September 26, 2010

Sharktopus

Another Roger Corman production with an awesome monster along the lines of Mega Piranha! This one doesn’t have the same amount of life in it as Mega Piranha, but still well worth watching for the sharktopus alone.  

Summary

Sands (Eric Roberts) and his daughter Nicole have created a half-shark, half-octupus creature as a military weapon. Unfortunately, Sharktopus’ wiring goes haywire, and the creature goes on a killing spree along the Puerto Vallarta shoreline. Can Andy, who used to work for Sands, and Nicole stop Sharktopus from killing all the bikini-clad lovelies?

Nutrition Facts  

Vitamin B-Acting: 50%

Most of the acting from the leads is tongue-in-cheek—the actors are clearly in on the joke. Eric Roberts’ cynical, relaxed demeanor served the movie well—the character of Sands is the sort who believes that “civilian deaths are a tragedy, but it’s the price of greatness.” Roberts is the kind of actor I always enjoy watching, even in dorky movies like Best of the Best. (BTW, when I say most of the acting is “tongue-in-cheek, I don’t mean that it’s necessarily GOOD acting. The other actors sink admirably to the usual substellar level of Syfy acting.)

The other actor who obviously enjoyed her role was Liv Boughn, who played the reporter Stacy Everheart. And I’d bet $100 that the scriptwriters purposely gave the character a porny name.

Vitamin B-SFX: 95%

The sharktopus is oh so gloriously fake. Here’s a list of the awesome things it does: 


  
--It eats a few of its victims the way we eat hotdogs.

--It snaps a woman off a bungee line, and a man off a jungle trapeze line.

--It climbs onto various beaches and buildings on the shore. We also get to see it crawl around on land.

--It takes down a yacht.

--It stabs (and sometimes beheads) its victims with steel-tipped tentacles.

I should add that its gills are adorned with spikes, and that the sharktopus honors the b-movie law requiring all sharks to growl underwater.

Vitamin Fun: 65%

The movie starts off strong, then about 35 minutes in there’s a long stretch when it drags, and then it picks up again about 20 minutes away from the end. During that slow stretch Eric Roberts stays offscreen most of the time, and there isn’t as much Sharktopus action—the best Sharktopus bits come in the first and last parts of the movie.

Even so, Asylum Films and Syfy have figured out that a good monster ups the fun in Syfy Original Movies considerably. Sharktopus is undeniably the star of the show, which makes this movie one of the more fun Syfy offerings.

Sugar: 30%

There’s quite a bit of forced romantic tension between Nicole and Andy—another reason I kicked down the Vitamin Fun rating a few notches. Romance gets tedious quickly in Syfy movies, at least for me.

Also, the plot features father-daughter tension between Sands and Nicole. Nicole gets angry at Sands for leading her into an unethical project, despite the fact that she pretty much gave up her life to become a top-level scientist to please him. But all is forgiven at the end, when Sands die after Sharktopus slits his throat with a steel-tipped tentacle. (You go, Sharktopus!)

Plot Fiber: 30%

 

The plot’s pretty straightforward, so not as many jaw-dropping plot twists as in other Syfy flicks. Still, there are some plot elements that bear further scrutiny:

1) The whole idea of Sharktopus in the first place. Just how effective a military weapon can it be if you can just kill it with one well-placed missile?

2) Why do Nicole and Sands chase Sharktopus in a small, open-air boat with so few weapons? I get they have to keep their pursuit of Sharktopus a secret, but still, they could have gone out in a larger boat without attracting undue attention. 


  
3) Speaking of Sands, he keeps insisting that Sharktopus “planned this ambush” and that he’s “highly intelligent.” To me this sounded a lot like the “psychic” shark from Jaws: The Revenge.

4) Like every other seabeast b-movie, the sharktopus prefers resort areas with lots of bikini babes and lusty young men.

5) A minor character named Pez Kingsberry gets one glimpse of the sharktopus early in the movie, and instantly turns into a raging alcoholic overnight. (Pez serves as Stacy Everheart’s source for the sharktopus story.) Why not just flee inland? (And is "Pez Kingsberry" another porny name?)

Supplements:

Pseudoscience Pill: 20%

The movie doesn’t go into the details of Sharktopus’ genetic engineering, which is kind of a shame because that really had potential for loopy pseudoscience. The most we get is that Roberts had the team tweak Sharktopus’ serotonin levels to make him more aggressive.

