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Dimension Films presents
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005)

"Normally when you snooze, you lose. But when Max snoozes, he wins."
- Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: October 04, 2005

Stars: Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, Cayden Boyd
Other Stars: David Arquette, Kristin Davis, George Lopez
Director: Robert Rodriguez

MPAA Rating: PG for (mild action, some rude humor)
Run Time: 01h:32m:56s
Release Date: September 20, 2005
UPC: 786936292763
Genre: family

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+B-C+ C-

DVD Review

I'm not sure what to make of director Robert Rodriguez's strange choice of projects recently. One minute he gives us the underrated Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the amazing Sin City, and the next, he's releasing kids' movies like the Spy Kids trilogy and 2005's The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D. The Spy Kids movies each flirted with or surpassed the $100 million mark at the box office, but Sharkboy and Lavagirl, was the director's biggest disappointment, as it not only took in meager financial numbers, but it was blasted by nearly all of the nation's critics.

3-D is obviously a passion of Rodriguez's, as not only is this film in the format, but the last Spy Kids movie was as well. Unfortunately, in both films, the gimmick (and that's what 3-D is and always will be, folks) wears out its welcome very fast. The main problem that has always existed in the execution of 3-D is the glasses that are required to see the various objects coming at us. They are usually flimsy, cardboard eyepieces that are extremely uncomfortable and even more of a pain to those of us (like myself) who wear regular glasses on a daily basis. On top of the basic surface problems, there's a TV setup feature on this disc that basically has to be run to make the 3-D functionality effective. And even if things are calibrated perfectly, there are many times the 3-D just doesn't look right. If the film itself was better, all of this setup work might be worth it, but unfortunately, that isn't the case.

The kid-friendly plot finds a young boy named Max (Cayden Boyd) talking to his class about the crazy summer he just had. Max goes on to talk about his encounters with Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley), a pair of figures who might or might not be real. According to Max, Sharkboy was (naturally) raised by sharks after he became estranged from his father. These sharks gave him the full Tarzan treatment, and he even developed gills and talons.

Lavagirl gets her name from her inability to touch anyone or anything because of the massive heat that comes from her body. This heat allows her to shoot fire, which perfectly compliments Sharkboy's water-based abilities when they are fending off an enemy. After Max tells his classmates about Sharkboy and Lavagirl, a bully named Linus (Jacob Davich) picks on him incessantly, and even their teacher, Mr. Electricidad (George Lopez) can't get between them.

After Max learns that his parents (David Arquette and Kristin Davis) are considering a divorce, his superhero friends come to whisk him away to Lavagirl's home planet, Drool. It's up to Max to save Drool, because he is the only one who knows all about Sharkboy and Lavagirl (since he is made them up). It takes Max a while to deal with his task at hand, but if he can pull it off, he'll be a superhero himself.

The way Rodriguez takes us directly into the world that Max describes is commendable, and the opening line by Lavagirl sets a great tone, but the director just can't maintain this early momentum. The scenes in the "real world" are actually more compelling than those on planet Drool, and when some of the actors show up again as different characters, it comes across cheesy and forced. The distracting 3-D is problem enough, but watching the movie in 2-D doesn't make things any better, as the lack of neat visual distractions forces us to concentrate on a story weak enough that even the target audience will more than likely get bored.

The Spy Kids movies also had great casts in their corner, but the actors in Sharkboy just can't live up to the likes of Antonio Banderas, Sylvester Stallone, and Ricardo Montalban. Here, we get pretty close to the bottom of the acting barrel, with the likes of George Lopez, David Arquette, and Kristin Davis. We've come to expect more from Robert Rodriguez, and let's hope that The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is just a minor stumbling block in his career.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Both the 3-D and 2-D versions of the film are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and sharpness and image detail are consistently nice on the 2-D version. However, there are some problems with the 2-D, in the form of some pixelation and even a bit of annoying graininess. The 3-D gimmick is pretty impressive at times, but other DVD attempts at pulling this off (Spy Kids 3-D, for one) have fared much better.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 has its moments, but I expected quite a bit more from an action-packed kids' film. The surrounds come to life to handle many of the sound effects, but the overall experience isn't as enveloping as it could have been. Kids should love this very noisy track, but the dialogue is just barely crisp enough to be heard over the myriad of sounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Robert Rodriguez
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There's really only a pair of extra features, with the first being an audio commentary track with Robert Rodriguez. He continues to be one of the best in the business when it comes to talking over a film, as he speaks very casually, treating the viewer as if they are a close friend. Again, he goes into great detail about what goes into the making of one of his projects, making this track the best (and maybe only) way to enjoy The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.

Creating Shark Boy And Lava Girl with Racer Max is a nearly-eight-minute featurette with Rodriguez focusing on how his son, Racer Max, helped him with this film. There's some nice home video footage of the family, but there isn't a whole lot of valuable insight in this piece.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

After a fast turnaround from its theatrical release, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is already making its DVD debut. Unfortunately, not much has changed quality-wise during the past few months, and the film still has a ton of flaws. Still, Dimension Home Video's disc does allow us to watch in either 3-D or 2-D, and there are four sets of glasses included so the whole family can see the picture the way director Robert Rodriguez intended.


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