Anchor Bay // 2011 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 30th, 2011
Saving The World Is Their Idea Of Family Time.
Cecil: "Our stepmother's a spy?"
Rebecca: "Impossible! She's not cool enough."
Marissa Cortez-Wilson (Jessica Alba, Sin City) is happily married to reality TV star Wilbur Wilson (Joel McHale, Community), and is stepmother to his two children, Cecil (Mason Cook) and Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard), along with their newborn baby. What her family don't know, is that Marissa is a retired secret agent, and when The Timekeeper -- a dastardly villain threatening Armageddon -- strikes, Marissa is called back into action.
With the fate of all mankind at stake, Marissa is forced to seek the help of her stepchildren, and, with the help of ex-Spy Kids Juni (Daryl Sabara) and Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega), defeat the Timekeeper before the world literally runs out of time.
While I'm not about to hail Spy Kids: All the Time in the World as a must-see picture, I also don't believe the film warrants much of the criticism leveled against it. Sure, it lacks some of the quirky charm of its predecessors (in particular the first two installments in the franchise), but this fast-paced, lighthearted romp is perfectly decent, if somewhat routine, family entertainment.
Bearing in mind the eight-year hiatus the Spy Kids series took following Spy Kids 3: Game Over, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World fits in seamlessly and feels very much part of the same world first visited in 2001's Spy Kids. Just like the original trilogy, this latest installment moves along at 100 miles per hour, and seems to be making it up as it goes along. There's an infectious energy that should really appeal to younger viewers, as should the fun gadgets which lead to some of the film's more inventive set pieces.
Unfortunately, four pictures in, the level of invention that previously drove the series is found wanting this time out, and in many ways this latest picture cannibalizes ideas from the earlier movies. Remedying this somewhat is the shift in focus, which sees Jessica Alba's Marissa Cortez-Wilson taking up a large chunk of the screen time. Of course, Cecil and Rebecca, a.k.a. Spy Kids 2.0 are still left having to save the world, but their adventures feel all too familiar. Confounding this further is the decision to bring back the original Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni. As much fun as the two are, and despite how nice it is seeing them again, they only really serve to undermine this latest generation of juvenile spies.
Another problem with the film comes from the motivation of the movie's villain, The Timekeeper, which when revealed, isn't evil at all. In fact, it is very easy to sympathize with his plight, and his message about not wasting time holds plenty of truth.
Say what you will about the film's ropey narrative (it's serviceable at least), but there's no questioning Rodriguez's ability to craft an arresting image. Whether it be The Timekeeper's CGI-created lair, or the family friendly action scenes, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World delivers. A standout is an aerial chase sequence, which sees villains pursuing the children on jet-boards, and is both fast and exciting, and sure to have younger viewers (the film's target audience) lapping it up.
Just as Sylvester Stallone and George Clooney did in Spy Kids 3, the famous faces who crop up in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World seem to be having heaps of fun. Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook, as Cecil and Rebecca, are appealing child actors, who ably carry their share of the movie. While Jessica Alba and Alexa Vega are clearly in tune with Rodriguez's vision, it is Jeremy Piven (Entourage) who really stands out in not one, not two, but three roles! Also worthy of a mention is Ricky Gervais (Extras), who provides the voice of Argonaut, the kids' robotic dog companion. Okay, so the role hardly stretches Gervais, but his comedic style (albeit severely watered down for family consumption) provides most of the film's best comedy moments.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer offers a sharp picture, complemented by bold colors. Detail levels are excellent, with rich black levels. The 5.1 soundtrack offers a dynamic mix. Robert Rodriguez kicks of the extras with a interview, carried out by a young girl. There are a handful of deleted scenes included on the disc, along with short featurettes looking at how the character of Argonaut was brought to life ("How to Make a Robotic Dog"); comedian and actor Ricky Gervais' performance ("Ricky Gervais As Argonaut"); and a look at some of the new, and old, gadgets ("Spy Gadgets"). Finally, there is the "Spy Kids: Passing The Torch" featurette, which talks about the new Spy Kids and features behind-the-scenes footage, and a video diary, which follows the two young actors on set.
Not the total disaster you may have heard it is, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World offers enough action and excitement to keep pre-teens happy. Just be prepared for them to start using the phrase, "Oh, shit-ake mushrooms!" for the next few months.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site