The Adventures of Sharkboy And Lavagirl

The Adventures of Sharkboy And Lavagirl (2005)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, Cayden Boyd, David Arquette, Kristin Davis, George Lopez
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette

With the "Spy Kids" movies, Robert Rodriguez has proven that he does have a softer side to himself and that he is able to create family entertainment on an extremely high level. "The Adventures of Sharkboy And Lavagirl" is his latest movie for children taking the special effect approach of the last "Spy Kids" movie one step further by creating a film that is practically shot before green screen in its entirety with scenery, props and effects added in later. And while the movie is a fun ride overall, it is this "virtual set" approach that causes it to stumble in the end.
Many films using virtual sets have problems because actors have to perform in a void, in front of green screens without visual reference and stimulation as to how the actual shot looks like. We have seen great and experienced actors fail at the attempt and to put a similar burden on child actors without the bag of tricks to draw from is making it twice as hard, as witnessed in "The Adventures of Sharkboy And Lavagirl."
The movie's plot is fine and it's pacing and inventiveness are all meticulous but the house of cards collapses because the young actors cannot bring their characters to life convincingly. Every second they are on the screen feels like a "make believe" game. Their eyes wander, sometimes accidentally looking at things off-camera, their acting is stiff and utterly unconvincing and the close-ups show that they are simply not up to the task, as their eyes aimlessly and emotionlessly gaze at pretend objects trying maybe a little too hard to convince.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment is presenting the theatrical 3D version of the film on this DVD as well as a 2D presentation. Coming with four pairs of 3D glasses the 3D effects are okay, but since the red/blue filter thing has never worked that great to begin with, the illusion is straining for the most part. Personally, I much rather viewed the 2D version of the film where it is possible to pay attention to the film as opposed to constantly being aware of the goggles on your nose and your brain telling you to take them off because your eyesight is skewed.
The picture is pristine. Without any blemishes or defects the presentation also boasts colors that are amazingly rich and vibrant. It is an important part of the production design and as such the DVD flawlessly reproduces these nuances and colors. Black levels are solid and add visual depth to the image. No edge-enhancement or compression artifacts are evident.

An aggressive 5.1 Dolby Digital mix accompanies the movie, adding to its roller-coaster appeal. Surrounds are used to great effect and the wide frequency response with the deep bass extension truly helps bring this adventure to life.

As extras the DVD contains a commentary track by director Rodriguez. As usual he is very conversational and easy-going as he talks about the production of the film. He seems to be a bit unaware of the shortcomings of the film but who can blame him, After all it's his movie and he probably recorded the commentary track the week it opened in theaters without having had any chance to let it all sink in.

A making of featurette is also included on the release adding some addition information, though it's mostly promotional in nature.

"The Adventures of Sharkboy And Lavagirl" is not a bad film, but it has its flaws. It's great and colorful bubblegum entertainment for kids as they dive into a world that is made of dreams. It is definitely cool and hip, and the DVD that Buena Vista Home Entertainment has prepared is certainly worth a viewing. Just don't expect Academy Award-winning performances.