Marissa Wilson really wants to be a good mom.
By way of marrying Wilbur, she already has two wary, precocious, prank-prone grade-schoolers named Cecil and Rebecca. And now she's pregnant! So she's decided to call it quits as an interior designer and devote all her energies to her new blended family.
But that's going to be hard. Because, you see, Marissa's not really an interior designer. She's actually a top secret spy for an espionage outfit known as OSS. She's so secret, in fact, that her own family doesn't even know who she really is or what she really does—even though her earnest but often clueless husband hosts a cable TV show called Spy Hunter.
On her last day at "work" before the baby's born, Marissa nabs the notorious time-bending baddie known as Tick Tock. All seems well. Mr. Tock is in custody. Mrs. Wilson is in labor. Goodbye spy life. Hello mommyhood.
Fast-forward one year, and strange things are afoot. Time seems to be accelerating. The culprit? A dastardly villain known as the Time Keeper, who's in cahoots with the mysteriously emancipated Tick Tock. Soon, OSS chief Danger D'Amo is on the holophone with Marissa. Never mind that she's got a baby strapped to her belly—there's a bad guy to catch. And if she can't nab him, well, the result will be a kind of chronological Armageddon that'll ultimately freeze the whole world.
The only thing that can divert this terrible termination is the so-called Chronos Sapphire, which is in a locket …
… that Marissa has just given to Rebecca. Soon Marissa's knee deep in trouble, cut off from Rebecca and Cecil—who are being chased by the Time Keeper's weirdly bespectacled lackeys.
It's, ahem, time for a couple of new Spy Kids to ride to the rescue.
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World repeatedly focuses on the importance of making the most of the time we've been given by loving our families well. Marissa demonstrates this value by quitting her job in order to spend more time with her new family. Wilbur, meanwhile, has a demanding schedule and frequently doesn't have time for his children. And he keeps telling them that he wants to work hard for five years in order to make enough money to retire—then spend all of his time with them. It's a lousy plan, a co-worker wisely tells him: "Spend time with them now, because the only thing you'll find time for later is regret."
Even the Time Keeper emphasizes this theme, broadcasting a message on TV in which he tells people he's taking their time from them because they've chosen to waste it and because they don't realize how precious it is. (And in the end we learn why this idea is so important to him and how it relates in a very personal and poignant way to his life.)
The importance of family is emphasized in other ways as well. Wilbur is comically inept, but he desperately wants to do right by his children, who are still mourning the death of their mother. Rebecca and Cecil frequently indulge in silly sibling rivalry, but they eventually realize how important is to cooperate instead of compete. That lesson is underscored by the arrival of the original (and now young adult) Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni Cortez, who have their own sibling rivalry issues to iron out.
All these characters—even the family dog Argonaut (which turns out to be a sophisticated OSS robot)—risk life and limb to save humanity from the Time Keeper's plot.
A passing reference to a Mayan prophecy about the end of time and of humanity.
Marissa wears tank tops that reveal cleavage. She and Wilbur kiss a couple of times (once quite passionately).
There's a lot of mock action violence here, most of which feels like the kind of Pow! Bam! Smash! conflict you see in Batman and Get Smart TV episodes from the 1960s. Which is to say, it's exaggerated and comical, and no one ever really seems to be injured too badly.
Very pregnant, Marissa somehow manages to subdue Tick Tock and his cronies in a scene that includes a wild car chase, a zip line and fisticuffs. Three henchmen explosively invade the Wilson home looking for the kids, who initially hide in the (just discovered) panic room before blasting off into the sky in futuristic minijets. The goons turn their guns into sky sleds and pursue the pair on a wild chase that weaves through skyscrapers and involves dodging the bad guys' employment of pincer-like tentacles.
Multiple encounters with the Time Keeper and Tick Tock have Marissa, Carmen, Wilbur and the two kids engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Cecil's collection of Spy Kids gadgets includes powerful, shock-inducing gloves that enable him to bowl over opponents. Rebecca has what seems to be an electrically charged whip (or perhaps a laser-whip) that similarly keeps enemies at bay. When his switch is flipped to attack mode, Argonaut goes after Time Keeper's goofy goons with gravity-defying ferocity.
A couple of scenes involve these characters navigating the inner workings of Time Keeper's spherical, clock-like lair, which boasts all manner of fast-moving gears and giant, potentially perilous clock-like obstacles. Several people are temporarily trapped in a giant hourglass.
Crude or Profane Language
Three or four uses of "oh my god" and one "jeez." Carmen says "shitake mushrooms," a knowing nod to two uses of the same phrase in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. Traded insults include "butthead" and "bobblehead."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Marissa strides into combat while pregnant and again with her baby girl strapped to her chest. Some families may not appreciate Marissa's joke about her water breaking.
The baby repeatedly passes gas, inevitably compelling everyone to comment on how foul-smelling it is. She has a penchant for hurling her food directly into Marissa's cleavage. Marissa tosses a dirty diaper at a couple of bad guys. In similar territory, Argonaut sports a number of special defensive "features" that mimic biological functions, including passing foul gas himself, ejecting explosive "butt bombs" and "urinating" oil.
During an acrobatic air chase, Cecil vomits, filling several airsick bags—which he uses to take out three pursuers. "Never underestimate the power of puke," he quips. Rebecca's pranks include dropping a bag of blue cheese dressing on her mom's head, putting baby powder in her hair dryer (which her dad uses) and filling the wooden container for the Chronos Sapphire with exploding baby food.
It's safe to say Robert Rodriguez's fourth Spy Kids film is taking a critical shellacking. "The ability of the story's villain to speed up time … merely makes you wish you had access to a fast-forward button to shorten the misery," writes Hollywood Reporter reviewer Todd McCarthy, "just as the countless fart jokes and dismal fourth-dimensional Aroma-Scope … create an intense desire to get out into the fresh air without delay."
Is the smell a tad better on home video than it was in theaters? Well, that depends on how you look at it (sniff at it?). In theaters, the movie arrived with that Aroma-Scope card McCarthy mentioned, which you were prompted to scratch and sniff every so often. It was a 1975-esque gimmick that merely served to remind me of the movie's smellier scenes when it comes to content. Content that, of course, doesn't change much when you bring the movie home. And that's really too bad, because Spy Kids 4 has a heart that's as good and sweet as its storyline is formulaic and banal. There's gas and vomit. And there's a solid reminder about the central importance of family. Over and over it reminds us of how significant every moment (this moment) is when it comes to our closest relationships. Not what we hope to do in five years. Not what happened five days ago. But what's happening right now.
I'm a dad. And I need to be reminded that my kids need my love and my time. Today. And as they grow up, my kids will need reminding that time with their parents is one of the most precious things in their lives. There's a lot we can't control, but we can choose to be present. In the present. Silly smells and all, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World delivers that message. So even if the film itself isn't particularly inspiring, the theme it strives to deliver is.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Kids
Jessica Alba as Marissa Wilson; Rowan Blanchard as Rebecca Wilson; Mason Cook as Cecil Wilson; Joel McHale as Wilbur Wilson; Jeremy Piven as Danger D'Amo/Tick Tock/The Time Keeper; Alexa Vega as Carmen Cortez; Daryl Sabara as Juni Cortez; Voice of Ricky Gervais as Argonaut
Robert Rodriquez (Machete, Shorts, Grindhouse, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, Sin City, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids)
August 19, 2011
Adam R. Holz Adam R. Holz