Anchor Bay // 2011 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // November 22nd, 2011
Saving the world is their idea of family time.
Seven years after unleashing what everyone hoped would be the final installment in his Spy Kids series, Robert Rodriguez strikes back by rebooting the profitable franchise with Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, an unnecessary, disappointing entry that further proofs that cinemagoers are no longer in need of young spies trained to defeat overly eccentric villains.
Focusing on a new generation of spy kids, the fourth film introduces us to Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook), two hyperactive siblings who join their stepmother Marissa (Jessica Alba, Machete) and her new baby in the fight against the Timekeeper, an evil maniac who manipulates time in an effort to take over the world.
As an admirer of Robert Rodriguez's work and a fan of the first two Spy Kids flicks, it pains me a little to say that All the Time in the World is a giant waste of time. Even though Rodriguez made sure to try and shake things up a bit by introducing a brand-new spy family, the plot structure, jokes, visuals and even the gadgets pretty much all remain the same. Truth be told, all the goofy action in the world cannot overshadow the sloppy screenwriting.
I obviously don't have all the time in the world to focus on every single weakness this movie struggles with, but I would like to single out a few. First and foremost, I simply couldn't connect with the new spy kids. Blanchard and Cook certainly make fine young actors, but neither their characters nor their performances in this film even remotely match up to the charm and energy we're used to from Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, the original spy kids (luckily, Vega and Sabara have cameo roles). Busy bothering each other with permanent competitions and other odd tantrums, the new kids on the block just come across as annoying, plain and simple.
The nature of the humor Rodriguez usually injects into the Spy Kids films also takes a hard hit in this fourth installment. Gone are the clever wordplays and silly, yet amusing interactions between children and adults, which have been pushed aside for countless vomit and farts jokes. You know, the kind we've all grown to hate over the years. The only character providing at least a few smiles here and there is the spy family's robotic dog (voiced by Ricky Gervais), who occasionally throws in a funny line to light up the mood.
Other than that, nothing and no one really sticks out in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World. The film runs for 88 minutes, but it sure feels like an eternity. Suspense is scarce, and the few pursuits or battles we get to watch fail to impress or entertain. The ability of the film's villain to freeze, reverse and speed up time certainly opens many doors to great ideas and twists, but Rodriguez never really capitalizes on the very concept he created. It's a shame, because the story occasionally shows potential.
The acting is mostly as bad as the writing. Jessica Alba gets a lots of screen time, but her comic timing is way off. I appreciate most of her work and applaud her talent, but the Spy Kids style is not something she should be wasting her time with; her performance feels forced. Joel McHale co-stars as her husband and a reporter who makes it his mission to track down real spies. He obviously doesn't know he's married to one, but this secret between them never really helps the story in a positive way. All it does is cause some predictable drama in the third act. This leaves Jeremy Piven as the bad guy. Piven is pretty much great at anything, and he clearly brings the most energy to the table. Enough said.
Visually, All the Time in the World looks better than the last installment, primarily because Rodriguez chose to set the story in the real world again (if you recall, the previous film took place in a digital environment). He still overuses the blue/green screen technology, but the special effects look better than they used to. That's probably the only positive aspect coming out of the franchise's seven-year hiatus: visuals do seem to be improving each year.
Speaking of visuals, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Blu-ray) shines in high definition. The 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen 1080p transfer provides a really crisp, clean image boasting strong colors and just the right vibrancy and contrast, and the DTS-HD Master audio track supplies robust sound all around. The Blu-ray edition of the film comes packed with four discs, which include the 3D version, the standard definition DVD, and a digital copy. In terms of special features, we're treated to a short interview with Rodriguez led by a kid, a few deleted scenes, and a handful of brief, dull behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Blu-ray) fails to live up to at least the first two films in the series. It scored a disappointing performance at the box office, and it picked up mostly negative reviews from the nation's top critics. This fourth film is a mess in terms of plot and characters, and I can only hope Rodriguez will finally retire these kids for good. It's about time, don't you think?
Review content copyright © 2011 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* 3D Version
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Official Site