STUDIO: Dimension
MSRP: $29.99
• Creating “Sharkboy and Lavagirl” with Racer Max
• Feature Commentary with Director Robert Rodriguez
• 4 pairs of 3-D glasses

The Pitch

“It’s The NeverEnding Story on Texas loco weed!“

The Humans

Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, Cayden Boyd, David Arquette (8 Legged Freaks), Kristin Davis (Sex In the City), George Lopez (The George Lopez Show)

The Nutshell

When young Max (Boyd) is bullied for making up superhero stories in school, said superheroes (Lautner and Dooley) appear and whisk him off to a world of fantasy to battle the villainous Mr. Electric (Lopez). In 3-D.

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Stumped for ideas for a new family film, and exhausted after making Sin City, writer-director-producer-cinematographer-composer-editor-hairdresser Robert Rodriguez turned to his then six-year-old son for fresh material. This was either inspired and free-thinking, or lazy and desperate. Possibly all of the above.

The Package

1.85:1 anamorphic direct-digital transfer, Dolby 5.1. Image and sound quality are decent, considering the space limitations. This single-sided dual-layer disc contains two versions of the film: the first features anaglyphic (red/blue) 3-D sequences and onscreen instructions for when to put your glasses on, and the second is a straight full-color 2-D presentation. Rodriguez’s commentary accompanies the ‘flat’ version only; it’s clear he doesn’t care for anaglyphic as a presentation format, but until full-color viewing technology becomes widely available this is what we get.

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There is a brief documentary, shot by Rodriguez, detailing how he and his sons brainstormed the movie. No trailers or ads anywhere—you can thank space restrictions for that since Disney/Buena Vista/Miramax/Dimension titles usually feature a forced block.

The disc also has a simple calibration feature so you can get the most out of red/blue 3-D, but if you’re watching on a computer monitor you shouldn’t have to adjust anything.

The Lowdown

Following a frankly gorgeous and engrossing opening sequence depicting the origins of Sharkboy, the action shifts to the real world and quickly devolves into a pile of persecuted-dreamer clichés. We return to the land of fantasy (and 3-D) soon enough, but now with soppy Max in tow; the titular superheroes become background characters in their own movie as the boy works out his issues. It’s frustrating that in a movie about trusting in dreams Rodriguez fails to do exactly that.

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Visually, this production is a step up from Spy Kids 3-D. Greenscreen environments are better integrated, and Rodriguez has cut back on extreme camera moves and gratuitous in-your-face 3-D gags. A sequence on an ice bridge over a chasm is particularly effective in its use of depth and space.

I’m a big fan of 3-D. It’s a format that rarely gets any respect. Its subtleties are easily overlooked and its basic principles often misunderstood. Even with the upcoming big push promised by filmmakers like James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, Peter Jackson, and yes, Big George himself, 3-D faces an uphill battle to become the industry standard its supporters want it to be.

If you really want to get into this stuff, meet me on the discussion thread for this review. I’ll put up some links to 3-D companies and festivals and things.

Hot for teacher? Perv.

6.5 out of 10