Let me be perfectly clear: The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D is a bad, bad, movie. Terribly bad. Unrelentingly bad. It was so bad, in fact, that I spent a good deal of the movie thinking of all the synonyms for "bad" I could think of, just so I could list them for you in this review. I should get combat pay for having to sit through a film this bad.
Here are some words one might use to describe this film (and I use the term "film" only in the absolute loosest sense of the word, to mean "something recorded on a film-like substance", not to imply that there is anything remotely like "art" associated with Shark Boy and Lava Girl): Abyssmal. Defective. Flawed. Execrable. Valueless. Not to mention insultingly base and stupid, even to most of the kids in the audience with me today. The little guy in front of me kept whispering loudly to his mom, "Mommmmmy! Can we go home now? Is it over, Mommmmmmy?"
You want more than that, you say? You want to know what specifically was bad about this film? Oh, I'll tell you. For starters, this concept was done, and done much better, back in 1984, in a little film called The Neverending Story (one of my favorite films). Shark Boy and Lava Girl attempts to take the same idea (a boy whose dreams form reality in a fantasy place) but falls abyssmally short of even approximating The Neverending Story's charm and sense of wonder.
You don't really need the details of this film, do you? Please, don't make me relive it. Oh, fine. Here's the rundown, but I'm drinking a glass of good wine while I write this to compensate for even having to think about it: a boy, Max (Cayden Boyd) lives in a dream world. His father (David Arquette) encourages his dreams, his mother (Kristin Davis) wants him to stop dreaming and be practical. He writes all his dreams down in his dream journal. Max has a nemesis, the class bully, Linus, aka Minus (Jacob Davich), who steals his journal.
One of Max's more involved dreams involves, yep, Shark Boy (Taylor Lautner) and Lava Girl (Taylor Dooley), who come and break him out of class the day after Minus steals his journal, because their world is dying. Why is it dying? Who cares? The dream world, "Planet Drool, where kids are cool" (no, I'm not making that up) is as cliched as Candyland, what with its "trains of thought" and "land of milk and cookies". Arch-nemesis Minus (big spoiler here) shows up on Planet Drool to take it over.
George Lopez has a duel turn in the film too, as Max's teacher and a bad guy trying to destroy Planet Drool along with Minus.
Let's talk about the acting for a moment, shall we? Not that there's actually anything remotely resembling acting in this film. What attempts at acting there are, are just absolutely dreadful. Lopez overreaches and comes across as slightly hysterical; the kids are wooden (I know, they're kids, but -- c'mon! Hayley Joel Osment could act at this age!) Of the kids, Taylor Dooley (Lava Girl) shows the most potential to outgrow the stigma of stinkiness that will be attached to anyone associated with this film; she does the best she can with some truly barfedelic dialogue and laughable attempts at philosophizing.
Arquette is the only one who seems relaxed and in his element, probably because this film is just goofy enough to suit his personality. And Davis....oh, how the mighty have fallen! What in the hell was she thinking, taking a part in this film? Surely she had better offers on her plate after Sex and the City. Seriously, she needs to take whoever advised her to sign on for this movie out behind the woodshed and beat the crap out of them with a Manolo Blahnik pump.
The script steals so blatantly from films that have been there, done that, it's pathetic. There are nods to The Wizard of Oz in the film as well, with Max's parents appearing briefly as giants and Max going back to reality by blinking his eyes three times. I'm not even going to get into how insulting it is to The Wizard of Oz for this putrid pile of celluloid to even reference it.
Shark Boy and Lava Girl is worse, even, than the Spy Kids movies director Robert Rodriguez previously made (the sequels were especially bad), and after those films I'm surprised he's even allowed to make movies in Hollywood anymore. It is worse, even, than the steaming pile of crap that was 2004's Catch That Kid, and I didn't think that was possible. Why on earth the Weinstein's (Harvey and Bob) are associated with this movie is just beyond me. They must've signed the deal for this stinkbomb over a 30 martini lunch or something.
Seriously, if your kids want to go see a movie in the next couple weeks, take them to something worth sitting through - Madagascar, perhaps, or better yet, March of the Penguins or Deep Blue. If they beg and plead to see The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D, and you just can't get around it because they are convinced it's going to be great, for pity's sake, do yourself a favor and bring a pillow, some good earplugs, and a night mask. This movie isn't worth the price of admission, even at a free screening. The best thing about it is the free 3_D glasses, and that is not saying much, kids.