The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl in 3-D
February 3, 2006
After the gritty, hyper-violent world of Sin City (2005), Robert Rodriguez returned to more family-oriented fare like the Spy Kids movies with The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl in 3-D (2005). Inspired by the stories of his son, Racer Max, the film is about a boy also named Max (Boyd) who dreams up two colourful superheroes: a boy raised by sharks, called SharkBoy (Lautner) and a girl named LavaGirl (Dooley) who can shoot hot, molten lava from her hands. Max believes in them so much that he thinks that they are real. Of course, no one believes him.
At school, Max is accosted by bullies who make fun of him and even steal his dream journal where he documents all the adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl. His mom (Davis) wants him to grow up while his father (Arquette) wants him to hold onto his dreams. One day at school, a tornado disrupts Max’s class and SharkBoy and LavaGirl arrive to ask for his help to stop the darkness from invading the world and so begins Max’s adventures.
Rodriguez uses CGI to create one imaginative landscape after the next. It’s the kind of movie kids will love because it doesn’t talk down to them. They are the heroes much like in the Spy Kids movies but this one isn’t nearly as inventive. While it may not be as good as the Spy Kids movies, SharkBoy and LavaGirl still has a loads more imagination and is a helluva lot more fun to watch than a lot of other kids movies being made today. Once Max, SharkBoy and LavaGirl arrive on Planet Drool, the film really opens up visually, utilizing the 3-D technology quite effectively.
For example, at one point our heroes fly over a landscape of brains on the way to the World of Milk and Cookies which features rivers of milk with chocolate chip cookie rafts that transport our protagonists through this world filled with frosting capped ice cream scoop hills. There are also amusing play on words as characters literally travel down the Stream of Consciousness and are subjected to an actual brainstorm only to be countered, of course, by “brain freeze.”
The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl in 3-D is a good fantasy film for kids and should appeal to them because it imagines them as brave superheroes with great powers. Unlike most kids movies this one is filled with all kinds of clever ideas and colourful images without being an obvious feature-length ad for a toy line or video game. Ultimately, the film espouses an uplifting message in believing in yourself and following your dreams that is refreshing to see in this cynical day and age.
There is an audio commentary by director Robert Rodriguez. He made this movie with a lot of his family. His son Racer Max (who joins him for a bit) came up with the story and many of the characters. He even appears as a younger version of SharkBoy (as does Rodriguez’s two other sons). As always, the filmmaker delivers an engaging and informative commentary. One quickly gets the impression that he’s an extremely creative guy and this extends to his kids.
“Creating ‘SharkBoy and LavaGirl’ with Racer Max” features Rodriguez narrating home movies of he and his kids as they draw and talk about the movie. Originally, Rodriguez thought it would make a good children’s book but once the Weinstein brothers asked him for another kids’ movie like Spy Kids he looked to his son’s ideas for inspiration. We see Max drawing characters and even acting out bits that would appear later in the movie. This is a nice, little document of the creative process and fascinating insight into how Rodriguez is with his kids, always encouraging them.