But the bit that raised my eyebrows concerns Sharktopus’ remote control unit. At the beginning of the film, Sharktopus sports a metal contraption on his head by which Nicole transmits electric signals that control his neural impulses. I seriously question how effective that would be in real life, though I know that implantable devices exist for controlling certain types of epilepsy.

The truly implausible part of the remote control unit is the fail-safe device though. The kill switch also depends on a remote connection, so once Sharktopus’ contraption gets broken, there’s no way to kill him! UNLESS…the characters shoot an “interface dart” that will magically avoid breaking the implanted device in Sharktopus’ head and re-establish the remote connection to the kill switch. 


Likelihood of choking: 40%

Political Pill: 5%
Lip service is paid to the ethical questions behind genetic engineering, but Sharktopus usually interrupts the characters’ rants before they get too long. 


Likelihood of choking: 0%

PS—Do a Google search and check out all the awesome tributes to Sharktopus imaginative fans have come up with. These two are my favorites: 


Origami Sharktopus! 

OOH--a cuddly Sharktopus!
 

September 21, 2010

Megafault



I saw a commercial for this movie a few weeks ago and decided to see it after seeing the word “mega” in its title. Little did I know that it had more than one established actor, well above the average for a Syfy Original Movie. The movie stars the recently departed Brittany Murphy, of Clueless fame, Eriq LaSalle from “ER” (back when it was a good show), and Bruce Davison, better known as Senator Kelly from the X-Men movies. And as a bonus, Paul Logan, AKA Jason from Mega Piranha! (Syfy movies frequently cross-pollinate, but this was kind of ridiculous. Still, seeing Jason again was one of the few bright spots for me during Megafault.)

Despite the above-average cast, Megafault ranks among the stupidest Syfy movies I’ve ever seen. I hesitate to declare it THE stupidest of them all, because the field is really competitive, but it comes darn close. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the movie.

Plot Summary

A hitherto unknown “deep fault” opens up in West Virginia, and travels westward through the country. Can Dr. Amy Lane (Brittany Murphy) and demo man Boomer (Eriq LaSalle) find a way to stop Megafault from destroying the country? (BTW, the characters actually call the earthquake “Megafault” during the movie—it’s not just the movie title!)

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 80%

The rating would have been higher had anybody shown an ounce of life and put some ham into their acting. Frankly, the sheer lack of emotion is quite amazing—most of the time characters react to events like zombies. Megafault definitely comes across as a “we needed the money to pay our bills” sort of movie.

Vitamin B-SFX: 90%

Oh, this is a gold mine of bad SFX. Here were my favorite moments:

1) The plumes of black smoke over Washington, DC. Notice how they’re not moving at all? Normally smoke blows with the wind. These smoke plumes just hang in the air as if they’d been sprayed with 10 pounds of Aquanet. On a similar note, one smoke plume that actually moves was clearly put on a motion cycle—if you watch carefully, the smoke moves for one cycle, then repeats the exact same motions over and over again.

2) The giant cracks in the earth are clearly fake. At one point, when watching the fault make its way to Louisville, KY, it looked like someone had used the Smudge function on Adobe Photoshop to make the fault. You could see the smudging as the fault moved!

3) Laser-guided fault lines. The fault lines would ALWAYS pursue characters. Earthquakes are vindictive creatures, y’know. 

4) Small towns in Wyoming melting away and people randomly bursting into flames when the Yellowstone volcano gets reactivated. Now this is a classic Syfy SFX moment!

Then of course there’s the charming last shot, which is an aerial shot of the US with a huge gash from West Virginia to Arizona.



Vitamin Fun: 30%

Despite the high ratings I’ve given so far, this is a surprisingly dull movie. It’s the sort of movie in which every scene gets stretched out for a few too many seconds. We spend far more time watching Amy Lane mope and not doing her job than watching Megafault destruction. You’re likely to find yourself checking your watch to see when the movie will end.

Sugar: 10%

Amy Lane wants to be with her family. Like, really really wants to see her little girl and her husband. But she can’t, because, like, she has to stop some dumb humongous earthquake from killing a zillion people. Finally Boomer comes up with a way to stop it, and she reunites with her girl and husband. Only problem is, by then I was itching to give Amy a good slap for being completely self-absorbed and indifferent to the larger catastrophe.

