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The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D(2005)
Sometimes the most amazing superheroes are the ones inside your dreams. So discovers ten-year-old Max, an outcast little boy who has become lost in his own fantasy world in an attempt to escape the everyday worries of dealing with parents, school bullies and no-fun summer vacations. But when Max realizes the cool characters, high-flying adventures and incredible secret powers that dwell in his imagination might be far more real than anyone is willing to believe, his whole world changes. Now, Max is blasting off on a mission to Planet Drool where Sharkboy--a kid once lost at sea and raised under the watchful fins of sharks only to become half-shark--and Lavagirl--a volcanic beauty who emits leaping flames and red-hot rocks--live in a realm of astonishing wonders, one in which the Train of Thought can whisk you off to the mouth-watering Land of Milk and Cookies. Teeming with mountainous roller coasters and violet skies, Planet Drool looks like the perfect kid paradise until Max meets up with the shocking Mr. Electric and his sidekick Minus who are trying to do away with all dreams forever. With Sharkboy and Lavagirl in trouble, only Max can guide them-- by imagining every clever move of their wily escape from Mr. Electric's Lair.
For more about The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D and the The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D Blu-ray release, see the The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 7, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, Cayden Boyd, George Lopez, David Arquette, Kristin Davis
Director: Robert Rodríguez (I)
» See full cast & crew
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 7, 2012
Note: This title is currently available only in this edition: Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over / Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D.
You have to hand it to Robert Rodriguez: most parents when confronted by their kids' outrageous imaginations and storytelling would most likely listen distractedly for a moment, mutter, "That's nice," and then return to whatever all-consuming adult matters needed their attention. Rodriguez instead decided to make a movie, and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (originally presented in 3-D) plays very much like the fever dream of some mildly hyperactive seven year old, as perhaps it was. Thought up in large by Rodriguez's son Racer and fashioned into a screenplay by Robert and his brother Marcel, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is everything you might think of as having sprung from the mind of a seven year old: it's inventive, wild, colorful, slightly surreal, and it doesn't make one whit of sense or have much dramatic flow or story arc. Rodriguez has continually proven himself to be one of the most incredibly visual directors out there, and he perhaps surprised a lot of people with how elegantly he melded that visual flair to family friendly fare in the Spy Kids trilogy. He rather valiantly attempts to recreate the same magic in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, but as fanciful as the film is—and it is extremely fanciful at times—it's so haphazard and goofy that it's almost like the film equivalent of that viral YouTube video of David, the little boy returning home from the dentist and still high on anesthesia, who asks wide- eyed, "Is this real life?" Some viewers may be asking, "Is this a real movie?", as The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl seems more at times to be a Rodriguez family in-joke where the rest of us are on the outside, wondering exactly what's going on while scratching our heads in slight consternation and dismay. David, the drug addled child, is a rather prescient film critic himself when he slurs, "I feel funny" and "Is this going to be forever?" The good news is the funny feeling and thoughts of when "The End" will finally zoom into view ultimately do pass, and at least in this new Blu-ray attempts to ameliorate the rampant complaints that were voiced from the original anaglyph 3D theatrical presentation. While Rodriguez's eye popping candy colored visual aesthetic is probably better served by the updated 3D technology on display here, the effects are still so literally "in your face" that they may cause the very same headaches that afflicted viewers years ago.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl actually manages some neat sleight of hand in its opening moments as we meet the two titular characters, Sharkboy (played as an adolescent by future heartthrob Taylor Lautner, though as a child by two of Rodriguez's kids, Rebel and Racer) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley). As we're quickly led through something akin to origin stories (more for Sharkboy than for Lavagirl), we then come to find out that what we're seeing is actually a kind of "What I did for summer vacation" yarn being spun in class by young Max (Cayden Boyd), a sweet, tousle-headed kid who is obviously pretty far down the elementary school food chain. Max's flight of whimsy, which he insists actually happened, is quickly shot down not just by a slew of his fellow classmates but even more distressingly by his teacher, Mr. Electricidad (George Lopez), who tells him to stop dreaming and wake up to real life. That sentiment is also echoed by Max's mother (Kristin Davis), who seems to be upset that Max is evidently following in the footsteps of his head in the clouds father (David Arquette). Max is the object of school bully Linus (Jacob Davich), who steals Max's dream journal where he keeps writing down the exploits of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Everything seems hopeless until a Wizard of Oz-esque tornado blows into town. It doesn't whisk Max away, a la Dorothy exiting Kansas, but it seems to deposit Sharkboy and Lavagirl directly inside Max's classroom, much to the astonishment of Mr. Electricidad, Linus and the rest of the kids (not to mention Max himself). Sharkboy and Lavagirl entreat Max to join them back in their magical land of Planet Drool, which is undergoing a hideous metamorphosis, perhaps tied to the fact that Linus has scribbled over all of the dreamy details that Max has jotted down in his dream journal.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl takes a page (or perhaps several) from The Wizard of Oz, recasting several "real life" elements and characters from Max's everday existence in magical and often fantastic new iterations in their Planet Drool version. Mr. Electricidad becomes a bizarre evil wizard known as Mr. Electric, who looks like a cross between a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot and a mutant lightbulb. Linus transmogrifies to Minus, a villain who's giving even Mr. Electric a run for his kilowatt hours. Even Max's defunct toy robot, Tobor, from his real life, makes a new appearance in Drool (and is again voiced by Lopez). In fact it's in the visual ingenuity that The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl really excels, and its almost nonstop flights of whimsy may distract younger viewers especially to the point where they won't notice, or more likely won't care, that the story never adds up to much and is simply a very flimsy hanger on which some considerably inventive special effects are draped.
