out of Five
Running time: 89
Watchable, gadget-happy children's adventure that scrapes a pass thanks to likeable characters, pacey direction, some decent gags and Jessica Alba in a leather catsuit, though the Aroma-Vision gimmick doesn't work and there are slightly too many poop and vomit jokes than really necessary.
What's it all about?
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Spy Kids: All The Time In The World is the fourth instalment in the Spy Kids franchise and is essentially a reboot, to the point where you wonder why Rodriguez didn't just call it Spy Kids 4: The Next Generation. Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook star as Rebecca and Cecil, two competitive young children who live with their ‘Spy Hunter’ TV host father Wilbur (Community's Joel
McHale) and his new wife Marissa (Jessica Alba), who, unbeknownst to both Wilbur and the kids, is a former super-spy who's retired after having a baby.
However, when the world is threatened by the sinister Timekeeper, Marissa is pulled out of retirement by her boss Danger D'Amo (Jeremy
Piven) and the kids quickly discover the truth about their stepmother. Aided by their talking robotic dog Argonaut (Ricky Gervais, playing himself), armed with an arsenal of gadgets and mentored by the now grown-up original Spy Kids (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara as Carmen and Juni), Rebecca and Cecil realise they'll have to work together to defeat the Timekeeper and put the world back to normal.
Blanchard and Cook deliver extremely likeable child performances and emerge as worthy successors to their grown-up predecessors, while there's strong support from Alba, McHale, Piven and Vega (Sabara's role is more of an extended cameo). Similarly, Ricky Gervais is actually pretty funny as the talking robotic dog, contrary to what the words “Ricky Gervais stars as a talking robotic dog” might have lead you to expect.
Rodriguez keeps things moving at a decent pace, with energetic set pieces and some nifty gadgetry, some of which will be familiar to fans of the previous films. The time related plot may be ridiculous and the accompanying message (about spending precious time with your loved ones) may be rather sugary, but the script somehow makes it work without making you reach for the sick bag.
The main problem with the film is that the Aroma-Scope gimmick doesn't work at all (you're given a scratch card but all the smells smell the same), though technically, that's more the fault of the manufacturer – also, given the abundance of poop and vomit jokes, they've probably done you a favour. Similarly, there are some extremely dodgy post-production 3D shots in places, to the point where they're distracting.
In short, Spy Kids: All The Time In The World is entirely watchable and it's target audience will actively enjoy it. Better than Spy Kids 3, anyway.