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Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World in 4D


Stars: Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Jeremy Piven, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Belle and Genny Solorzano, Ricky Gervais

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez is nothing if not a moviemaking polymath. This wild adventure, the latest in his child-friendly series, see him serving as director, screenwriter, producer, one of the film’s two cinematographers (with Jimmy Lindsey) and doubling as composer (with Carl Thiel). I’m no great admirer of the auteur theory, invented by cineastes to account for all-too-frequent hailing of moviemaking hacks as creative heroes. Rodriguez may well be the exception in spite of films that vary from the splendid El Mariachi to the embarrassment of his cringingly awful double act with the even more pitiful contribution by Quentin Tarantino to the unforgettably dire exploitation trash (if an auteur lover, then read ‘homage’ for ‘trash’ of course) that was Grindhouse.

Here Rodriguez reboots his successful series. Secret agent Alba, first seen pregnant and suffering regular contractions as she chases after villains, is now retired, married to television spy hunter McHale and having a harder time being a mother to her two step kids Blanchard and Cook who resent her.

Until, that is, the loony villain Timekeeper, happily hammed by Piven, sets out to take over the planet by speeding up time. Alba is called back into action, her kids, helped by a bright mechanical dog, end up taking on Piven and his henchmen with a little help from Spy Kids Vega and Sabara…

Kids are the target audience here and are enjoyably served by a batty brew of thrills, spills, weird and wonderful inventions and not-too-terrifying Bad Guys. Alba is fun, Blanchard and Cook are clearly having a great time as baby Bonds and, always better heard than seen, Gervais serves as the voice of the robot pooch.

There’s plenty of action, airborne and otherwise, the former leading to Cook’s memorable air-sickness inspired line, “Never underestimate the power of puke”. Cineastes who are not burdened with kids to take to the cinema can safely avoid the science-fiction shenanigans. It’s not ‘art’ as we know it, Jim, but Spy Kids is for youngsters and they should have a ball.

The film is in ‘4D’, which turns out to be a scratch card of smells to be scratched and sniffed when numbered cues flash onto the screen. Long, long ago (1981, to be exact) John Waters used the same gimmick in Polyester with little impact. The gimmick doesn’t work well here, either, with every scratch releasing the unfortunate aroma of a lot of people crowded into a stalled elevator.

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Colour by deluxe.
90 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 19 Aug 2011