Plot Fiber: 0%

Most of the problems with logic will show up in the “Pseudoscience Pill” section in this review, but there are a few non-science things that go here…all concerning Dr. Amy Lane. (Can you tell yet how much I loathed this character?)

Here are some of the things Amy Lane does:

1) She repeatedly goes off to complain to Boomer about not being with her family, or mope about not being with her family, rather than staying at emergency headquarters to fix a national catastrophe. Amy, your daughter is with your husband, it’s not like she’s wandering around on her own. Meanwhile, millions of people are dying, and you’re apparently the top expert on tectonics. Get your priorities straight, Amy. 

2) It’s ultimately Boomer who comes up with the solution that stops the Megafault, not the tectonics expert (she had to go mope some more). 

The 47th moping scene in the movie

3) Amy has Jason (okay, his Megafault character is named “Boyd,” but to me he will always be Jason) fly a helicopter straight to Louisville…to help FEMA set up? To give local officials warning of the fault headed their way? No. It’s so they can try to rescue Boomer’s mother.

4) Another helicopter incident—this movie has a thing for helis—after the Louisville scenes, Amy and Boomer steal Boyd’s helicopter and are chased by fighter planes. (I should add that Amy got Boomer to steal the plane so she could go look for hubby and daughter, not so she could do something to stop the earthquake.) Boomer and Amy don’t take the fighters seriously and think they can just SHRUG THEM OFF. Similarly, once Amy and Boomer are taken to a military base under escort for stealing a helicopter, Amy proceeds to order around the base commander. What military person would tolerate this doo-doo in real life???

I’ve gone on long enough—time to move on to pseudoscience.

Supplements

Pseudoscience Pill

Oh, boy. Talk about a pseudoscience landmine.

Simply put: tectonic plates just don’t work the way they do in this movie. If they did, Earth would have fallen apart by now.

Real tectonic plate movements involve a great deal of pushing and pulling. You’re not going to have two plates start flying away from each other, as in the movie, without catastrophic effects everywhere else. I’d bet that even North American cities far away from the so-called giant fissure, like Seattle and Miami, would suffer bad earthquakes.

Speaking of giant fissures, the fissures in the movie were unrealistic, and that is being very generous. The fissures in Megafault seem to follow a universal movie law that requires fissures to chase the heroes with laser-like accuracy. More importantly, however, real-life earthquakes don’t come close to creating such large fissures. For more examples of how movies regularly take liberties with earthquakes, check out this page.

Fissure: "Ah...I smell the heroine's hubby and little girl in that truck. MUST. GET. THEM."

The groundwater-freezing satellite scheme was nuts. How the heck can you FREEZE an earthquake into stopping? If plates are going to move, they will move and ain’t nothing stopping them.

Then there’s the Yellowstone volcano. Or caldera, I should say. Once Boomer and Amy get caught up in their plan to blow up mines and create an earthquake block (!!!), the caldera is forgotten entirely. If this caldera is capable of blowing up the entire world, uh, shouldn’t people be paying more attention to that fact after the earthquake threat is dealt with? Anybody who has read Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa will appreciate what kind of threat a cataclysmic eruption poses to human life.

Likelihood of choking: 100% 

"I'm just a li'l caldera. Ignore the lava, it won't hurt you. La la laa..."

Political Pill

Amy throws out a few flimsy lines about how ill-prepared cities are for earthquakes, but these lines have about as much impact as one drop of rain falling into the ocean. 

Likelihood of choking: 0.5%

"X-Men made more sense, and it was a comic book movie!"

September 19, 2010

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor


No one ever mistook the original Mummy movie for a masterpiece. The original Mummy serves its purpose as a fun, mindless action-filled flick. The Mummy II, with the Rock, suffered from sequel decay, but not nearly to the same degree as the subject of today’s post.

Ah, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor…where do I start?

Actually, it’s pretty easy to summarize this movie’s problems, in descending order of seriousness:

1)    The criminally lame dialogue and jokes
2)    Brendan Fraser’s disturbingly youthful appearance
3)    Magical mumbo-jumbo galore

Plot Summary

Rick and Evy O’Connell’s son, Alex, discovers the tomb of the evil Dragon Emperor, played by Jet Li. Rick and Evy (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello, respectively) go to China to try to repair their damaged relationship with Alex (Luke Ford) and to see the tomb. Unfortunately, a Chinese general tricks the O’Connells into helping him bring the Dragon Emperor back to life. The O’Connells must band with two hot immortal Chinese women, Zi Yuan and Lin, to defeat the Emperor. Will they succeed in putting the Emperor back to rest? Will the audience survive the barrage of bad jokes?

