The Adventures of
Sharkboy and Lava Girl in 3D
©  2005-2010 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

   Have you ever met a parent who is convinced beyond all reason that his
or her child is a genius? You know the type I mean, the one who thinks little
Jacob plays baseball like a miniature Babe Ruth, or that little Emily dances
like a pint-sized Margot Fonteyn or little Michael draws like Picasso. I
certainly don’t begrudge a parent’s pride; indeed I applaud those who indulge
and encourage artistic pursuits (more power to them). But when you foist
your kid’s fantasy world on a paying public, well it better be on the level of
Christopher Paolini’s fantasy novel
Eragon rather than the poor quality comedy

   Director Robert Rodriguez has had a very intriguing career, split between
graphic adult fare like
DESPERADO and SIN CITY and the family friendly
SPY KIDS movies. What made the latter so enjoyable was that it worked on
several levels: kids could enjoy the stories that had two youngsters fighting
to save the world, while adults could enjoy the interplay of the parents (played
to perfection by Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino). Admittedly by the third
film in the series, Rodriguez’s reliance on the trick of 3D was already pretty
hoary. The effects added little and the series sort of petered out.

   Now the filmmaker has returned to similar effects to enliven his latest effort,
eldest son Racer’s fantasies and dreams. The core message of the movie – that
children should be encouraged to dream – is a certainly a worthy one, but in its
execution that idea is nearly lost under the cheesy special effects, lame script
and terrible performances.

   Clearly Racer is a lucky kid; how many children get to see their fantasy world
come to life on the big screen? The basic problem with the movie, though, is that
it is a child’s eye view and while there are some amusing bits, in general, like
most juvenilia, it’s not terribly interesting to anyone other than its
creator, his or her family, and perhaps those writing dissertations.

   The plot concocted by Rodriguez and his brother Marcel involves bickering
parents (David Arquette and Kristin Davis, both rather wooden) and their dreamer
son Max (newcomer Cayden Boyd), who is subjected to teasing by the school
bullies led by Linus (Jacob Davitch) because he’s convinced his imaginary friends
(guess who?) are real. Even his teacher, the nice Mr. Electricidad (George Lopez)
tries to convince him otherwise. That is, until a tornado brings SharkBoy (Taylor
Lautner) and Lava Girl (Taylor Dooley) to Max’s classroom so he can travel with
them to their home, Planet Drool, and do battle with the evil Mr. Electric (Lopez

   The planet is home to places with obvious names as the Stream of
Consciousness, the Train of Thought and the Land of Milk and Cookies. Even
though Mr. Electric appears to be the ringleader, there’s actually someone else
who is behind the encroaching darkness. Eventually, Max and his cohorts
have to confront some of their fears and overcome the villains.

   Because the film is drawn from a child’s fantasy, there is no consistency in the
plotting, which is of paramount importance in the success of failure of a venture
like this. While the allusions to
THE WIZARD OF OZ are pretty obvious, one only
has to look at that 1939 classic to see what I mean. The world of Oz is a
consistent place with specific rules and regulations. Planet Drool is merely a
whim, with a malleable structure that defies logic.

   The film also fails to engage adults on the same level as the kids. It’s entirely
possible that youngsters will enjoy the story and the 3D effects. (Certainly, I
cannot fault the film’s message of kids being encouraged to dream.) Yet, there’s
almost nothing to engage the adults in the audience. My suggestion (and I know
it is a terribly un-PC one) is for grown-ups to wait until the movie is out on DVD
and then play a drinking game while watching it. Pick a word and every time it’s
uttered, you take a shot. I’d suggest avoiding SharkBoy, Lava Girl, darkness, or
dream, though, because if you choose one of those, you’ll be out cold after
twenty minutes. Then again, that may be the best way to watch this film.

Rating:                            D
MPAA rating:                   PG for mild action and some rude humor
Running time:                  97 mins.

                           Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room