Spy Kids was a formative film from my adolescence. I was 9 when the first film came out, following the adventures of siblings Juni (Daryl Sabra) and Carmen Cortez (Alexa PenaVega) as they save their parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) from the misguided villain Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming). The original series was a wonderful combination of adventure, spy gadgets, and family dynamics, something that reverberated with so many. Spy Kids was so successful, that it launched a franchise of multiple sequels and even a series on Netflix. Now, the streaming service is looking to relaunch the brand with a new film focusing on a different family, titled Spy Kids: Armageddon.
The newest entry in the decades-spanning franchise sees the return of Robert Rodriguez to helm the film as director and one part of the writing duo. Joining him as a writer of Spy Kids: Armageddon is Racer Max, Rodriguez’s son. As is typical with reboots, Armageddon brings about some new faces, with Gina Rodriquez, Zachary Levi, and Billy Magnussen, along with relative newcomers Everly Carganilla and Connor Esterson rounding out the cast.
So is the fifth film from the Spy Kids franchise worth your time? Let’s explore what Armageddon has in store for you and your family.
[Warning: slight spoilers and impressions from Spy Kids: Armageddon are below!]
Every family has secrets
In the Tango-Torrez household, normal is the watchword. Nora (Rodriguez) and her husband Terrence (Levi) are your typical parents who perhaps take some rules to the extreme when it comes to raising their two vastly different children. Patty (Carganilla) is intelligent, but a strict rule-follower, much to the chagrin of the parents. On the flip side, Tony (Esterson) enjoys bending the rules, especially if it means he can get a few extra minutes with his video games. The two could not be more different from each other even if they tried, and yet they don’t seem to tire the other out.
That being said, Tony seems to dislike many of the rules that his father has put into place, specifically the rule banning electronics, except for specific allotted times. This ban leads Tony to break into their technology jail, needing to play his favorite video game before school! But what he doesn’t know is that his decision could impact the entire world.
It turns out that his parents aren’t normal parents in the slightest. They are secret agents, some of the best in the world. Together they brought down many villains, protecting the world along with the rest of OSS.
On top of being secret agents and attempting to be the best parents to Patty and Tony, the agents also house another secret within their happy home. Terrence has developed a code that can shut down or break into any system in the entire world. This code, named the Armageddon code, is a great asset to the secret agents. But it’s also a heavy burden and paints a huge target on their backs.
Saving mom, dad, and the rest of the world
In a story reminiscent of the original film, the Armageddon code is highly sought after by The King, a.k.a. Rey Kingston (Billy Magnussen). The King is a world-renowned game developer, the same one that created the game that has Tony in a chokehold. He’s also an evil mastermind, seeking the code to bring the world to its knees, by threading the code into his game. Talk about world domination.
The code brings danger to the Torrez-Tango household, with Patty and Tony having to leave in a flurry of spy technology, learning that their parents are secret agents. The news sends shockwaves through the children, although they don’t have long to recover before they’re whisked off to a safe house and wrapped up in a plot to save their parents and the world from ultimate peril. Can these siblings rise to the occasion and become the youngest spies in history? Or is the world doomed by a crazy madman? You know the drill, it’s a family film dear reader!
The negatives of Spy Kids: Armageddon
Unfortunately, for someone who has loved this franchise for years, Spy Kids: Armageddon doesn’t have much going for it. As stated above, the story is reminiscent of the original film, but perhaps that is a bit of an understatement. This film is a near replica of the first and third films in the franchise smashed together. There are some scenes that are exact copies of their predecessors, in a way that gives me severe deja vu. One such scene that sticks out is how the children find out their parents are spies and then shoved into a vehicle to be taken to a safe house. Switch our Uncle Felix for the parents and boom, it’s a one-for-one.
I wish I could say it’s just a few times, but there is a significant amount of the film that is a carbon copy of either of the above-mentioned films, but not in a good way. Spy Kids: Armageddon may have ripped scenes from the franchise’s past, but it forgets what made the first film so endearing, its heart. This fifth film lacks any true heart, although it attempts to force the audience to think there is.
In the original, you could feel the love between parents and children, with the family unit front and center. Together, they could face anything, because they had each other. This sentiment is supposedly in Armageddon, but I failed to see it or feel it for most of the film. Because of this, the film feels hollow, with performances that come off wooden and not near the caliber I’ve come to expect from previous iterations of Spy Kids.
Zachary Levi is perhaps the greatest grievance to this film, with a performance that sticks out and not in a good way. Every moment he was on screen was almost painful to watch. It seemed that he lacked an idea of who his character was, teetering between cold and callous and silly and goofy, which made Terrence feel awkward and annoying. He looked like he was phoning in half his performances, which didn’t play well on screen. Compared to Antonio Banderas as the patriarch of the first film, Levi’s casting was a huge miss.
The characters of Patty and Tony did little to elevate this film either. They are similar in nature to those of Juni and Carmen, however gender-swapped to keep the structure of an adventurous elder child and an anxious younger sibling. For all intents and purposes, this tried and true formula should have worked again for this film as it did in the original, but it didn’t. In no way is this reflective of the actor’s work, but more so of the script that they had to work with. Carganilla and Esterson did well with what they were given, but their cuteness and acting abilities alone are not enough to keep the film afloat.
The shining stars of Spy Kids: Armageddon
Gina Rodriguez was absolutely stellar as Nora, one of the only characters from the Torrez-Tango family that this film seemed to nail. She was a wonderful blend of a loving mother and badass super spy, a role that felt perfect for Rodriguez. However, I think she could act in almost anything and elevate it because of her complete understanding of the craft. I would love a spin-off of just her being a spy across the world because she deserves that. She’s also one of the only people on screen who appears to be having fun, with the exception of Billy Magnussen, our film’s villain.
Magnussen has to be one of my favorite villains in the Spy Kids franchise, just below Floop. While the character’s motivations might not be the greatest in all action films, The King is enjoyable to watch on screen. He’s a perfect mix of silly and scary, at times having such a terrifying on his face that you wondered about the thoughts in his head. Magnussen’s performance is quite different than a lot of the silly/stupid roles I’ve come to know for him. This was a pleasant shock and would like to see more of these types of roles from Magnussen.
Final thoughts on Netflix’s Spy Kids: Armageddon
Overall, Spy Kids: Armageddon is not worth your time unless you’re looking for a film for younger children to be introduced to the concept. But if you can, it’s better to go to the source and find the original.
My rating for this film:
Spy Kids: Armageddon is available on Netflix. Will you be checking this one out? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.