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 65%

Most of the acting is pretty standard for lame Hollywood action flicks. Evy’s brother Jonathan (John Hannah) bears most of the responsibility for any truly abhorrent acting. Jonathan has the most over-the-top acting style of the gang, and holds the dubious honor of delivering many of the movie’s worst jokes, including a gag based on yak puke.

To further illustrate the jokes’ low quality, here’s another example:

During a chase scene, a firecracker hits Jonathan in the tushy, and sets his pants on fire.
           
Rick: YOUR ASS IS ON FIRE! (Starts beating fire with his coat)
            Jonathan: SPANK MY ASS! (Repeat six times)

Jonathan, shortly before his ass got spanked.

The rest of the 65% comes from Rick and Evy’s forced delivery—at times the lines are so clunky that a pirouetting elephant would have been more eloquent by comparison. Perhaps their marriage would have had more sparkle if they’d laid off the clich├ęd double entendres. Let those poor entendres die in peace already, guys!

I’m not going to let Alex O’Connell off easy, either. Alex hits on Lin repeatedly, and the lameness of his pick-up lines was nothing to sneeze at.

Jet Li is easily the most interesting to watch in the latter portion of the movie. At times he gets a pained look on his face, as if he’s thinking, “Was I drunk when I agreed to do this movie?”

"I'm supposed to let BRENDAN FRASER beat me?!?"
Vitamin B-SFX: 30%

The special effects are nothing spectacular by Hollywood standards, though of a higher quality than a Syfy Original Movie. This movie’s biggest problem is its script, not the effects.

Though I have to say I found the Emperor’s “transformations” into various monsters pretty funny. The older of the Chinese women, Zi Yuan, stresses the Emperor’s ability to change into “the most hideous creatures ever seen” over and over again. Yet the creatures he changes into are actually pretty disappointing. I found myself thinking, “This was the most ‘hideous’ beast they could come up with?” 

Only three heads?

Vitamin Fun: 25%

You’ll quickly grow numb to the rapid-fire special effects, and the dialogue will leave you with a permanent facial tic. You may also find yourself fantasizing about different ways to kill Jonathan. (I rooted for the yeti to throw Jonathan off the mountain, but to no avail.)

Sugar: 15%

The amount of lameness flattens several potentially sugary subplots, which include Alex wanting to escape from his famous parents’ shadow, Alex trying to woo an immortal babe, and Rick and Evy rekindling the spark in their marriage.

Plot Fiber: 5%

The movie tries to make us swallow two implausible assertions:
           
1)   That the youthful-looking Brendan Fraser is old enough to have a twenty-something-year-old son, played by an actor who sometimes looks older than Fraser. Same goes for Maria Bello. 

Quick! Which is the father, which is the son?

 2)   That the schoolboyish Brendan Fraser could beat Jet Li. 

Of course, the only reason Fraser can accomplish #2 is thanks to the random magic in this movie. Evil emperor about to blast you to bits? Just call the yeti for help! But seriously, good luck keeping track of the roles played by the magic crystal, Shangri-La, the five elements, and the Great Wall in this magic “system.”

The other really implausible bit in the movie concerns the Chinese military’s plans to take over China with the help of an ancient emperor. The movie is set in 1946. The atomic bomb had been invented by then. Even if the emperor is all-powerful, wouldn’t nuclear weapons be troublesome for a clay army? Just asking…

Political and Pseudoscience Pills: N/A

September 13, 2010

Wraiths of Roanoke


(Also known as "The Lost Colony," but "Wraiths" is a WAY better title.) 


The Syfy Original Movies tend to come in bunches—for instance, for a while a lot of new natural disaster movies were appearing, then a whole bunch of movies based on myths and legends. “Wraiths of Roanoke” emerged during Syfy’s ghost phase.

Normally the paranormal Syfy movies are not my favorites, but this one gets a special exception. The story is based on the Lost Colony, one of the great “mysteries” of history. (As far as I’m concerned, however, it’s not really a mystery what happened to them, but more on that later.) Knowing the backstory will come in handy as you read the review, so here’s a brief summary: the “Lost Colony” refers to a group of English colonists who attempted to start a colony in 1585 on Roanoke Island, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. (FYI, they thought they were in Virginia, so their leader named his baby daughter “Virginia.”) The colonists immediately had problems with starvation and disease, and a small deputation returned to England for more supplies. When the deputation returned three years later, the colonists were gone, with only a single word carved into a tree as a clue: “Croatoan.” The local natives were Croatoans, so presumably they were involved with the colonists’ disappearance.

