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The Independent Critic

Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Joel McHale, Daryl Sabara, Alexa Vega, Antonio Banderas
Robert Rodriguez
Rated PG
89 Mins.
Dimension Films
Robert Rodriguez Interview;Deleted Scenes;Featurette: Spy Kids Passing the Torch;Spy Gadgets and More!

 "Spy Kids 4" Review 
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Watch the trailer above. (Waiting).


Okay, now if that trailer didn't make you absolutely cringe then there's a chance, a slight chance, that Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (which I'll be referring to as Spy Kids 4) will prove to be passable entertainment for you and your obviously easily amused child.

Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, who created the series originally for his kids who are now young adults, Spy Kids 4 is yet further proof that Rodriguez hasn't yet learned that children are intelligent and insightful human beings. It's a wonder his own children have grown up as normal human beings assuming, of course, that this is true.

The good news is that Spy Kids 4 is, ever so slightly, actually a better film than the freakishly awful Spy Kids 3-D. While Spy Kids 4 comes in 2-D and 3-D versions, there's nothing particularly awesome about the 3-D version and the film's other techno novelty, that of "Aroma-Scope," is nothing but a cheap gimmick that does nothing for the film.

Rodriguez is a baffling filmmaker. He may be one of the most talented filmmakers whose films I regularly trash, though this is far more true when it comes to his sub-par efforts in the area of family films. Rodriguez works, at least to a certain degree, outside the confines of Hollywood by creating most of his cinematic efforts at his Texas-based Troublemaker Studios. For his action and adult-oriented flicks, this often works wonderfully. So, why does it consistently suck when it comes to family films?

This time around, we have a new duo of young leads, Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook), who play ultra-competitive siblings with a new step-mom (Jessica Alba) and two familiar cousins (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara). Of course, we all know the family business so it's not a huge surprise when Marissa, the step-mom, gets pulled back into action as a super-agent sent after Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven), who is, of course, trying to destroy the world.

Have you noticed how often I've said "of course?"

Rebecca and Cecil, not exactly symbols of domestic bliss, must find a way to work together when they are called into action for the restored Spy Kids program.


Pretty much everyone in the film is stranded by Rodriguez's witty yet under-developed script. Blanchard and Cook are certainly likable enough, but fail to generate much of a spark given the timidity of their characters. Jessica Alba lacks the depth of Carla Gugino from the previous films, but Joel McHale does well in his limited time onscreen as her cluelessly funny spouse. As the film's baddie and appearing in multiple roles, Jeremy Piven tries without success to generate a semblance of a spark. In fact, the best performance in the film may very well be the vocal work of Ricky Gervais as the voice of a talking cyberdog... Even that's not particularly impressive.

Spy Kid 4's visual effects are amateurish at best, cheesy both literally and visually. Rodriguez's hands are not only on the film as writer/director, but also sharing credit (or blame) for cinematography and original music. The film looks like one of those kaleidoscopes where you twist and turn it and look at all the pretty images...then, five minutes later you lose interest and move on.

Why waste your time and spend the money for a 5-minute kaleidoscope?

Just move on.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic