This movie spends a lot of time and energy on the importance of dreams and imagination, delivering its message in both form and content. I wish it had spent a little more time and energy on the importance of structure, character, story, and depth.
Yes, of course dreams and imagination are necessary, but without focus and meaning they are cotton candy — a sweet delight for a moment until it melts away, leaving a sugar buzz and a sticky film on your teeth.
Dazzling effects and whimsical humor don’t make up for a flabby and uninspired story. It’s not a watered-down version of
Max (Cayden Boyd) is a dreamy kid who keeps a notebook filled with stories about the characters he has imagined, including Sharkboy, a boy raised by sharks, and Lavagirl, who can shoot fire from her fingertips. Kids at school make fun of him and his practical-minded mother (Kristen Davis) reminds him to stick to reality: “Dreaming keeps you from seeing what’s right in front of you.”
But one day, what’s in front of Max is Sharkboy and Lavagirl in person. They come right into his schoolroom and tell him they need his help to save their home on Planet Drool, which is being attacked by Mr. Electric (George Lopez), his sidekick Minus, and an army of electric plugs. Max hops into their spaceship, and off they go.
The stars of the movie are real kids, not Hollywood kids. That means that they have a nice, unaffected quality, but it also means that they are not really actors. The real stars of the movie are the special effects, which are as much fun as a banana split (actually, one of the best really is a banana split). There are some charming ideas, like a real-life “Stream of Consciousness” but there is too much to see and not enough to think about. The people who made this movie should have taken the advice of Tobor the robot to “dream a better dream, a useful dream.”
Parents should know that the movie has a lot of mild peril and some action-style violence, including getting hit in the crotch and getting an electric shock (no guns and no one badly hurt). There is brief schoolyard language and some barfing and spitting. A strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of strong, capable female and minority characters who demonstrate loyalty and respect for each other.
Families who see this movie should talk about who was right, Max’s mother or father. Is there a way to make both happy? Why did the teacher say he was “an awakener?” How do teachers learn from their students? Families might want to talk about bullies and how to respond to them. And they should also think about keeping a journal like Max’s.
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