5-Word 365 #223 – The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl

Once again I’m going for the Jimmy Buffett defence regarding the timing of this post. That’s right; it’s still Friday somewhere. I swear, come January 1st I’m going to sleep for a week.

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (not) IN 3D!

The world’s biggest home movie.

Young Max is a dreamer. His parents are always fighting and he is bullied at school, so he retreats into his made-up world every chance he gets. His favourite dream creations are the superheroes Sharkboy and Lavagirl. One day at school, Sharkboy and Lavagirl show up for real and tell Max they need his help to save their home, the Planet Drool, which is being destroyed by the darkness. Hijinks ensue.

I’ve been a Robert Rodriguez fan since El Mariachi. Here is a guy who sold himself to medical science to fund his first feature, and ended up casting one of his fellow patients as the movie’s villain. He’s a proper storyteller, and one of this generation’s most successful independent filmmakers. He can also switch with surprising ease from the adult excesses of Sin City or From Dusk Till Dawn to something like the family friendly Spy Kids franchise. And then there’s this. Where Spy Kids was a film for the whole family, Sharkboy and Lavagirl is made by a family but designed strictly for kids. And when I say made by a family, I mean that literally. It’s even in the credits: “A Rodriguez Family Movie”. Directed (amongst thirteen other credits, as usual) by Robert; produced by his wife Elizabeth Avellán; and featuring two of their sons in the cast, one of whom also has a story credit as it is based on his dreams. This is what a home movie is, when Dad has his own studio.

I haven’t seen any of the Twilight movies, but I understand that Taylor Lautner is not known for his obvious acting ability. The kid is cursed with a heavy brow that makes him look like he’s permanently trying to do a manly squint – which becomes the limit of his on-screen emoting -but he doesn’t have the grizzled features you need to pull it off. Even without first-hand experience of it*, I admit I have become jaded and dismissive of the Twilight phenomenon and seeing Lautner’s name on this flick did not inspire me with confidence. But you know what? I wasn’t entirely disappointed. The kid shows some actual personality as Sharkboy, and his karate training comes in handy for the copious fight scenes (he’s really not a singer though). I guess Rodriguez’s seven-year-old kid Racer is just better at dreaming up characters than Stephenie Meyer.

“Come with us if you want to live.”

Taylor Dooley (that must have been confusing on set) is good as the feisty Lavagirl while Max, the ostensible hero of the flick, is played by Cayden Boyd, best known as young Timmy from Patches O’Houlihan’s dodgeball training film. The biggest stand out amongst the rest of the cast would be George Lopez, who pulls double duty as the real-world teacher Mr Electricidad and Planet Drool’s villain Mr Electric, as well as voicing a couple of the animated characters. The other kids are a bit wooden at times, while Kristin Davis and David Arquette are wasted as Max’s parents.

Calling this film a riot of colour would be an understatement. It is probably enough to bring on seizures in those particularly sensitive to such things. With its reliance on CGI backgrounds and set dressing, Sharkboy and Lavagirl is basically a fantastical cartoon with these three kids dumped in. It was released theatrically in old-school red/green 3D but the DVD and Blu-Ray are just in basic 2D. According to Ebert, the 3D wasn’t that hot anyway, and mostly just muted the colours. As you might expect, there is plenty of stuff flying out at the screen throughout the flick.

Max attempts to emulate Sharkboy’s superweapon: the Scowl of Doom!

For the audience it is aimed at, I can see how it would be enjoyable, however I have some problems with the consistency of the internal logic. If you don’t know what I mean, no matter what type of film you have, it needs rules to work. These rules would normally be established fairly early (and usually explained by a Basil Exposition if they differ greatly from the rules of our real world) and they dictate what is and is not possible within the movie. These rules are called the internal logic, and our acceptance of them is meant when you hear about suspension of disbelief. When they are broken it can take you right out of the film, and in particularly egregious cases it can completely ruin the whole picture. This flick features a major dramatic moment in which a character is drowning and must be rescued. Now here’s my problem: we have already been told that this character has gills. When was the last time you saw a goldfish drowning?

Since the story of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is based around (not to mention inspired by) dreams, I assumed it was going to lead up to the miserable bullied kid finding the strength to put aside his dreamworld and solve his problems in the real world, but alas that was not the case. Instead the ending is based around Lavagirl telling Max to just dream a better dream. That’s not a message I’m sure I can entirely get behind, but I’m not going to dismiss the whole flick on that basis. If you have an eight-to-ten year old kicking about the house – boy or girl; this film has unisex ass-kicking – I suppose there are worse things for them to be watching. Hardly a glowing recommendation, I know.

*I tried to read the first book once. I got halfway down the second page before I through it across the room.


  1. todayiwatchedamovie · August 11, 2012

    I saw this in the theater…alone…in 3D. I didn’t even have a blog to use as an excuse. I remember the film having a timer that the characters would occasionally look at that was really telling how much longer the film had. I also remember annoying on screen prompts that told the audience when to put on / take off their 3D glasses.

    • Ryan McNeely · August 14, 2012

      Yeah, Sharkboy has a countdown timer. At first I thought it would be a realtime counter, but it had 44 minutes on it when there was over an hour of the movie left!

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