It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D" is an innocent and delightful children's tale that is spoiled by a disastrous decision to film most of it in lousy 3-D. Fully three quarters of the movie is in "3"-D, which looks more like 1-D to me, removing the brightness and life of the movie's colors and replacing them with a drab, listless palette, which is about as exciting as looking at a 3-D bowl of oatmeal.
The 3-D process subtracts instead of adding. Ordinary 2-D movies look perfectly real enough for audiences and have for years; if it's not broke, don't fix it. Paradoxically, since it allegedly resembles our real-world vision, 3-D is less real than standard flat movies; 3-D acts as a distraction from character and story, giving us something to think about that during a good movie we should not be thinking about.
To be sure, there is a new 3-D process that is pretty good. That would be the IMAX process that uses oversized glasses and creates a convincing 3-D effect, as in James Cameron's "Aliens of the Deep." That is not the process used in "Sharkboy and Lavagirl," which settles for those crummy old cardboard glasses where the left lens is such a dark red that the whole movie seems seen through a glass, darkly.
What a shame. I assume the unaltered original color footage of the movie exists, and no doubt will be used for the DVD. My suggestion to Robert Rodriguez, who directed the movie from a screenplay by one of his sons and uses three of them as actors, would be to make a non-3-D version available theatrically as soon as possible. This is a movie aimed at younger kids, who may be willing to sit through almost anything, but they're going to know something is wrong, and they're not going to like it.