A Terrifying Glimpse of the Future

Over the weekend, I was somehow forced to sit through the last hour of Spy Kids 3D. I’ve never seen any of the Spy Kids films before, but it’s my understanding they’re about kids who are spies.

Spy Kids 3D is easily the worst movie I’ve ever seen, with a large asterisk. I’m not saying it’s the worst because of its content per se. In pure story/direction terms, I’ve seen much worse. Spy Kids 3D is the worst because it provided a horrifying window into our cinematic future.

The entire time Spy Kids 3D flashed before my eyes, I kept wondering to myself, What in god’s name am I watching? I didn’t hate it, I simply didn’t understand it. It felt like watching somebody else play a video game. It’s a movie starring real actors which still feels resoundingly fake. Nothing but the faces look remotely real, as if everyone is shoving their heads through holes in carnival cutouts. Needless to say, the dialogue leaves much to be desired, and the story is little more than a whisper. Things moved very fast and I had no idea why. Scenes would end and the next would begin with barely a connection between them.

One thing Spy Kids 3D has in its favor, particularly towards the end, is that the celebrity cameos get so ridiculous and unnecessary, it’s almost admirable. One famous person suddenly appearing, then then another piled right on top, and another and another, like a Dagwood Sandwich of Stupid. And at least the celebs give a bit of an effort; especially Sylvester Stallone, who chews up scenery with gusto.

But in one terrifying moment, it occurred to me that maybe the burden was not on this movie to be more coherent, but on me to adjust my mind to it. Because I realized that my daughter had no issues watching Spy Kids 3D. It’s sometimes difficult to tell how much a four-year-old actually enjoys something, since a kid that young will consume virtually anything you put in front of them. But she will tune something out if it doesn’t appeal to her, and this definitely appealed to her. I was openly laughing at certain things that I found ridiculous, and she would shoot me scowls, silently saying, C’mon, dad. (Yes, she does this to me already. I have a long road ahead.)

Because the world she is inheriting, this is a world in which fare like Spy Kids 3D is the baseline for kids’ entertainment. Consider this: Spy Kids 3D came out in 2003, which is eight years ago. Three-D movies were unheard of back then. The success of Spy Kids 3D (almost $200 million grossed worldwide) was a huge reason why Hollywood began to throw its weight behind 3D. And yeah, 3D as a format may be on its way out again, but that only means something just as dumb and expensive is on its way.

Now, consider the Transformers franchise, which relies heavily on exploiting people’s sense of nostalgia. The Transformers movies are essentially no different than Spy Kids 3D. Mindless, disconnected scenes. Characters who barely matter. No connection to anything real. An intensely cynical view of its audience.

My daughter has no concept of commercials. Just think about that. Most kids’ channels don’t have ads these days. Maybe you think that’s a good thing, and essentially it is. But it has also made her used to a world where she gets everything she wants, uninterrupted, all the time. The idea of waiting and patience is alien to the world aimed her. So is the idea of watching anything she wouldn’t want to watch, because thanks to On Demand viewing and Netflix Instant, she knows that she can see whatever she wants to see whenever she wants to see it. Hooray?

So I almost feel like Spy Kids 3D has been placed here by the Terminator robots as a warning of what awaits us in the years to come.

Or it could just be a really shitty movie. I think I’ll keep telling myself that.