While The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is certainly fun and noisy, it's also undeniably messy and ill- formed most of the time. However, what probably sunk it more than anything in its theatrical exhibition was the decision to project it in anaglyph 3D. I'm one of those people who gets horrible headaches with the older style blue and cyan 3D glasses (I am so appreciative of Real 3D in that regard), but I'm also one of those people who usually can't stand the faded, monochromatic look of films once those cardboard glasses are donned. For a film this bright and colorful, the decision to immediately negate one of its prime calling cards seems dunderheaded at best and fatal at worst. I can only imagine how drab this film must have looked with the filter of the 3D glasses in between the imagery and the eye, no matter how inventive the actual 3D imagery might have been divorced from the color palette. The bulk of the color is retained in this new presentation, with the incredibly bright palette looking surprisingly vivid most of the time.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl was met with some pretty lethal reviews when it was released theatrically, but looking at it now with a bit of hindsight and perspective, it's yet another fantastically inventive piece by Rodriguez, though one that certainly could have used more discipline, shaping and grounding. The film will no doubt appeal to young children who will find the wondrous worlds of Racer Rodriguez's imagination perfectly in tune with their own flights of fancy. For older kids and adults, the film still delivers an amazing visual and aural punch, and even if it's lacking in some finer graces, it most definitely won't go forever.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is presented on Blu-ray with both MVC (3D) and AVC (2D) encoded 1080p transfers in 1.85:1. This new 3D rendering manages to avoid the blanching that was a major complaint in the anaglyph presentation, as the film pops with often magnificent color, in a crazy quilt of everything from pastels to bright primaries, and all robustly saturated and popping very nicely. The overall image is very nicely detailed, though Rodriguez is obviously working within the confines of green screen and a relatively smaller budget, so some of the CGI is purposefully fanciful rather than photorealistic. While the blending of elements is usually done quite seamlessly, the Blu- ray does occasionally show the literal seams of blending live action with green screen interpolated backgrounds. Close- ups reveal a wealth of fine detail, and overall the presentation here, while soft at times due to the ubiquitous CGI, is certainly heads and shoulders better than it evidently was theatrically.
The 3D presentation is incredibly aggressive, to the point that some more sensitive viewers may actually not be able to handle all the visual information coming straight at them. As with Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, my display revealed significant crosstalk at the very corners of the frame when there were foreground objects there, but otherwise this is a solid 3D presentation that offers really awesome depth and dimensionality. Rodriguez exploits the technology with old time gimmicks like things being thrown at the screen, but some of the most effective moments are relatively subtler sequences like the underwater segment where bubbles waft out toward the viewer.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl boasts a very aggressive lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is extremely immersive a lot of the time and also has abundant LFE that should please ardent audiophiles who like those floorboards to rattle. From the first moments of the film, we're literally awash in surround activity, with lots of water sounds as the origin story of Sharkboy is detailed. Throughout the film, though, a variety of quite inventive sound effects populates the surrounds with excellent consistency. The storm sequence which delivers Sharkboy and Lavagirl to Max's classroom is a riot of low end rumbling and some great panning wind effects. Later when the kids are on a kind of roller coaster on Planet Drool, we once again get some very well detailed directionality as they zoom around the frame. The film has an abundance of inventive sound effects to match its visual whimsy, and those are all presented with a lot of impact on this DTS track. Nonetheless, dialogue is clear and consistently placed forward in the mix, even in the busiest moments.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I was expecting the worst with The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl due to the many hideous reviews I had read when the film had had its theatrical exhibition, so maybe the secret with this film is lowering one's expectations. The film is certainly nowhere near as focused and consistent as Rodriguez's Spy Kids films, which managed to blend his unique sensibilities within a family friendly framework, but that said this is hardly as bad as some critics made it out to be. Younger kids will probably be entranced by the weird and wacky goings-on on Planet Drool, and the film's message, while none too subtle, is a salient one for kids who must manage to find a way to make their dreams a reality. This new 3D presentation is one of the most relentlessly aggressive in recent memory, so much so that some viewers may actually not be able to handle it. But for those with strong eyes, and for families with young kids especially, it comes Recommended.
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