Film ó The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl (PG)


by Amy Diaz

Robert Rodriguez directs Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, a movie written, in part, by his son Racer about a day-dreaming boy and his superhero friends.

I mention the movieís family-project origins because, frankly, it makes the movie seem cooler. Itís cool that Robert Rodriguez, he of Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the Spy Kids movies, turned his sonís 7-year-old imaginings into a film. Itís cool that young Racer, whose middle name, like the movieís lead, is Max, has a film script to his credit before heís old enough to vote. And the story, like a lighter-weight whiz-bang version of Never-ending Story, features that cool, very kid-resonating plot device of a shy, wallflower-ish boy who finds confidence and friends in his bookish tendencies.

I mention all thatís cool about the film because it also includes the very non-cool, very headache-inducing special effect of 3-D. This would be the old-school 3-D, with the blue and red glasses and the slightly fuzzy on-screen images. The effect is mildly neat for the first 15 seconds, annoying for the next minute and almost completely movie-obscuring thereafter. Throughout the 3-D segment of the movie, I felt cross-eyed, head pain and rather sleepy (the glasses seem to make the picture extra dark) but I never felt all that excited about the assorted shapes flying toward my head.

Which is too bad, because the tale of Max (Cayden Boyd) and his imaginary friends is sort of a sweet one.  Max is new to school and under attack from a bully (Jacob Davich) for keeping a dream journal. But the journal is important to Max because it holds the keys to the secrets of Shark Boy (Taylor Lautner) and Lava Girl (Taylor Dooley). These young super heroes have served as the playmates and dreammates of young Max, who is currently worried not only about his school life but also his home life where his parents (David Arquette and Kristen Davis) seem on the verge of divorce. At school, the girl he seems the most interested in being friends with (Sasha Pieterse) happens to be the daughter of a particularly difficult teacher (George Lopez).

Life seems as glum as the stormy weather until an afternoon when one of those storms turns out to be a tornado made of Lava Girl and Shark Boy, there at school to bring Max back to Planet Drool. Thereís an assortment of bad guys for them to fight and they need the worldís creator, Max, to help save the day. Once at this kidsí paradise of giant cookies and neverending roller-coaster rides, Max runs into a variety of characters from his real life made over as super-powered villains and heroes.

The entire trip and adventure on Planet Drool, probably about 70 percent of the movie, occurs in 3-D. And, let me say, this is a rough 70 percent. While the plot seems far fluffier than any of the Spy Kids movies, it still has that kid-friendly sense of playtime fun. But rendered in the shaky hazy of 3-D, it becomes taxing to sit through and every hint of whimsy seems to prolong our misery.

Will your kids like it? Maybe, probably. There are better kidsí movies out there on DVD but none better currently in the theater. Take a few Excedrin and youíll probably escape the movie with only mild eye strain.

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