Escaping into fantasy is always easier than facing reality, and this is the core message of The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, albeit in kid-friendly packaging. The film was critically slammed upon its initial release in 2005, but its colorful and imaginative world is full of wonder and adventure, offering a boost of confidence to its protagonist and a thoughtful lesson about being the hero of your own story.
With the upcoming release of We Can Be Heroes, a standalone sequel starring Pedro Pascal and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is the one movie you need to stream before it leaves Netflix for good on November 30.
Co-written and directed by Robert Rodriguez (yes, that Robert Rodriguez), the film follows ten-year-old Max (Cayden Boyd) from his days of being bullied at school to his adventures battling the evil Mr. Electric (George Lopez), a sinister electrician who's actually Max’s schoolteacher. Max’s journey begins with a simple story he makes up about two heroes: Sharkboy (Lautner), who was brought up by sharks before partially transforming into one himself; and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley), who can generate molten volcanic rock. When Max’s imaginative stories are stolen, Sharkboy and Lavagirl show up to ask for his help saving Planet Drool, bringing Max’s dreams to life.
One could argue that The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl was the child-like version of Inception (or is it the other way around?). Dreams, escapism, and employing the mind to create and destroy worlds are central to the film’s message, which hinges upon the power of Max’s imagination. What’s more, the film bolsters the idea that dreams are as endless (or as limited) as the boundaries built by the mind itself.
At any given moment, Max can simply rewrite the story, altering the fates of the film’s characters if he so chooses. Facing loneliness and hardships, Max’s dreams are his only source of comfort, and Sharkboy and Lavagirl his only real friends. That sort of isolation is all too relatable right now, at a time when movies and TV shows feel like the only escape from the confines of our own reality.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl also offers a fun spin on what it means to be a hero. Max didn't need physical powers to aid in the defeat of Mr. Electric, and he returns from his fantastical journey left him ready to face the issues in his own life — or at least make peace with them. In this way, the film includes a dose of truth to go with its candy-colored reverie.
This isn't to say that Sharkboy and Lavagirl is the best you’ll find on Netflix — it’s not. However, its visuals look a whole lot better without the 3D glasses that were all the rage back then. The film is also unabashedly mushy and boosted by some decent performances, valuable life lessons, and a theatrical adventure that is well worth the watch despite some questionable special effects.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is streaming on Netflix until November 30 in the U.S.