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'Sharkboy' sees life through 3-D glasses

June 10, 2005|Carina Chocano | Times Staff Writer

In return for a little patience with the 3-D glasses and some protracted retinal strain, Robert Rodriguez's "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D" offers a retooled "Wizard of Oz" story elaborately re-imagined as a green screen dream.

"The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D" was based on characters created by Rodriguez's 7-year-old son, Racer, which might explain why the symbolism tends to meander a little. (Do 7-year-olds read reviews? Because that felt weird.)

"Sharkboy's" message -- believe in your dreams, hold on to your dreams, learn to dream with your eyes open, don't stop believing, etc. -- feels like pure dad, though. It's a George Lucas message, a word of comfort to geeky boys who prefer the safety of simulated worlds and possess the means to create them.

Max (Cayden Boyd) is a sad and dreamy boy who copes with problems at home and at school by retreating into a dream world he accesses by sleeping. Given that his parents, played by Kristin Davis and David Arquette, squabble incessantly, and that faux-hawk sporting bully Linus (Jacob Davich) taunts him mercilessly, it's no wonder Max is a champion napper. In his sleep, he escapes to Planet Drool, a lavender and gray 3-D Eden of milk-and-cookies landscapes, talking bubbles, roller-coaster rides and more terrible puns about the subconscious than you'd hear at a Friar's Club roast of Sigmund Freud: There's a Train of Thought, Stream of Consciousness and a literal brainstorm.

Max's friends Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley), a confident pair of pre-adolescent superheroes, roam the baked goods together. Sharkboy, a little tough guy with fins, gills and bolt-cutter teeth, was raised by sharks after losing his father in a maritime disaster. Lavagirl, a violet-haired beauty made of molten rock, longs to know her true identity.

After Max is told twice in one day, by his mother and his bumptious but affable teacher, Mr. Electricidad (George Lopez), to start living in the real world, Sharkboy and Lavagirl crash through the windows of his classroom in a tornado, whisking him off to save their planet.

Drool has been taken over by the evil Minus (Linus in a Count Chocula get-up) and Mr. Electric (Lopez's face in what looks like an antique scuba helmet, with electrical currents for limbs). On Drool, the trio must find the Ice Princess (Sasha Pieterse), possessor of an ice crystal capable of freezing time, and Max must learn to dream with eyes open, in order to wrest his own imagination back from the clutches of hardened pragmatists.

"The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D" is bizarre and (if you can endure the glasses) visually interesting enough, and the script refreshingly free enough ("Wizard of Oz" cribbing aside) of pop culture references and stock characters, that on the whole it feels genuine. Lautner and Dooley are compelling as the sullen, instinctual Sharkboy and the radiant, hot-headed Lavagirl, and it's easy to see why they dominate shy, hesitant Max's dreams. But their hermetic planet has nothing on Max's lush and humid Texas, which, though glimpsed briefly, is as vividly haunting and eerily familiar as a thrillingly ominous dream.


'The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D'

MPAA rating: PG

Times guidelines: Some parts could be scary for very young children

A Dimension Films/Columbia Pictures production. Director Robert Rodriguez. Producer Elizabeth Avellan and Robert Rodriguez. Screenplay by Robert Rodriguez and Marcel Rodriguez. Director of photography Robert Rodriguez. Editor Robert Rodriguez. Costume designer Nina Procter. Music by Robert Rodriguez, John Debney and Graeme Revell. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

In general release.

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