Spy Kids creator Robert Rodriguez makes the newest movie in the franchise, Spy Kids: Armageddon, a complete family affair, starring Zachary Levi, Gina Rodriguez, Everly Carganilla and Connor Esterson.
The new film keeps some elements from the previous films, while also updating the narrative for a new generation of viewers.
Terrence Tango (Zachary Levi) and Nora Torrez (Gina Rodriguez) are spies, but they haven't told their kids Patty (Everly Carganilla) and Tony Tango-Torrez (Connor Esterson) yet. The main concern for their kids is getting access to a popular video game, while their parents are trying to limit their screen time.
A sinister video game developer, Rey "The King" Kingston (Billy Magnussen), is trying to get his hands on the "Armageddon Code," which would give him the ability to hack every device all over the world.
That's when the spy world for Terrence and Nora converges with their kids, specifically Patty and Tony's love of video games, working together to be successful in the mission.
If you grew up with original Spy Kids or other films in the franchise, Spy Kids: Armageddon certainly has some similar story elements. If you were of fan of Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz's series Chuck, which starred Levi in the title role as a "computer geek" who works with the CIA after sensitive information was downloaded into his brain, Spy Kids: Armageddon will prompt memories of that show as well.
'The only film series in the industry that's created by a family, for other families'
Spy Kids: Armageddon had Rodriguez co-writing the story with his son Racer Max. Rodriguez also had one son working as the composer and another designed the video game, and his daughter created the emojis on the thought bubble in the film, and sings the end credits.
"It's the only film series in the industry that's created by a family, for other families," Rodriguez told Yahoo Canada. "So we wanted to keep that going, especially now that my kids are the age I was when I made El Mariachi and Desperado."
For Rodriguez's kids, they came into the project with a "laundry list" of Spy Kids elements they wanted to bring back. As the filmmaker highlighted, the safe house, high-speed action scenes and video games were at the top of their list.
But Rodriguez also has his own "style guides" for what a Spy Kids movie should include. Firstly, the kids can't know their parents are spies when we start the film.
"It made so much sense that they would give the kids an edge against the villain if they knew video games and their parents didn't," he said.
"The safe house is the greatest thing. They go in as kids, they come out as spies. ... So in that one scene, they will be trained, they will get suited up, they will be ready to take on the world. Kids love transformation. They love empowerment."
Ultimately, for Rodriguez, Spy Kids movies are his favourite to make, "by far."
He added that a movie like this, that comes with the possibility of parents who grew up with Spy Kids wanting to watch it with their children, needed visual effects that look "better than they ever remember" so parents don't "get embarrassed showing the kids."
Director thought Gina Rodriguez would get 'baby fever,' but she was already pregnant
When it came to casting for the Spy Kids parents, Rodriguez knew he had to meet the bar set by Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino from the original film.
"I've known Gina forever, we've always wanted to work together," he said.
"This was perfect timing. In fact, [after] I called her [and told her] 'this movie will give you baby fever,' ... I found out she was pregnant that whole time we were talking, and she didn't know it yet. She was just two weeks pregnant. So she was pregnant ... throughout the movie."
With the actress having a pre-existing friendship with Levi as well, that helped them jump into their characters.
"They walked on with instant chemistry, which is what you want right away," Rodriguez highlighted. "You want them to feel like a real married couple, that these are their kids."
"Everyone was saying, 'Are you going to make the spin-off movie with these two?' They're so entertaining."
While we wait to find out if a possible spin-off could be in the works, we have to say that the performances from the kids, Everly Carganilla and Connor Esterson, are absolutely the highlight of Spy Kids: Armageddon.