Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, ...
Credit: Spy Kids 2: Rico Torres

Take it from Banderas, the big-daddy spy himself: ”Robert Rodriguez is all about two things: family and making movies.” Making money could be added to that list, considering the first ”Spy Kids,” a juvie Bond spoof with home-and-hearth morals, became a surprise hit last spring, taking in $113 million at domestic box offices. You’d think there’d be quite a bit of pressure to repeat that performance; if so, it wasn’t in evidence on the sequel’s Austin set. ”Robert is just a big kid,” reports 9-year-old Sabara, who plays short-in-the-tooth operative Juni. ”After lunch he’s got videogames.”

That’s not to say making ”Spy Kids 2” was all giggles and ”Tekken 2”: Rodriguez and his designers cranked out even more gadgets and gimmicks, this time revolving around a stolen ”Transmooker” device, rogue kid agents, and a mysterious island that (horrors!) renders gizmos impotent. And did we mention ”Beavis and Butt-head” and ”King of the Hill” creator Judge shows up as a shadowy spook? (”The mustache communicates insincerity,” he explains, worriedly adjusting some fake facial hair.)

Citing his admiration for the low-budget ethos of F/X wizard Ray Harryhausen (”Clash of the Titans”), Rodriguez shot the picture digitally and did most of his effects work and postproduction in-house at his studio in Austin. But the real innovation remains his commitment to zippy, nonpreachy family entertainment. ”It’s just action and fun, and nobody dies,” Banderas sums up. ”We’re not saying family values are beautiful. We’re not playing ‘The Sound of Music’ behind it.”

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
  • Movie
  • 100 minutes