From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch: ‘Spy Kids’ dishes up family fun; ‘Bridget Jones’ tackles the single life, personal improvement

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 3, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

One of the hottest films at the box office in recent weeks has been the new film by director Robert Rodriguez, called Spy Kids. Robert Rodriguez is long remembered for making his first film, El Mariachi, that became a hit for the unbelievably low price of $7,000.

Now Rodriguez has given parents a movie they have been looking for. Spy Kids is an entertaining and interesting movie for both children and adults. The six-year-olds in the row ahead of me on a recent Friday night five or six times let out comments of “Cool!”

Spy Kids is a children’s adventure fantasy in the tradition of the James Bond movies. It begins with a mother telling her two children of the story of two spies for the OSS (the original name for the CIA) who meet and marry. We later learn that the kids are hearing a story about their parents.

Carmen (Alexa Vega) and her brother Juni (Daryl Sabara) soon find themselves in the care of Uncle Felix (Cheech Marin) as their parents leave home on some mysterious adventure. Ingrid (Carla Gugino), the children’s mom and Gregorio (Antonio Banderas), their father have taken on a special assignment. The parents get in trouble as they are captured by a children’s television host, Floop (Alan Cumming), who is trying to build a race of robot children who will take over the world.

In the midst of all this, Floop’s followers attempt to capture the children, who escape in a Jules Verne-type undersea ship. Lots of action takes place until Carmen and Juni escape from a large Hispanic city to the castle where their parents are being held.

The final section of the movie is made up of all kinds of exciting adventures the children get into as they make their way to the dungeon of the castle and save their parents.

Spy Kids is filled with mechanical instruments and spy equipment that would make a James Bond groupie jump for joy. Lots of computer designs make for fascinating effects. The acting is right on for this kind of film. Carmen and Juni have lots of sibling rivalry issues to deal with throughout the movie. Spy Kids ends with a good moral as it stresses the importance of family no matter what our differences are.

Robert Rodriguez not only directed the film, but wrote and edited it as well. He brings a distinct Hispanic texture to Spy Kids. Our popular culture in this film is clearly adapting to the millions of Hispanics in our own country and world-wide. The movie was filmed in Austin, Texas, Chile and the Bahamas. The emphasis on family fits well within that cultural background.

Since there are so few family films, Spy Kids easily stands out. There is cartoonish violence. But many parents will find Spy Kids a welcome relief from regular movie fare.

Spy Kids is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested).

*****

In the last four months we have had a series of romantic comedies doing well at the box office. Sandra Bullock played an FBI undercover agent in a beauty pageant in Miss Congeniality. Jennifer Lopez played a career woman without much of a love life of her own in The Wedding Planner. Now in recent weeks the charming Renee Zellweger does an outstanding acting job in Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Early on in Bridget Jones’s Diary we learn that London career woman Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) has decided that at age 32 she will end up living life alone if she doesn’t lose a little weight, stop smoking and cut back on drinking. Friends and relatives are always trying to set her up with an eligible man. One New Year’s party she meets an upper class opinionated lawyer named Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Darcy is wearing a rather ugly reindeer sweater that his mother gave him. The meeting does not go well. Later that night, after watching an episode of Frasier and playing the song “All By Myself,” Bridget decides to begin her diary with its emphasis on personal improvement.

As each day goes by she writes in her diary of her successes and failures toward her goals. Her professional life centers around her job as a communications executive at the publishing house of Pemberly Press. Her boss is Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who is a rather up-front womanizer. The scene where Bridget is presiding at an author’s new book party with Salman Rushdie in the background is hilarious.

After the party Cleaver seduces Bridget at his apartment as the couple begins a whirlwind romance. But Bridget soon comes to realize that Cleaver operates his philandering ways with other women, as he drops one after another. In the midst of splitting up with Cleaver she becomes rather depressed that no matter what she does she will remain single the rest of her life.

In one of the funniest scenes in the film Bridget is invited to a party where everyone is married or a couple. For anyone who is single, newly widowed, or newly divorced the comic scene will ring true as the couples seem totally focused on themselves and unable to talk about anything but their families.

Through a sequence of plot devices Mark Darcy appears back in the picture. The last third of the movie is about Bridget Jones making a decision whether to choose the responsible Darcy or the libertine Cleaver. In this kind of movie you know true love will win out. The enjoyment of the movie is how we see a character like Bridget get to love and happiness. In this film the ending is not pat and lots of fun to watch.

Throughout the film there is a bitter-sweet subplot in which Bridget’s parent’s separate as Bridget’s Mom seeks to find new romance with a television shopping channel celebrity.

Bridget Jones’s Diary is better by a long shot than the previous two romantic comedies. Texas-born Renee Zellweger does a fine London accent — at least for American ears. She is perfect in portraying the person who in a humorous way faces career success with a feeling of aloneness that just won’t go away. Sure, her issues are easy to laugh at. But most of us can identify with some of the situations she finds herself in.

The result is a very entertaining film that will have you laughing out loud many times. If you like the romantic comedy genre you will love Bridget Jones’s Diary. Also be sure to stay for the first part of the credits at the end of the film.

Bridget Jones’s Diary is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It includes strong language and some sexual situations.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cheney and the Spokane Diocese’s Ecumenical Relations Officer.)


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