31 August 2011

SPY KIDS 4D- Review

Whoa, is it Shitty 3D Sequel Week or what? The last time Robert Rodriguez dropped one of these movies into cinemas, it was 2003's Spy Kids 3D- Game Over, a pre-Real-D anaglyphic endeavour that actually captured what a kitschy, retro bit of flim-flam 3D actually is, before it was legitimised by new technology and whatnot. Eight years later, he's trying to bring back another kitschy gimmick.

It's apt that Spy Kids- All The Time In The World is presented with the fourth dimension of Aromascope, i.e. a scratch and sniff card to accompany the feature. The film itself stinks too. It's another of those semi-reboots we've been seeing, centring on Jessica Alba as Marissa, the superspy aunt of original Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni Cortez. She's a stepmother to her husband's two kids from a previous marriage, and when she has a kid herself, she retires from the OSS. One year on, an old nemesis called Tick Tock threatens to cause Armageddon, and Marissa and her kids spring into action to stop him.

The principal staying power of this series is in how quickly Rodriguez can churn out each instalment. The original trilogy was pumped out between 2001 and 2003, and they're essentially workman-like family films that each latch onto a theme and stick with it. Spy Kids was a basic spy movie, which actually managed to be better than the most recent James Bond movies at the time, while Island of Lost Dreams was a slightly confused ode to Harryhausen, and Game Over was basically Tron with spies. So what All The Time In The World really lacks, when measured against those other films, is a theme. It lacks a story too, but we'll get to that.

It's got no shortage of its main motif, which centres around the idea of time, in much the same way that Batman & Robin had the motif of ice. For better or worse, arch-villain Jeremy Piven is no Schwarzenegger, and the endless, excruciating puns about time make the film feel much longer than it really is, at the same time as all of the characters are frantic about time speeding up. In the absence of a theme that links back to some throwback filmic pleasure of Rodriguez's youth, we have the altogether more bland family message to endure.

The fixation on family is all the more odd in a film where Jessica Alba fails to name her baby for an entire year. Surprisingly, the film starts strong with a weird, but nonetheless chucklesome sequence where Marissa chases down the baddy while actually going into labour. If that didn't make her terrible enough as a parent, her little girl is never referred to as anything other than "the baby". You couldn't name the baby? What's wrong with you?

The new lead kids, played by Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook, are more twee than the original leads, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara. But Rodriguez at least re-establishes a theme he touched upon in the original, by having Cook's character be a hearing-impaired kid. Maybe I liked that because I'm hearing impaired, but in the same way as Harry Potter is a hero with glasses, the film doesn't only cast bland every-kids, instead proposing that any kid could be capable of this, not just every kid.

Ultimately, it's the obvious speed of its assembly that brings so much of the film down. The script could have been written in an afternoon, kit-bashed from series in-jokes, other genre fare, and the vague notion of Ricky Gervais as a talking dog. Elsewhere, the Aromascope gimmick provides eight different smells, which are are notable only for the fact that they all smell like sweets and cardboard. I gave up after the first one didn't smell like bacon, but let's not dismiss it too hastily. Rodriguez did crummy 3D five years ahead of its current resurgence, so this could be a worrying omen.

It goes without saying that Spy Kids- All The Time In The World will be hard work for parents whose kids drag them along, but it should also be said that this is only aiming to please very young children. I think most kids over 6 will see through the corniness and lazy assembly of this belated sequel. Rodriguez should still be applauded for his versatility, in his willingness to appeal to different age ranges from one film to the next, and his work ethic, but it really seems to be affecting the quality of his work. He couldn't even give the baby a name! Unless you do have very young kids, don't waste your time.

Spy Kids- All The Time In The World is now showing, in "4D" or in 2D with an added scratch-and-sniff card, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Spy Kids- All The Time In The World, why not share your comments below? Yep, that is Joel McHale, from Community. Jeff Winger just lost some cool points, but hey, he's under-used in the film anyway.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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