A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the line between fantasy and reality is often blurred here, so kids under 7 may be confused about what's imaginary and what isn't. There's some potty and gross-out humor involving 3-D vomiting and passing gas, and some mild action violence that's very cartoonish. One of the young characters was separated from his father. Another character appears to die, but turns out to be fine. Some of the creepy creatures (such as the Plug Hounds and the sharks) may frighten younger kids. Max is bullied by his classmates. Sensitive kids may be upset when Max's parents argue and appear to be on the brink of divorce.
What's the story?
Shy 10-year-old Max (Cayden Boyd) loses himself in an elaborate fantasy world to escape the classmates who bully him and the constant bickering of his parents (David Arquette and Kristin Davis). Max's fourth grade teacher, Mr. Electricidad (George Lopez) encourages Max to keep recording his dreams, but Max makes the mistake of sharing the adventures of Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley) with his class -- and of course no one believes that Max is friends with a boy who was raised by sharks and a girl with supernatural powers who emits red-hot rocks. But then Sharkboy and Lavagirl show up at school one stormy day and plead with Max to come with them to the three-dimensional Planet Drool -- Max's imagination and dreams are the only thing that can save their planet. Max heads to a paradise filled with roller coasters, cool gadgets like a fudge-spewing motorbike, and the delicious Land of Milk and Cookies to help his friends defeat the nefarious Mr. Electric and keep his dreams alive.
Is it any good?
THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVAGIRL IN 3-D may not be Oscar-worthy, but it will definitely please its target audience of elementary-school kids. The novelty of using 3-D glasses alone will make it irresistible; many of today's children have never had the opportunity to see action literally jump out of the screen at them, and they'll be amazed by the eye-popping experience. They'll also get a kick out of the story, which was "based on the intergalactic journeys and superhero stories created by director Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids)'s 7-year-old son Racer Max."
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D borrows heavily from The Wizard of Oz -- from the tornado that sets the action into motion to the appearance of familiar faces in the alternate world (Max's teacher, the class bully, and the object of Max's affection all have important roles in Planet Drool), many parts of the movie feel a little too familiar. But there are enough cool special effects and gadgets to captivate kids, and enough clever references to amuse parents (the kids take The Train Of Thought, float through The Stream of Consciousness, and experience a Brain Storm -- with brains raining from above due to an excess of creativity). The message about following your dreams becomes heavy-handed at times, but kids will be too busy taking in the 3-D images and losing themselves in a vibrant fantasy playground to notice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that this movie was based on the dreams and fantasies of the director's 7-year-old son -- which of your dreams is worthy of a movie? They could also talk about the importance of imagination and turning dreams into reality. Some kids may be inspired to start keep their own dream journal, just like Max.
- In theaters: June 10, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: September 20, 2005
- Cast: David Arquette, George Lopez, Taylor Lautner
- Director: Robert Rodriguez
- Studio: Dimension
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Space and aliens
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action and some rude humor.
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