When a movie does well at the box office, a sequel is bound to occur. And if the sequel makes a decent amount of money, there is likely to be another sequel. And so on, and so on, until the quality of the original deteriorates to the point that the latest sequel doesn't rake in the bucks any more and the series comes to an end. Directors usually can't leave well enough alone when a movie is a success and they continue to press their luck. One fine example is Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, the latest in an over- sequeled movie series.
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Movie Release Date: August 19, 2011
Movie Rating: PG
Movie Length: 89 minutes
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Mason Cook, Rowan Blanchard, Jeremy Piven, Daryl Sabara, Alexa Vega, Danny Trejo, Jett Good, Chuck Cureau
Marissa Wilson (played by Jessica Alba) is a retired spy. She is newly married to divorced dad Wilbur Wilson (played by Joel McHale) who has two kids, Rebecca Wilson (played by Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil Wilson (played by Mason Cook). The two children are not too fond of their new stepmother and they make their feelings known through pranks and negative attitudes.
Marissa wants to get along with the kids and she gets her chance in an unexpected way when she comes out of retirement to work on a case. She enlists the help of Rebecca and Cecil, both of whom are shocked to discover that their wicked stepmother works in such a cool and fascinating profession. Together, Marissa and the two kids fight against the evil Timekeeper (played by Jeremy Piven) to prevent him from taking over the world.
Sequels are not something to which I look forward. Even when I like an original movie, I am always wary of the dreaded part II (or part III or Part IV, etc, etc) because more often than not, these follow- ups cannot equal the entertainment value, overall quality, or anything else compared to the original. I don't even need to name any examples- we are all fully aware of some of the awful sequels over the years and most of us have tried to put them behind us and forget they were ever created.
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D is one movie that should never have made its way past the pad and paper and why director Robert Rodriguez felt the need to resurrect the Spy Kids movie series after eight years is beyond me (I can only assume he was in need of some money and wanted to cash in on the name). The original Spy Kids was released in 2001, followed by parts 2 and 3 in 2002 and 2003 respectively. This means the big screens had been Spy Kid- free for eight years when, suddenly, Rodriguez felt the need to deliver a fourth part in a series that was already on a downhill spiral.
So what, exactly, is wrong with Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D? Let's start with the plot itself. It is the typical good vs. bad with the bad being someone intent on taking over the world. Now, there are certainly some good movies that rely on this over- done theme and the reason they succeed is because they contain at least some originality in the story, a good mystery, etc., etc. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D contains none of that. It is nothing more than a bunch of chase scenes with the good guys taking a step backward in their progress on occasion, but ultimately coming through in the end. It's something we have seen a million times before and ninety percent of the time, done better than here.
Next, we have the performances. Jessica Alba is weak and unconvincing in her role as the spy/step mother and Joel McHale is barely utilized in the film, and this might be for the better since his character is so forgettable. The two kids are okay, and the talking dog with the Australian accent is at least something different. But the overall performances are just not that memorable and I think it is safe to say that amateur actors/actresses could have been cast in this film and performed just as well if not better.
Along with the emptiness of the spy plot, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D is weak in its general dialogue and in its subplots (if you want to call them that). The laughs and bathroom humor are kept at a seven year-old level and gags/pranks performed by the kids on their stepmother are silly and unoriginal. As I watched this in the theater, I did hear some chuckles, but a quick shoulder check proved what I suspected: All reactions of amusement were coming from those below the age of ten. Adults just sat there, dumbfounded, wondering why they paid $10 to see this then realizing that at least the little ones liked it, so the money wasn't completely wasted.
Finally, we have the 3D and 4D aspects of this movie and again, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D strikes out on both levels. The 3D wasn't really necessary and it added very little to the movie. The reason is because there just weren't enough action scenes throughout most of the movie (they came in the last half) to justify paying for 3D. Even the action scenes were not that great in 3D. You didn't get that 3D effect common to some of the better examples of this enhancement, where the objects seem like they are flying right at you and the action is right in your face. 3D wasn't helpful or useful here and, even if your kids beg you, I recommend against it.
If all of the above isn't bad enough, well, I have saved the worst for last: The 4D effects. As you may or may not know, 4D refers to the added effects of smell and this was accomplished by handing out cards with eight marked areas and then instructing viewers to scratch and sniff the correct number when it appeared on the screen. The problem with this is that the scents on the card were barely detectable. The cards actually smelled like a combination of chemicals and tobacco resins and no matter how many times I scratched and no matter how close I held the card to my nose, I could barely tell what I was smelling. I thought perhaps my card was defective, so I tried out the cards of the other family members and they were no different- all I could smell was the foul- scented cardboard. Advice for the next director who considers 4D: Test the cards and make sure they actually work before you use them to promote your film.
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D does have exactly one redeeming factor, in case you haven't already realized it. That factor is the kid factor. The plot, humor, and most everything else was made with young children in mind and most kids under the age of ten will find it humorous on at least some level. Kids will especially take a liking to the dog and the sad fact is that adults may have liked the dog, too, if the humor was at least leaning in an adult direction. The little pooch and his Australian accent are tolerable, but the humor is idiotic and the physical scenes remain on the bathroom level, much like the "funny" parts in the rest of the movie.
Overall, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D is a forgettable film and one I am still thinking about several days after viewing, but for all the wrong reasons. The film misses the mark on most every level and rates as the worst film I have seen this year. To summarize:
My little girls' rating of Spy Kids All the Time in the World in 4D: 4 stars out of 5
My rating of Spy Kids All the Time in the World in 4D: 1 star out of 5
Consensus Rating: 2.5 average, which I will round down to 2 stars, since I am the parent.
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Movie Mood: Family Movie
Film Completeness: A few glitches, but mostly complete.
Worst Part of this Film: Everything