Friday, February 12, 2010

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl

Once, when one of my nephews was about ten, he told me a story. It began as a story about Little Red Riding Hood, but quickly turned into a twisty, incoherent narrative filled with action, digressions, and jokes about flatulence. It was amusing, especially as the narrative went progressively off the rails and quickly became an outlet for his odd sense of humor, but really it made no sense after the first sentence. It was great that he had a wild imagination and a gift for fart gags, but let's be honest, it was not screenplay material. Racer Max Rodriguez had a similar story, but his dad is Robert Rodriguez, famous filmmaker and hat enthusiast. So his insane story was made into a film called The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.

In order to have the fact that it makes no sense somehow make a little sense, it's all about dreams. Cayden Boyd is Max, a dreamer, who dreams up the story of Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner), a boy who is raised by sharks, and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley) his partner in awesome, who is made of, well, lava. They live on the ridiculously named "Planet Drool". Obsessed with his dreams, he presents them as what he did last summer, earning the scorn of Linus (Jacob Davich) who bullies him, and the concern of his teacher Mr. Electridad (George Lopez). But the joke's on them, because his dreams - which involve a lot of bad CGI, incidentally - become real, and he has to save his dreams from evil and his big angry bully friend.

As a dream narrative written by a young kid, stuff doesn't make sense. Dad tries to make things come together, but like all young kid stories, it keeps going into traps and then having convenient ways of getting out of them. Things are introduced just because they need to be exist to keep the story needs to continue, even if everyone involved freely admits that it's really just stringing things along. It's sort of amusing, perhaps, but hardly something to build a story on.

It's not just an incoherent narrative, it's also an experiment in CGI sets. The look of the movie is low rent, strangely unattractive, and it looks dated and bereft of art direction. It's just ugly, and things work in an obviously artificial and overly smooth ways. It's like the worst CGI sequences of the worst games, and it just looks bad.

Not that it's all bad though. The kids are usually an engaging screen presence, even Taylor Lautner, who has since made his name in the sparkly vampire movie - and if there's a film series that will rob you of any charisma you might have, it's a sparkly vampire movie. In fact, here he brings a lot of personality to the role of Sharkboy, and one can't help but think that it's a shame that he's going to be typecast as a sparkly vampire or whatever the hell he's supposed to be (I genuinely have no idea or interest in what that series is supposed to be about) and never get real work again. The rest of the kids are actually quite good as well, with Dooley being likable even when her character gets amazingly whiny, which is a feat.

Maybe the film isn't for anyone over 10, the age group that can appreciate and create bizarre stream-of-consciousness narratives. Maybe I'm too old to enjoy something which bathes in a sea of bad CGI. But, in the end, it's a movie that's about what you would expect from a screenplay co-written by an 8 year old. It's creative and frequently interesting, but it's the kind of thing that can only happen when your dad is a famous film director.

No comments:

Post a Comment