Everly Carganilla, left, and Connor Esterson play the title characters in Netflix's "Spy...

Everly Carganilla, left, and Connor Esterson play the title characters in Netflix's "Spy Kids: Armageddon." Credit: Netflix/Lauren Hatfield

THE MOVIE "Spy Kids: Armageddon"

WHERE Streaming on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Robert Rodriguez reboots the "Spy Kids" franchise for Netflix. This time around, Zachary Levi and Gina Rodriguez take over as the parents, while Connor Esterson and Everly Carganilla step in as the siblings.

"Spy Kids: Armageddon" utilizes the same concept as the four movies and one animated series that preceded it.

Kids Tony (Esterson) and Patty Torrez-Tango (Carganilla) are stunned to discover that their "boring" and "ordinary" parents are in fact top-secret spies. But the espionage gene pool is strong, so when the time comes, the youngsters are well-equipped to rescue Mom and Dad from the clutches of an evil video game developer (Billy Magnussen).

MY SAY It's been 22 years since the original movie and whatever might have once seemed fresh and funny about the whole "Spy Kids" universe has long since rotted away.

The fact that Rodriguez, once considered in some quarters to have been a peer of Quentin Tarantino, has been reduced to going back to this safe space again only makes it extra sad.

This is one tired and wheezy project, a movie without any reason for being other than to cash in one some easy streaming bucks. It's so flat that if you were told it was the first feature film made entirely by, say, ChatGPT or whatever new AI platform might do such a thing, it wouldn't be a big shock.

The plot, which involves some sort of MacGuffin computer virus called an "Armageddon key," barely makes sense. And even if you tried to wrap your head around it, there's no reason to bother, because it's just an excuse for a bunch of action scenes set against CGI backdrops that would not have looked out of place on a '90s computer screen saver.

Levi ("Shazam!") and Gina Rodriguez ("Jane the Virgin") lack even an iota of the charm and charisma of their predecessors, Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino. They're not given anything close to the sharp writing that once characterized the franchise, with its keen satire of suburban family life and upending of conventions in the parent-child relationship.

But they make nothing out of whatever little bit they do get from Rodriguez and his co-writer, the director's 26-year-old son and frequent collaborator Racer Max. Instead, they seem to be disinterested in the whole project. And the perceived attitude is infectious.

The kids could never be accused of going through the motions, but Tony and Patty have not a single discernible character trait. Only Magnussen ("Game Night") as Rey "The King" Kingston gets some juicy material and really evokes the appropriate campy spirit.

This new "Spy Kids" surely portends more from the same universe. Hollywood will never shake its addiction to familiar franchises and sequels and reboots and reboots of reboots. There's no fighting it.

But even upon returning once again to the same old well, the audience must be given something more than this: a retread in every respect, a movie that epitomizes going through the motions.

BOTTOM LINE There was no reason, other than the bottom line, to go back to "Spy Kids" again.

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