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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spy Kids: Mission Critical is an animated Netflix series inspired by the Spy Kids movies. It's geared toward a slightly younger audience than that of the films. The story follows Carmen and Juni Cortez as they enroll in a school for teen agents and head up a team to face off against a clever villain bent on world domination. Violence is the main concern here. Animation helps take the edge off, but the characters do battle adversaries who are bigger and stronger than they are. Expect kicking and punching, plus some gadgets that shock victims. But everyone bounces back quickly from their injuries. Plus, character strengths like leadership and teamwork are clear themes in these engaging adventures.
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What's the story?
In SPY KIDS: MISSION CRITICAL, an unexpected threat to the Organization of Secret Spies forces its closure and the reopening of Spy Kids Academy to train the next generation of agents. After their parents, Gregorio (voiced by Christian Lanz) and Ingrid (Mira Sorvino), go into hiding along with the rest of the O.S.S. agents, Carmen (Ashley Bornancin) and Juni (Carter Hastings) are tasked with leading the Mission Critical team to thwart the efforts of the villain Golden Brain (Tom Kenny) and his counterspy agency, Sinister Wrongdoers Against Mankind's Preservation (S.W.A.M.P.). Together they assemble the most promising academy trainees -- Glitch (Caitlyn Bairstow), Ace (Nicholas Coombe), Scorpion (Nesta Cooper), and Sir Awesome (Richard Ian Cox) -- and jump into battle against Golden Brain, who has his hands full with this eager group of agents-in-the-making.
Is it any good?
This action/adventure animated series is fast-paced fun for kids who aren't quite ready for real baddies and critical combat. Golden Brain is hardly an imposing figure, and his thugs are doltish enough that they're easily manhandled by the intrepid young heroes and heroines. What violence exists isn't disturbing and never seems to have lasting impact, given that everyone seems to bounce back to normal fairly quickly. There is the issue of kids assuming adult responsibilities and holding the line between the world's freedom and its fall to a nefarious force, but even that matter has minimal effect on the show's overall humor.
Viewers who have seen the Spy Kids movies will notice that Mission Critical doesn't have a natural place within the franchise's timeline, even though it revives the Cortez family and references other major players from the first three movies in particular. If your kids are big fans of the movies, this might be an issue initially, but the story charts its own course well enough that they will enjoy it nonetheless. Newcomers to the Spy Kids concept won't get all of the movie references, but it's not enough of a factor that it'll interfere with whether or not they like the show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about TV violence. Is violence a necessity in action/adventure stories? Does it make the story more exciting to have physical encounters between the characters? What kind of violence, if any, bothers you in animated shows like Spy Kids: Mission Critical?
How does this show's story integrate with the Spy Kids movies? Does the animation style help distinguish it from them? What other movies would you like to see revisited in a series?
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