Anyway, “Wraiths” is one of my Syfy pets because my family used to take vacations in the Outer Banks every summer. As a result, I’m very familiar with Bodie and Roanoke Island. Naturally I saw this movie so I could see just much liberty they took with the story. I was not disappointed.

Plot Summary

Ananias Dare arrives at Roanoke Island with a group of colonists. But an unruly gang of ghosts starts hunting the colonists. Ananias and the local Croatoan leader, Manteo, have to find a way to stop the ghosts and save their people. (It goes without saying that there’s native-vs-colonist trouble in between ghost appearances.)

Nutrition Facts:

Vitamin B-Acting: 60%

Nobody really brings on the ham in this movie, but there is plenty of lackluster acting. Ananias does a lot of frowning and shouting orders. 

Ananias also spends a lot of time staring.
 Manteo uses variations of the same expression throughout the movie. His acting style depends heavily on the ancient "Wise Indian" Hollywood stereotype. No matter what emotion the character might be feeling, his/her expression will always have the same basic grim set. For example, here we have "Grief-Stricken Yet Philosophical Wise Indian":


Here we have "Angry Wise Indian":


Eleanor, Ananias’ wife and the mother of Virginia Dare, displays a similar range of emotions in her own acting. I’d also like to add that she does not resemble a 1500s colonist so much as she resembles the anorexic models you see on the covers of smutty fantasy novels. 

Not bad for a starving, diseased colonist, eh?
As for baby Virginia, apparently she was the size of a 6-8 month old from the moment she was born. Eleanor must have had pretty roomy hips.

Vitamin B-SFX: 70%

Now we get to the really fun stuff—the Viking ghosts! They consist of skeletons wearing ragged robes. A couple of the ghosts wear those horned Viking helmets and wave spears around. Most of the time the ghosts kill by touching a colonist and instantly turning him into a desiccated corpse. During one attack, a ghost spits out what looks like a stream of phantom bees at an unfortunate colonist.

The best thing about the ghosts, though, is how their sounds are captioned. (I’m hearing-impaired and watch all of my movies and TV with captions. You’d be surprised how often captioning “enhances” a Syfy flick.) Every sound they make is “ominous.” They howl ominously, they scream ominously, they even whisper ominously! 

"Ya got the mead? All right, time to party ominously, dude!"
 Vitamin Fun: 40%

Despite the presence of Viking ghosts, this movie is pretty dull. It was fun for me, personally, because I know the land and history well and I had a great time figuring out where the movie took artistic license with the story. This is the sort of movie better endured with fellow hecklers (or a strong drink).

Sugar: 10%

Aww…Eleanor and Ananias give their lives to try to save Virginia…and when they die, Manteo (who’s made up with Ananias by then) takes Virginia to raise as his own. Nonetheless, chances are you won’t be reaching for the Kleenex, because the “sad” stuff happens at the end. By then, you just won’t care who lives or dies.

Plot Fiber: 0%

Let’s analyze the whole “Viking ghost” thing in more detail, shall we?

Ananias is the one who figures out that the colonists are being hunted by “wraiths,” a special kind of spirit from Norse legend that sucks men’s souls. How does Ananias know this? Apparently while he sailed around Scandinavia during his trading trips, he became an amateur scholar of Norse legend and history. Keep in mind this is during the latter half of the 1500s. 

"Believe me, Manteo, runes are a total babe magnet."
It gets better. At one point he and Manteo sneak into a cave that holds the secret to the ghosts’ origin. One wall is covered in Norse runes, and of course Ananias can READ the runes. I think the real Ananias Dare would have been a lot more concerned with surviving sea journeys back then and less so with learning runes.

Here’s what the runes say about the ghosts:

A long time ago, a Viking ship went off course and landed in North Carolina. (That must have been quite a change of climate for those guys.) The Viking explorers then killed a witch and two of her followers, whom they blamed for their problems. Somehow this caused Roanoke to become overrun with ghosts—why there’s more than three ghosts is never fully explained.

