By Adam Donato
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is a child’s masterpiece, literally. Robert Rodriguez wrote this movie based on the story from his son, Racer Rodriguez. The main character is named Max, which is Racer’s middle name, and follows his adventure through the dream world with the help of his two favorite superheroes. Sharkboy and Lavagirl was a flop at the box office (maybe due to the fact that it was competing against Madagascar and Revenge of the Sith) and was absolutely panned by critics. Why is such an innocent movie made by a father for his son so reviled?
The father on trial for making this movie is Robert Rodriguez, as he appears a whopping fourteen times in the credits. He was the writer, director, producer, visual effects supervisor, director of photography, editor, camera operator, composer, and performer. Who says the days of the auteur are over? The big gripes with this movie are about the story and the special effects, which is honestly surprising. The story was written by a child and it really feels that way. As a kid, this movie feels extremely genuine. A child would have crazy dreams with an overactive imagination where he defeats his bully with his superhero friends while eating cookies along the way. It’s pure pre-adolescence and if you can’t enjoy that as an adult, then sorry, but The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is not the movie for you, obviously.
Self-awareness is critical for a movie and Sharkboy and Lavagirl has it in abundance. It recognizes how juvenile the concept is and how ridiculous literally everything in this movie is. The movie really thinks it’s cute as it's packed to the brim with obvious metaphors for Max’s life in the dream world. Also, in case you didn’t know the movie is about dreams, the word “dream” is said 188 times in the movie. The themes are likewise very obvious; so much so that the film starts with a quote saying “Everything that is or was, began with a dream…” which is of course from Lavagirl. Dreams are good and it’s important to be selfless.
The best part of the movie is the cast and they really go for it in this movie. Taylor Lautner and Taylor Dooley play Sharkboy and Lavagirl, respectively. All of the stunts done by Lautner in the movie were improvised as he grew up as a martial arts expert apparently. His musical number, affectionately titled “Dream, Dream, Dream, Dream (Dream, Dream)” is an absolute bop. He plays the role with so much intensity, which would feel out of place in the movie if he didn’t randomly do a superhero pose every five minutes. Dooley is absolutely insane in this movie. The amount of close-ups of her creepily smiling is sure to give kids nightmares. She’s still the most badass of the group as she has the coolest hero shots. Cayden Boyd plays Max, the protagonist, and is easily hateable in this movie. It evens out as he’s constantly being hit in the nuts and zapped with electricity.
Max’s parents, played by David Arquette and Kristin Davis, are weird. They’re very clearly going through a divorce, which might explain Max’s overactive imagination as a coping device. Arquette plays an out-of-work writer, which if this movie is about Rodriguez’s kid, then way to paint yourself in such a negative light. He’s played as childish and sometimes pathetic, which just comes across as sad. There’s a scene where Max is complaining to his mom about how he doesn’t want to go to school because he gets bullied and his mom responds by telling him that his parents are not compatible. As if to say “Don’t worry about getting bullied, your father and I are getting a divorce.” At the end of the movie, they realize how much they need each other when they both get sucked away by tornadoes. Of course this is resolved by Sharkboy and Lavagirl saving them.
George Lopez plays one of the greatest villains of all time. Mr. Electric has so many quotable one-liners and more bad puns than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze. The decision to make him a robot ball with just a close up of his face is gold. Anyone who grew up with Lopez’s sitcom knows that the size of his head is a comedic target. He also has a daughter who is a nerd like Max, but when Max tries to befriend her, Mr. Electricidad gets upset because that’s his daughter. It’s as if he is upset because he thinks Max’s intentions with her are romantic, which is weird because Max is ten. If George Lopez is Darth Vader in this movie, then Jacob Davich is basically The Emperor. Davich’s character of Linus is like if Draco Malfoy could actually get things done. Linus does so much more than tatle on the Max. He actively runs the most effective bullying syndicate in the school. Max gets bullied from the exact moment he steps on the school campus. The scene where he directs the bullies to surround Max on the playground really shows the true might of his ruthless dictatorship. Not to mention, the scene where Mr. Electricidad calls the bully “Minus” instead of Linus is true poetry in action.
The backstory for Sharkboy and Lavagirl is absolutely insane, which fits the tone very well. Seeing the CGI shark talk in that deep voice is nightmare fuel, but it’s immediately counteracted by seeing Sharkboy feel his new gills, which are very clearly not real. While the movie goes in-depth with Sharkboy’s backstory, Lavagirl just shows up, while Sharkboy is swimming in the shower (you read that right). Their stories are wrapped up in equally as insane fashion. Sharkboy searches the depths of the ocean for his father, while Lavagirl realizes that she is light? There’s a robot named “Tobor”, which is just “Robot” spelled backward, that’s also voiced by George Lopez for some reason. If one was to pick apart the story of this movie, they wouldn’t be understanding the point.
The CGI is terrible... or is it? Obviously, it doesn’t look realistic, but was it trying to be? It’s a ridiculous children’s movie. It’s fair to say that it was going for a cartoonish feel. If one was to complain about the color of the movie, that’s more of an issue with the 3-D, which is a whole different thing. If you’re fortunate enough to own this movie on DVD and have a couple of pairs of custom Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D glasses, then you’re in for a treat. Not only are they stylish, but the movie directs the audience when to wear the glasses. The scenes in the real world are in 2-D, while the scenes on Planet Drool are in this disgusting 3-D that turns everything kind of grey. It’s worth it as the 3-D gags in this movie are top-notch. Move over Avatar, this is the real cinematic experience.
It’s very fair to say this movie is dumb and cast it into the pit of obscurity. It’s a mid-2000s flop that relied on the cheap 3-D trend. There is a small cult following for this movie as it’s ridiculousness puts it up there with the likes of The Room when it comes to movies that are so bad it’s good. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is the type of movie you watch late at night with a group of friends and make fun of how crazy it is. Call it nostalgia, but watching a young Jacob from Twilight fight the guy from the show that plays the “Low Rider” song is true bliss. Would a child watching this movie for the first time enjoy it? Yes, it’s filled with imagination and characters with personality. Remember how Will Smith made After Earth just so his son could star in a big summer blockbuster? This is the less cynical version of that. This may be a minus of a movie, but it was a child’s dream, so just enjoy the innocent insanity.
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