Spy Kids 2, Robert Rodriguez's follow-up to his hit family action film from the previous year, manages to achieve the sense of fun and wonder of the first film, even though it lacks the sense of discovery that the first film possessed. Rodriguez thrusts the kids into an adventure that recalls both The Island of Dr. Moreau and Land of the Lost. He relies on effects more than he did in the first film, which would be a problem if he were only interested in making a buck. Fortunately, Rodriguez's heart is in the right place once again. From the throwaway jokes about new amusement park rides, to the coolest new spy gadgets, to a serpentine water monster, Rodriguez never lets the effects be the point. He is so intoxicated with a sense of wonder and fun that his giddiness comes across in every frame. While the film looks remarkably expensive, Spy Kids 2 is a triumph of imagination rather than special effects. Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara are pitch perfect as Carmen and Juni. The script is smart enough to lessen the amount and the harshness of the bickering they engage in. They have learned their lessons from the first film, but still realistically get on each other's nerves. Disappointingly, there is much less of Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino in this film. Their scenes with Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor are funny, but they detract from the pacing of the kids' adventure. Those scenes shoehorn the family moral into the film, a lesson that was seamlessly woven into the first film. While it may suffer slightly in comparison to the original, Spy Kids 2 is superb family entertainment.
by Perry Seibert review