- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

Robert Rodriguez remains the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of modern cinema.

To many, Mr. Rodriguez is the indie maverick, a filmmaker who shoots and chops, as he puts it, bizarro films such as “El Mariachi” and “Sin City.”

To those same people’s children, he’s a softie, cranking out kiddie fare such as the “Spy Kids” films and now “The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3-D,” a bloated tale that should dazzle the under-13 set while leaving adults wondering what George Lopez is doing in two, let alone three, dimensions.

“Sharkboy” is spun from the dreams of young Max (Cayden Boyd), a beaten-down lad who escapes the school bullies by imagining a world filled with heroes like the title characters. It’s all kid stuff until Max realizes that his fertile mind has created an actual parallel universe and that the good guys within need Max’s help.

He takes off to Planet Drool alongside Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (the appealing Taylor Dooley) to prevent said planet from plunging into darkness. Once there, the trio must battle Mr. Electric (Mr. Lopez), who looks suspiciously like Max’s elementary school teacher, but with a nifty picture tube for a noggin.

David Arquette and Kristin Davis share the thankless role of Max’s parents, appearing just long enough to show that they could have been an asset to “Shark’s” storytelling had their stay been extended.

Between the computer-generated treats lie a few lessons about the value of dreaming, friendship and selflessness, all given a goose by Mr. Rodriguez’s puckish screenplay.

Anyone rooting for a 3-D comeback will come away sore at “Sharkboy.” The film switches from 3-D to traditional dimensions at several points here, and every time the screen flashes “Glasses Off,” it’s a relief. The 3-D sequences appear nearly colorless, and most of the images purportedly heading our way are projectiles spat out by our heroes. The movie should teach a new generation that 3-D glasses are rarely worth the trouble.

“The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3-D” tantalizes with talk of the Land of Milk and Cookies and imagery both playful and surreal, but wouldn’t it be nice if Mr. Rodriguez could combine his split personas and make a film suitable for young and old alike?

**1/2

WHAT: “The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3-D”

RATING: PG (Violent action sequences and a mild excretory joke)

CREDITS: Written, produced and directed by Robert Rodriguez

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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