Movie Review: The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D
By Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune Staff Writer
It's hard to argue that a film won't capture a kid's imagination when it comes from a kid's imagination. But I will argue nonetheless.
With "The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D," Robert Rodriguez wanders back from the dark side of "Sin City" to the kiddie genre he elevated in 2001 with "Spy Kids" - and then deflated incrementally with numbers 2 and 3(-D).
Hoping to get back the magic, Rodriguez turned to his 7-year-old son, Racer Max, who - instead of running off with brothers Rebel and Rocket to live with Rumer, Scout and Tallulah - dreamed up a host of kooky characters for dad to sell to Bob Weinstein at Dimension.
There's Shark Boy (Taylor Lautner), a kid separated from his father at sea and raised by a school of benevolent sharks, only to grow fins and jagged teeth and become half man/half shark. Also, Lava Girl (Taylor Dooley), a flaming-hot, purple-haired goddess with a fiery personality - literally. She throws fire. Both are the products of a little boy's fertile imagination, here named Max. (Studies show that Racer doesn't play so well in flyover country.)
Max is a daydreaming outcast so intent on escaping the bully at school and parents at home (David Arquette and Kristin Davis) that he conjures up his own complicated fantasy world, with Shark and Lava at the ready. Fantasy and reality collide when Max's superhero hallucinations show up at school, whisking him away to save the day on Planet Drool, where the evil Mr. Electric (George Lopez) threatens to end all dreaming.
Hunkered down in his Texas-based Troublemaker Studios with the highest of high tech at his fingertips, Rodriguez didn't make much trouble this time, opting instead to get fussy in three dimensions. Granted, the blue- and red-tinted glasses have their allure. The idea of 3-D has a certain retro charm - just like the idea of the drive-in and fondue. Then there's the flashing GLASSES ON, GLASSES OFF prompt, which sends even this kid scrambling eagerly for the cardboard specs. But Rodriguez - the film's director, writer, editor, photographer, composer and visual effects supervisor, for starters - fails to tailor his story and effects to the gimmick, leaving most shots flat, static and remarkably fuzzy.
Then there's the story.
The idea here is that Max is the only one who can save Planet Drool, because he's the only one who can dream the impossible dream and defeat evil, proving for all time that dreams really do come true. Max, along with Fin Guy and Molten Chick, travels from borough to borough, looking for a good place to lay down his head and dream a little dream. They take the Train of Thought to the Land of Milk and Cookies, then hop a banana boat down the Stream of Consciousness.
There's really just not a lot here. I'm sure Racer's story will entertain the very wee ones - but so do keys. If you're old enough to follow the 3-D prompts, you're too old for "Shark Boy and Lava Girl."
Now I must go-Taylor needs a drink.
"The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D"
Directed by Robert Rodriguez; written by Robert Rodriguez and Marcel Rodriguez; based on the stories and dreams of Racer Max; photographed by Rodriguez; edited by Rodriguez; music by Rodriguez, John Debney and Graeme Revell; visual effects supervised by Rodriguez; produced by Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellan. A Dimension Films release; opens Friday, June 10. Running time: 1:34. MPAA rating: PG (mild action and some rude humor).
Shark Boy - Taylor Lautner
Lava Girl - Taylor Dooley
Max - Cayden Boyd
Mr. Electric/Mr. Electricidad - George Lopez
Max's Dad - David Arquette
Max's Mom - Kristin Davis
Marissa/Ice Princess - Sasha Pieterse