Sometimes a trip down memory lane is a rather useless waste of time. Our memories are preserved in thick layers of nostalgia, and peeling back that farce reveals a product that is, to modern eyes, quite bad. I do have a degree of respect for director Robert Rodriguez, his ability to bounce from wildly different genres is admirable, and his cavalier attitude towards writing, editing, directing, and often composing his own movies, is something that seems to be more rebellious of the mainstream infrastructure than we’d expect. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl showcases that independent, but oddly large budget attitude, an amalgamation of all the right benefits of each respective style of filmmaking, but with the benefits of neither technique.
Whilst I am impressed by the dedication Rodriguez has for the craft, it doesn’t mean the end product is actually any good. We can appreciate his hard work, his perseverance in the face of tight deadlines and heavy burdens of stress, but Rodriguez falls apart when trying to coax promising or interesting performances from his cast. Move aside the dated CGI, for all its charmless simplicity, it detracts from the much larger issue of flimsy plot and surprisingly muted ideas. It has a need and desire to connect the reality of Max’s (Cayden Boyd) world with his fantasies, and it blurs the two together in a manner that feels sloppy and rather devoid of any thought. It’s predictable, sure, but foreseeable narratives aren’t the be-all and end-all of film, it’s just the story told in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is docile and bland.
There are no characters that really stand out, the insanity of some scenes and the pop culture resurgence of the film far outweighs any quality within. Child performers are excused to some degree, Taylor Lautner isn’t overly dreadful, but for a film to rely on these characters so much without giving them all that much depth, is a lethal gut-punch to the longevity of the film. Furthermore, the CGI and special effects, whilst not detracting from this weak story, are unavoidably poor. A dated feeling that would feature in other Rodriguez works, it feels less like a constraint of the times and more a choice of design, which is bizarre, faux, and wholly underwhelming.
I’m not afraid to admit that I was scared of Mr. Electricidad (George Lopez) when I was a kid, it’s why I’ve avoided this film for so long. Vividly remembering the time I started crying when he first appeared on screen is not my finest moment, but it’s a worthy reminder of just how good these films were to the mind of a child. Cynicism doesn’t play a part in my lack of engagement with The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, though. As we get older, our tastes grow alongside us. Depending on the media we consume, we shape a different palette, but there is no palette out there that can truly find professional or artistic value in this. A film devoid of sense can sometimes be fun, but this isn’t enjoyable, nor is it entertaining, it’s plain bad, with clunky CGI and boring performances slotted in along the way.