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Originally published Friday, June 10, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

Kids of all ages can sink teeth into imaginative "Sharkboy"

Less than 2 ½ months since the release of his comic-book-noir thriller "Sin City," Robert Rodriguez has a new action film, this time...

Special to The Seattle Times

Less than 2 ½ months since the release of his comic-book-noir thriller "Sin City," Robert Rodriguez has a new action film, this time reaching out to family audiences in the same freewheeling, imaginative vein as his hit "Spy Kids" trilogy.

"The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D" is most similar to the final chapter in that series, "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over," not only because of its wide-eyed fondness for the retro-1950s 3-D gimmick but also for a peculiarly childlike logic driving its story. Adults who found the earlier "Spy Kids" movies accessible could easily feel a little estranged from "Game Over," with its narrative movement akin to a video game for children.

Movie review 3 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D," with David Arquette, Kristin Davis, George Lopez, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, Cayden Boyd. Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, based on a story by Racer Max Rodriguez and Robert Rodriguez. 94 minutes. Rated PG for mild action, rude humor. Several theaters.

"Sharkboy and Lavagirl" delves even further into a kid's perspective, the kid in this case being Rodriguez's own son, Racer Max Rodriguez. The genesis of "Sharkboy" is Racer's original drawings of and stories about the title characters, a pair of superheroes created by the younger Rodriguez at age 7.

Impressed, Robert Rodriguez wrote a screenplay retaining the spontaneity and rawness of Racer's ideas, then married the project to the goofy garishness of digitally updated 3-D.

The result is a rare window into a child's uninhibited imagination and protean playfulness, tricked out with tongue-in-cheek 3-D effects as seen through one blue lens and one red one.

Cayden Boyd plays 10-year-old Max, a misfit who invents Sharkboy and Lavagirl in his journal. When he finds that journal vandalized on the same day his parents (David Arquette, Kristin Davis) are separating and a tornado threatens his school, Max's imagination overtakes reality and he is visited by the toothy Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and fiery Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley).

The duo lead him to Planet Drool, where such 3-D wonders as the Train of Thought can whisk one off to the Land of Milk and Cookies, and boxy nemesis Mr. Electric (George Lopez) threatens everything.

Rodriguez rightfully takes pride in making films well below the cost of most Hollywood features. But while "Sharkboy" celebrates a certain cult-movie cheesiness, there are moments when some extra bucks would have made a difference in suspending disbelief. Still, he and his son have cooked up an impressive, all-ages wonderland.

Tom Keogh:

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