From this information, Ananias decides that the only way to get rid of the ghosts is to help them cross to Valhalla. Since the Vikings sent off their dead on burning ships, they have to do the same for the ghosts. Apparently baby Virginia’s purity attracts the ghosts, so they use her as bait to lure them onto a burning raft. All the surviving colonists die during this process.

Yes, that’s how Syfy explains the “Lost Colony” mystery. They all got killed by a bunch of Viking ghosts, except for Virginia.

It is complete bunk, despite the movie’s claim that it’s a recreation of “actual events.” Most likely the “Lost Colony” either died of starvation and disease or were killed by natives, or they got tired of waiting to die and joined the natives to survive. (There were later reports of blue-eyed Indians in the area.) To see why the “joining the natives” theory is likely, take a look at a movie called “The New World” with Colin Farrell. It does a good job of depicting the contrast between the Jamestown colonists’ horrific living situation with the natives’ relative prosperity. Why wouldn’t the Roanoke colonists prefer to adopt the tried-and-proven methods of the people who actually knew the land and climate?

Speaking of the land, wherever “Wraiths” was filmed, it sure as heck wasn’t in the Outer Banks. There are mountains, MOUNTAINS visible in the background in many scenes. The Outer Banks have dunes, beaches, some swampy areas, some thinly forested areas, but MOUNTAINS? No.

Supplements:

Pseudoscience Pill: N/A

Political Pill:
 
For years, there was a sign next to the main highway in the Outer Banks saying that Virginia Dare had been the first child born in the New World. The Indian babies didn’t count, of course. Eventually the state changed this sign to “first English child born in the New World.” (Grudgingly, though.) 

"Okay, okay, we changed the sign already!"
At the end of “Wraiths,” we see a caption saying, “Virginia Dare was the first child born in the New World.”

LONG LIVE POLITICAL INCORRECTNESS!!!

Likelihood of choking: 80%

And if you ever visit Roanoke Island, don't forget to check out the "Lost Colony Outdoor Drama"!


September 7, 2010

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl


For a long time, it appeared that I would never see this movie in its entirety. I caught tantalizing glimpses of its terribleness over the last few years. However, whenever I tried to watch the whole thing, the channel would go on the fritz. Apparently the TV was just too ashamed to show more than 30 seconds of the movie at a time.

A few years ago, I saw a review of “Sharkboy and Lavagirl” that provided some interesting background. The director’s son, Racer Rodriguez, a seven-year-old, came up with the story, and the director and another relative wrote the actual script. The critic nicely pointed out that maybe family films are meant to stay exactly where they belong…in the family. Such films should not be inflicted upon an unsuspecting public in a national release.

You might be thinking, “Aw, it was written by a seven-year-old. That’s so cute—a father/son film project! People shouldn’t pick on them for making a movie.” I DO think it’s great that Robert Rodriguez loves his kid enough to encourage his creativity and get in quality bonding time on a movie. However, remember the following: 1) adults wrote the final script, not the kid; and 2) this movie sucks even by kiddie flick standards.

Plot Summary

Max, a young boy with a fertile imagination, daydreams about two superheroes named Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Suddenly, Sharkboy and Lavagirl start to appear in Max’s real life, and they need his help to save their home world from an evil being. If Max can’t stop the evil being, Sharkboy and Lavagirl will die, along with their world. (The plot is more convoluted than this, but I have only so much space for the review. You’ll get the other tidbits as you read on.)

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 95%

George Lopez wins the grand prize in this category, thanks to his hamminess, bug eyes and leaden pun delivery. He plays Mr. Electricidad, Max’s teacher, and appears as an evil TV on Sharkboy and Lavagirl’s home planet. The hamminess is interesting, to say the least, in its inconsistency. I’m guessing that Mr. Electricidad was originally intended to be a well-meaning but clueless teacher, but he comes off as someone who regularly goes trippin’. When he’s not zoning out, his overdone acting occasionally leads to unintentional creepy moments. Let’s just say there are times when Mr. Electricidad seems a little TOO interested in who has a crush on his daughter. 

"Now, now, Mr. Lopez, winning the Bad Acting Award is a HONOR! Don't be shy!"
 In the kid actor category, Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley) takes the prize for worst acting. None of the kids turn in Oscar-worthy performances in this movie, but at least the others generally have more than two facial expressions. Lavagirl’s expressions consist of “bored/happy” and “bored/put-out.”

Lavagirl bravely ponders life's mysteries while Mars prepares to crush her.
Vitamin B-SFX: 80%

Before I go into the special effects themselves, I have to name the one thing the script writers should have changed from the original story, if only to protect Racer Rodriguez from future humiliation.

