This time next year, a brand new 3D Spy Kids movie starring Jessica Alba will be blasting into theaters. If your kids love this fantasy franchise as much as mine do, you know it'll be an instant hit, even with the diminished presences of stars Alexa Vega (who turned 22 last week!), Daryl Sabara, Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino.
But while much of the talkabout Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World focuses on Alba, an even bigger evolution will be the way the series expands its definition of family.
Beneath all that colorful adventure and gadgetry, the Spy Kids movies, which were released from 2001-2003, celebrated the virtues of nuclear and extended families. But in this latest chapter, Alba plays a retired spy raising a baby and two tweens who are not just Spy Kids, but her step kids.
In many family films and TV shows, children are typically fighting to keep their parents together, as if divorce is the end of the world; divorced parents are rarely seen at all. Yet, according to one study, at least one-third of all children in the U.S. will be part of a stepfamily before they reach age 18.
Spy Kids 4 will, presumably, feature kids who've emerged from divorce relatively okay -- okay enough to fight bad guys and feel good about themselves. And we can assume Jessica Alba-as-stepmom will be a more sympathetic character than Lady Tremaine -- better known as Cinderella's "Wicked Stepmother."
Some of Spy Kids' original stars are rumored to make appearances in the new movie, which starts production next month, but my favorite appearance will be the introduction of a nontraditional -- but otherwise completely normal -- contemporary family. That will certainly send a strong message of inclusion to the millions of stepkids filling those seats and donning those 3D glasses.
After all, not everything in a fantasy story needs to be a fantasy.
Is it a good idea to make the next Spy Kids step kids? Chime in below!
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