Oftentimes, a film is called a stinker by critics and that is not such a good thing. In the case of Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World, that is exactly what filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is going for with the debut of a fourth dimension of film: Aroma-Scope.
Spy Kids 4 continues the franchise that began with the smash hit Spy Kids in 2001. The story of international spy parents and their spy savvy kids captured the imagination of adults and children alike. Three films later, it appears Rodriguez has forgotten about the adults and focused his film’s appeal solely on kids.
In Spy Kids 4, Jessica Alba and Joel McHale are parents of two, expecting a third. The film begins with a nine-months pregnant Alba trying to take down a bad guy named the Timekeeper. After getting her man, she is rushed to the hospital and gives birth to a baby girl.
The action picks up a year later as Alba is retired and McHale is a reality-TV star courtesy of his show Spy Hunter. As news breaks that time itself has sped up, it becomes clear to Alba that the Timekeeper has escaped and she needs to swing back into action. The villain’s goal is to have time accelerate until there is no time at all and the world ceases to exist.
As Alba leaves the house on her first post-baby mission, the couple’s kids immediately come into danger courtesy of the Timekeeper’s henchmen and through the house's panic room, they learn the family secret that is spydom. And a new generation of Spy Kids is born.
Rodriguez and his effects team have a blast with the 3D technology and the gadgets they create onscreen for their tiny spies and Alba as well. We wish he had spent a little more time on the script as it leaves much to be desired. Then again, the Spy Kids franchise has never been about powerful story lines that rivet an audience. Its mission is infantile and Spy Kids 4 sits comfortably in that wheelhouse.
The 3D film adds another dimension, Aroma-Scope. Upon entering the theater, audiences are given a card with the numbers one through eight printed on it. They are instructed at the beginning of the film to scratch and sniff the card when the corresponding number appears on screen. Does it work? Ours did only occasionally when the kids were eating candy and the smell of the sweet stuff did permeate. There are fart jokes and yes, a fart smell, yet we couldn’t discern the smell of cardboard from flatulence. Consider us lucky?
Spy Kids 4 possesses everything young kids will adore. They will identify with the film’s heroes. Children will devour the Aroma-Scope and get delight in adding another sense into the movie-watching experience. Adults unfortunately, will be left behind scratching their heads searching for some sort of redeeming quality. But, that is not the point. Spy Kids 4 is a children’s movie and their enjoyment is assured.
In terms of our rating, for kids Spy Kids 4 gets a four out of five. As a film on its own, not so much.