Adventures Of Shark Boy And Lava Girl (2005) – movie review

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Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, Cayden Boyd, George Lopez
Director: Robert Rodriguez

You’ve got to hand it to all-rounder Robert Rodriguez. He is as dedicated to the kiddie market as he is to the adult equivalent. Hence the SPY KIDS Trilogy versus the EL MARIACHI flicks. THE ADVENTURES OF SHARK BOY AND LAVA GIRL IN 3D versus… Wait a minute. Not another movie with a title that skids right over your head with the speed of light? Or, as in this case, the speed of lava in a 3-dimensional rollercoaster? I’m afraid so.

How it goes
The story is of ten year-old Max (Cayden Boyd), the school outcast, whose obsessive dreams of fictional heroes Shark Boy and Lava Girl, residents of Planet Drool (apparently the coolest planet in the galaxy but with a name like that?), leave little to the imagination. (No, really, I mean it’s all set out for us so we don’t have to wonder at what might be lurking behind each cranial corner…). Max’s folks (David Arquette and Kristin Davis), the background props for some of the sets, supposedly contribute to the problems which force Max to live in perpetual non-reality. But it is when the boy’s imaginary daredevils rock up in his classroom to report the dying of Planet Drool, and snatch him away to help save their world, that the adventure really begins.

Begins for kids, and kids alone! The hurdles upon hurdles that adults must get over to make this movie work make it one long hurdle race that cannot be won.

Put on your glasses…Take off your glasses…Repeat cycle
If you don’t enjoy 3D, quit while you’re ahead, because three-quarters of this is spent in 3D land. The effects are ambitious, to begin with. It’s always jolly surprising to have things jump out at you in a realistic fashion when you least expect them! But when it happens too often, familiarity breeds and the surprise-o-meter drops down a notch. Then there are the dull colours – everything except Lava Girl’s flaming violet hair and outfit has a greyish overlay. Right idea, wrong setting! Call me old-fashioned but in my own dreams colours are generally more vibrant, especially in a region called the Land of Milk and Cookies! Come on! That’s not the way the cookie crumbles. Even a nightmare can’t be that awful. Topping off the list of 3D faux pas is too much repetition: spitting out foodstuffs every twelve seconds and little bubbles coming out of nowhere enticed me not. This movie might even have put me off bubbles forever.

Where did it go! ?
In terms of story, so much is unexplained! Because this is all based on dreams, you could argue that nothing really has to make sense, but don’t you find it irritating when the story feels incomplete in the really important bits? Never mind being an adult – if I were a kid I would wonder about these missing connections! I’d question everything that didn’t add up!

Dream on, and on, and on, and on…
I love the movie’s central message. It’s as clear as daylight. But talk about drilling it in! As though afraid we might forget, it is hammered from the word ‘go’ to infinity and beyond. No need to re-iterate and irritate! Inspirational? No, just plain boring.

The stuff that nightmares are made of
According to Rodriguez, who pretty much dabbled his fingers in every aspect of this insipid one and a half hour crusade, THE ADVENTURES OF SHARK BOY AND LAVA GIRL IN 3D was the brainwave of his son Racer. So it does really stem from a child’s imagination, which is great, but this finished product is just too dull and limited for a grown-up mind. Would it have come out different if 7 year-old Racer had directed it? You bet. The idea had so much potential and yet so many avenues were left unexplored. Even those that were managed to dry up like grapes to raisins. And to think that those grapes could have ended up as sweet chilled wine, like so many other Rodriguez ideas that have fermented to mellow fruition…

Unless you have a fetish for 3D glasses, drop your kids off at the movies and skip this one. Believe me, you can do without the headache, the eyestrain and (most importantly) the bubbles.

4 out of 6 stars