Spy Kids: All the time in the world in 4D

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. Starring Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook and Jeremy Piven. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Rated PG (Mild crude humour and violence). 89 minutes.

It is eight years since the last Spy Kids movie, the third in the series.  The first two had been enjoyable for family audiences in their way, spoofs of the James Bond kind of thrillers but with enough jokes for kids to keep them interested and entertained.  The third film was not so good (and Sylvester Stallone proving again that comedy was not his forte).

Robert Rodgriguez has had a strange film career.  He loves genre stuff and has a relish for the tough and the violent (think From Dusk to Dawn, Planet Terror and Sin City) and a love for the material of graphic novels.  Yet, he has had a soft spot for children’s films, Shorts as well as the Spy Kids series.  And, as with most of his films, he writes, directs, photographs, edits and has a hand in the musical score.

It seems that this one has not gone down so well in America and has received bad word of mouth.  I’m not sure why.  I wouldn’t think that it deserves it.  It is as good as any of the others, better than Spy Kids 3.  In fact, those original spy kids, Alexa Vega and Darryl Sabara, turn up again, quite grown up.  But, the main spy kids are two littlies who are cantankerous at first, the sister resenting her new stepmother and playing nasty pranks, the brother more amenable.  Then they have a new little sister. But, we know stepmother’s secret.  She is a spy.  Meanwhile, her somewhat mealy-mouthed TV writer husband has been developing a new reality show, Spy Hunter.  Little does he realise...

Mother (the feisty Jessica Alba) is called up for duty because an arch-villain, the Timekeeper, has a device that shortens time, and time is running out.  While you can guess the rest, it is how it all works out, how the kids become involved, how mother’s niece and nephew, the original spy kids, get into the action – and even Dad turns up – that makes for easy young children’s entertainment.  They will like the mechanical dog who is programmed to be guardian for the kids, and who talks – a deadpan recitation by Ricky Gervais.

(It is Ricky Gervais who introduces the film with its 4th dimension, a card with numbers which you scratch and sniff when the number comes up on the screen – mine didn’t seem to work and had a general odour of stale air freshener instead of bacon or cheesels!  A needless and ineffectual gimmick all round.)

Jeremy Piven has a good time in multiple roles, and there are some enjoyable special effects.

With its catering to boys and to girls, this is an undemanding and lightly entertaining holiday outing (or home DVD).

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Out various dates in September 2011.

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