that doesn’t look like garbage. It’s still not very good, and there are plenty of sequences that have too much CGI for their own good, but that doesn’t stop it from being a notable improvement in cinematic quality.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to dislike this movie. It’s satisfying in many cliché ways and is a respectable trip down memory lane. Tony and Patty are rootable leads, and Billy Magnussen is excellent as a goofy villain. It takes the vital route of not taking itself seriously and brought a smile to my face throughout much of the runtime. If you find yourself a fan of this series and want to see what a sequel looks like two decades after the original films, this will be a surprisingly decent watch.
Unlike Rodriguez’s horrific sequel to The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, We Can Be Heroes, Spy Kids: Armageddon manages to recapture much of the magic that made the original series so great. While the grit makes this feel a little too sterile at times, families and children will undoubtedly find a new movie to rewatch. If Netflix continues to develop more films in this series, they’ll have a solid franchise to add to their filmography.
Spy Kids: Armageddon releases on Netflix on September 22.