What is the name of Sharkboy and Lavagirl’s home planet? Is it Jupiter, Klingon, Hoth, what?

No. It’s “Planet Drool.”

Yes. “Planet Drool.” The name bears absolutely no relation to what is actually on the planet, and it’s completely out of place with the names of places Max, Lavagirl and Sharkboy visit on the planet. Besides, it’s just plain stupid-sounding.

Speaking of planets, Drool is the star of the B-SFX show in this movie. Picture a planet with ‘90s-level computer graphics, a purple surface with occasional blobs of radioactive green goop, and a sky in which other planets like Jupiter seem alarmingly close to falling down, and you’ve got Drool. (See Lavagirl picture above for a "falling planet" example.) Everything is brightly colored, but clearly fake-looking. 

Jupiter bides its time, and keeps Max in its crosshairs...(evil laughter)
Now, I could see how a cartoonish environment would work for a film revolving around a child’s imagination. The problem is that it isn’t pulled off well here. The effects look too cheap.

I did like the cute sharks though. I wouldn’t have minded pet sharks when I was little! (They would have lived in the dollhouse, no doubt.)

Vitamin Fun: 25%

This is not a particularly fun movie to sit through. Though it’s only 90 minutes, it feels much longer. You could argue that the “What the Heck?” elements make for a few good derisive laughs, but the script is often very earnest and unsubtle in a way that will pain most viewers over age 12. Or possibly over age 10.

Sugar: 70%

(The Piano of Tears starts playing)

Will Max’s parents rediscover their love and keep from getting divorced?

Will Max convert the nasty bully to goodness? (sob…sob)

Will Max’s old robot Tobor ever work again, and stop creeping us out with his dismembered flying eyes and jaw?

Will Sharkboy ever find his father? (Piano tinkles out a few forlorn notes)

Finally…will Lavagirl “find” herself?

That last one comes out of nowhere about 45 minutes into the movie. Max has arrived on Drool, and he has to stop the evilness from spreading before it destroys Drool, Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and possibly himself. But wait—Lavagirl just HAS to know what Max wanted her purpose in life to be! She’s all depressed that she’s a force of destruction, and nobody likes forces of destruction. 

"I know the chocolate cake is trying to kill us now, Max, but why did you make me a PINK volcano?"
Personally, I think Lavagirl had it all wrong. She ought to take a page from the Hawaiian goddess of fire Pele’s book, and make all the lowly humans bow down before her. She could demand bottles of Kahlua as a sacrifice!

Plot Fiber: 15%

I had a hard time following the plot, even allowing for the heavy fantastical elements. For instance, a major plot point involves Max’s attempts to recollect the details of the Planet Drool he once imagined. To do this, he has to sleep, so he can “remember” the dreams he used to have. But often Lavagirl and Sharkboy prevent him from dreaming, because if his nightmares come true, they will happen on Planet Drool. But if Max can just find his dream journal, which will give him all the info he needs, why does he need to actively dream?

Confused yet? I sure was—before long I found myself wishing Sharkboy and Lavagirl would just make up their minds and either let Max sleep or not sleep. The movie script doesn’t really distinguish between dreams and imagination, which contributes to the confusing back-and-forth over dreaming vs. no dreaming. 
To his credit, Jacob Black...er, I mean Sharkboy, actually kicks some butt in this movie. 
 
 The other problem with the dreaming business is that it opens the plot to deus ex machina galore. Just when Max, Sharkboy and Lavagirl are in a pickle, Max can “dream” something that will save them.

Then there are the insane bubbles. I can only describe them as pinkish bubbles with watermelon-shaped mouths, perky eyes, and squeaky voices. They basically show up out of nowhere when Max and his friends are in jail, and they break them out of jail by squeaking and squeaking until Sharkboy goes into a frenzy and bites through the steel. Really. I’m not kidding.

The movie finally ends with Max back on Earth, his parents back together, Mr. Electricidad suddenly having been turned into a “better teacher,” and the nasty bully turned nice. Lavagirl settles into a nice volcano, and Sharkboy rules the oceans again. And I am still trying to figure out what those insane bubbles were…

Pseudoscience and Political Pills: Not applicable for this movie 

"And to cap off our Homicidal Celestial Body Tour, ladies and gentlemen, I give you...NEPTUNE!"