Director Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World" is just what you'd expect from the franchise. The movie is filled with juvenile jokes, cheesy moments and even cheesier acting. But as with the rest of the franchise, the importance of family is at the core of the latest film.
In "Spy Kids 4", we welcome in two new young leads in Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook) who are struggling to accept their new stepmom Marissa (Jessica Alba) who is a retired spy from the OSS division. The film actually begins with a very pregnant Marissa as she tries to and eventually chases down the Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven).
Marissa's new husband Wilber Wilson (Joel McHale) is a go-getting reality show host and producer who keeps putting his family second as he chases his dream of stardom so he can provide for them better. Oh yeah, it should be mentioned that Wilson's show has him hunting spies, one of which lives under the same roof.
Marissa is called out of retirement when its found that time is speeding up and the only thing that can stop it is a stone in a necklace she's given to Rebecca as a peace offering. In the meantime, Timekeeper's henchmen show up at the house and that's when things get strange for Rebecca and Cecil.
The siblings are informed of their stepmother's past and instructed to seek shelter in a panic room. They're accompanied by the family dog Argonaut (Ricky Gervais), who turns out to be a robot canine capable of kicking some tail -- excuse the pun, please.
The two escape and are taken to OSS headquarters where they're met by Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega), one of the two original Spy Kids and shown a room filled with deactivated Spy Kids goodies. Rebecca and Cecil pick out some souvenirs and are ready to resume their lives when they're sucked into the plan to stop the "Armageddon Device", the thing that is speeding up time.
Soon they're joined by Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara), find Timekeeper's lair and find the real reason and the true identity of the mastermind behind the "Armageddon Device".
"Spy Kids 4" has its fair share of flaws, but overall the movie is a sweet film that kids will love. Much of the criticism has surround around the fact there are "Diaper Bombs", more than a fare share of fart gags and a central theme of family, but most people are forgetting a major element of the movie -- it's made for kids.
Sure, if you went into it with it being aimed at adults, the movie wouldn't be that great, but that's not its demographic. The movie is made for kids and should be watched as such. And when has emphasizing the importance of family been a bad thing?
Another big knock on the film has been for its low-grade special effects. The one I've heard the most about is Argonaut and the mutts talking. It's very basic, but it gets the job done plain and simple. Rodriguez could have easily animated the mouth movements to make them believable, but where's the fun in that?
And now we get to the biggest outrage it seems everyone is complaining about -- Aromoscope. Don't know what Aromascope is? You get a card and every time a number flashes on the screen, you scratch the number and give it a sniff. Aren't you outraged? How dare the director do something that I saw kids having a good time doing and adult theater-goers laughing watching the kid's reaction? The nerve.
I for one love Aromoscope. I'm a huge fan of any novelty, which attempted to bring the viewer closer to the action, with the exception of subpar 3D effects -- yeah, I'm talking to you "The Last Airbender". Although it didn't work every time (my No. 1 and 8 smelled like cardboard), it was fun.
"Spy Kids 4" falls third in the franchise behind the original "Spy Kids" and "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams", but it's still good enough to entertain. The movie is hindered by bad acting at times, but there are a few lines and scenes that will leave younger viewers shooting popcorn out their noses.
Final Cut: "Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World" is a cute kids movie with a central theme of family and how precious time truly is. Rodriguez may be known for grittier films such as "From Dusk Till Dawn", "Sin City" and "Machete", but his willingness to preach the merits of family in children's films should be commended.
3.5 out of five stars
Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World
Starring: Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Jeremy Piven, Carla Gugino, Antonio Banderas
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor
Runtime: 1hr. 40 min.