Making the Grades
While I’m not a fan of most of his works, I still admire the creator of the Spy Kids. Having grown up in small town television stations myself, I followed the career of Robert Rodriquez through the 1990s and 2000s and discovered he also knows how to stretch a dollar. He’s repeatedly turned a scant few million dollars—mere pocket change in Hollywood parlance—into films that made profits multiple times over the investment. Just as surprising is this guy, who cut his teeth on gritty cult horror movies and westerns that you would never want to show your children, created a series of family movies about two kids who didn’t know their parents are spies.
Part of the secret to Rodriquez’s financial success is his early embracing of new technologies. As computers replaced razor blades in editing suites, he quickly employed the latest devices to literally produce movies in his garage. Yet being a one-man show with a focus on gadgets and economy can have its downside, and that is very much evident in this latest film.
It has been eight years since the last Spy Kids release and it appears Rodriquez wants to "reboot" his brainchild. So he has brought back the Cortez siblings (both being played by his former child stars Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, who are now young adults), and has enlisted two new performers (Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook). These youngsters, just like Vega and Sabara’s characters a decade ago, are about to discover their stepmother (Jessica Alba) is a spy. And they will also find themselves becoming junior recruits for the OSS agency.
After the big revelation, the siblings find themselves in a Spying 101 crash course under the tutelage of Carmen Cortez (Vega). Their mission involves stopping a bad guy named Tick Tock who has a devious plan to steal the world’s time.
Meanwhile their father (Joel McHale) coincidentally hosts and produces Spy Hunter, a television show determined to reveal covert operatives hiding among the general populace. He’s hoping it will be a big hit within the next five years. When that happens, he continually explains to his children, he will have "more time" to spend with them. Unbeknownst to him, the clocks are ticking faster and faster, and time is literally running out.
Young audiences will be privy to the usual flatulence jokes (a talking robotic dog, voiced by Ricky Gervais, issues an odiferous cloud from his rear end to repel enemies) and scatological humor (their mother takes down a trio of tough guys with a single poop filled diaper and the dog can urinate an oil slick). Throwing up is another favorite weapon, with one assailant being hit by a "barf bag." More serious violence may be a concern for little ones. Characters, both young and old, are often in peril, including an early scene where men break into a home and the kids are forced to escape. However the silliness of the enemy helps to keep any sense of real danger at bay. But children may be tempted to mimic some pranks they hear the daughter has pulled on her father.
Although the caution to parents who sometimes put off their children may be a worthwhile theme, it is likely to be missed. Few moms and dads will have the patience to sit through this film. Nor is the experience worth paying box office dollars—especially for the 3D version. The conversion process has left some objects that should have been further away from the camera appearing closer. So even if you had all the time and money in the world, this film is a far better bet as a home video rental.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World.
The father of this family is a television program host. Have you noticed how frequently careers in movies involve media and arts industries? Why do you think that area of employment is so popular?
If you could buy more time for your family, what would you do with it?