Friday, August 05, 2011

Shark Week 2: 'The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl' (2005)

Robert Rodriguez's filmmaking career is oddly schizophrenic; his movies are almost all either hyper-stylized violent pulp fantasies (Sin City, Planet Terror, Machete, etc.) or candy-coated, ultra-wholesome kids' movies (the Spy Kids series, Shorts, etc.) with essentially nothing in between (The Faculty is the closest middle ground). The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (which was originally released in 3D) falls squarely into Rodriguez's kid-focused mode, with a story based on the dreams and ideas of his then-7-year-old son Racer Max. It's cute that Rodriguez wants to include his entire family in his moviemaking endeavors, and it's admirable that he creates his movies in such a self-contained way, shooting at his own studio in Texas and serving multiple positions in the crew himself.

But both approaches yield poor results: The story very much seems like it was concocted by a child, with a complete lack of coherence or direction, a half-formed message and a bunch of overbearing, one-note characters. And Rodriguez's filmmaking efficiency leads to ugly, bargain-basement special effects, terrible performances and no sense of pacing or modulation. It's not as grating or haphazard as Rodriguez's next family movie, 2009's Shorts (which is pretty much unbearable to watch), but it comes close. The message here is about not being afraid to let your imagination run wild, but in this case I think maybe Rodriguez should have confined his son's ideas to coloring books.

And what about the sharks? There's actually a semi-amusing prologue about the origin of Sharkboy (Twilight's Taylor Lautner, proving that he was an awful actor even at 13), who accompanied his marine biologist dad at a research station until a storm blew it apart, and Sharkboy was found and raised by crappily animated CGI talking sharks. Somehow this led to his acquiring shark-related powers, plus a really stupid-looking shark-themed outfit. That's about it for the actual sharks until the climax of the movie, when Sharkboy fulfills his destiny (?) and becomes king of the ocean, rallying his army of hideous CGI sharks to help defeat villain Mr. Electricity (George Lopez, nearly as bad as the child actors).

As for the rest of the plot, it involves lame preteen Max (Cayden Boyd) teaming up with the title characters to save Planet Drool by learning to believe in the power of dreams, or some bullshit. Again, it doesn't really make sense, and it seems like the plot heads off in a completely different direction every 10 minutes or so. The effects are not only poorly rendered but also sloppily designed, and the movie's entire visual sense is garish and exhausting. Add in the awkward, shrill acting and the repetitive positivity, and this is clearly a kid's project only a father could love.

No comments: