It is often strange to be a fan of Robert Rodriguez. The director broke into Hollywood thanks to his low budget movie “El Mariachi,” a violent Mexican gangster film about a Mariachi singer mistaken for a gun runner. Thanks to the success of that movie, he got the chance to make a sequel with a higher budget and a big name actor in Antonio Banderas in the lead role with “Desperado.” After that, he worked with fellow maverick filmmaker Quentin Tarantino on a vampire movie and a quirky, sometimes violent anthology.
All of this allowed Rodriguez the chance to make his first studio picture, “The Faculty,” and netted him a nice paycheck, which he used to build his own home studio and worked independently ever since. But something funny happened at this time as well. Part of working at home in his Austin studio allowed him to spend more time with his family. Thanks to this, he decided he wanted to make something his kids could watch. Since all his movies were R-rated efforts, he went in the completely opposite direction and started to make kid’s movies, interspersed with the action movies for his hardcore fans.
Robert Rodriguez broke into the kid’s entertainment portion of his movie making with “Spy Kids,” a movie where two young children are forced to rescue their spy parents after they are kidnapped. The parents, played by Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino, never told their kids about their lives as spies so the realization of this secret life opened doors for the kids that never existed before. The first movie was shaky with poor acting by the young male actor Daryl Sabara hurting it slightly. However, the director amped the stakes in the sequel and the kids seemed more comfortable in their roles as part of the new Spy Kids program of secret agents. The fourth movie in the series hit theaters in 2011 and a new generation of Spy Kids takes over, possibly creating a new trilogy for Rodriguez to explore.
“The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D”
Rodriguez finished his original “Spy Kids” trilogy in 2003 and then immediately returned to his roots and made his hardcore fans very happy with the third movie in the “Mariachi” series. He followed up with the adaptation of “Sin City” but then jumped back to make another movie for kids, “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.” This effort ended up a letdown after the fun “Spy Kids” franchise. Rodriguez created a fantasy film about a boy who believes the world in his imagination is make believe only to discover it is all too real. It is a charming tale to learn that it was Rodriguez’s 8-year old son Racer who came up with the story. However, the only good thing to come out of this movie was the star, a 13-year old Taylor Lautner.
After “Sharkboy and Lavagirl,” Rodriguez and Tarantino teamed up again and made the impressive “Grindhouse” double feature and then it was back to the kids again with “Shorts.” While his other kid’s movies shared a charm that holds up despite other items holding them down, “Shorts” is a mess. The movie barely has a plot that throws everything at the audience except the kitchen sink, never remaining cohesive. It is a movie for the ADHD mindset of many kids and is a disappointment, sandwiched between two fun Rodriguez movies in “Grindhouse” and “Machete.” It is no wonder he went back to the “Spy Kids” franchise after this. Rodriguez proves, movie after movie, he can create entertaining films for adults. It is just too bad that his kid’s output remains so hit and miss.