Never-never land: Making ‘Shark Boy and Lava Girl’ was never-never a good idea

“The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D”

Dimension Films

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Written by Robert Rodriguez and Racer Max Rodriguez

Starring: Cayden Boyd, Taylor Dooley, Taylor Lautner, Jacob Davich, David Arquette, Kristin Davis and George Lopez

Rated PG/ 92 minutes

Opens June 10, 2005

One-and-a-half out of four stars

Every parent goes through it eventually: Your kid comes home from school with a new drawing, something that looks vaguely reminiscent of a giant purple ice cream cone farting out arbitrary crayon scribbles on a white sheet of paper.

You adore your children-you can’t tell them that the drawing sucks, so you force an awkward smile, say, “That’s really great, honey,” and hang it front-and-center on your refrigerator for all the world to see.

Now imagine you’re looking at that drawing through 3-D glasses for an hour and a half, and you’ve pretty much got Robert Rodriguez’s new film, “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.”

Rodriguez based “Adventures” on an idea from his son, Racer Maximillian (yes, that’s his real name), who gets a screenplay credit for his efforts. While one has to admire Rodriguez’s obvious love for his children, it’s safe to say that he’s gotten a bit carried away.

“Adventures” is about a young boy Max (Cayden Boyd) with an active imagination. Most of the film takes place inside Max’s elaborate dream world, which has been described in great detail in his “dream journal.” But Max is entering the fourth grade, and his childhood whimsies are now being threatened by the prospect of Growing Up.

Enter Shark Boy (Taylor Lautner) and Lava Girl (Taylor Dooley), the heroes of Max’s imagination who come to Earth to commission Max to help save their home, Planet Drool.

All of Max’s dreams, of course, are representative of reality. Planet Drool is the embodiment of Max’s imagination, and it’s under attack from evil dream-crushers such as his parents, his teacher and the school bully. And so, with the help of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, it’s up to Max to save Planet Drool-by using his imagination!

His “evil” teacher, who in real life has tried to convince Max to get his head out of the clouds and stop daydreaming, is played by George Lopez, whose performance once again begs the question: Why does George Lopez have his own television show?

In a similarly embarrassing fashion, Max’s parents are David Arquette and Kristin Davis. Arquette, needless to say, is typically stupid and annoying, and as for Davis…well, you can practically hear her desperate, impassioned plea for a “Sex and the City” comeback. Poor Charlotte.

The “message” moments between Max and his parents are painful to watch.

Rodriguez, who earlier this year released the most sophisticated-and easily the best-movie of his career in “Sin City,” has a hell of an imagination, but in the case of “Shark Boy and Lava Girl,” that seems to be almost a curse.

He bogs down what may have been a cute children’s film with an onslaught of animation and special effects, some of which look kind of cool, but which nevertheless completely distract from the fun of the story. From an adult standpoint, it’s already idiotic; in all Rodriguez’s overzealousness, it will be hard even for children to follow and enjoy.

Also, watching a movie wearing those cheap 3-D glasses is really irritating.

This is the same thing that happened during Rodriguez’s previous foray into children’s films, the “Spy Kids” trilogy. The series started out to be promising, but with each successive film Rodriguez tried to do way too much, culminating in the disastrous “Spy Kids 3-D.”

Simply put, the guy needs to calm down. Rodriguez works fast and cheaply, which means he’s got a lot of time and money on his hands to make crap like this.

Like so many children’s movies before it, “Shark Boy and Lava Girl” is about keeping your dreams alive, never growing up, etc. Let me put it this way: Michael Jackson would love this movie.

But if the dreams of young Racer Max continue to inspire such uninspired drivel as this, Rodriguez would be well advised to snap his kid out of it immediately.

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