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Movie Reviews from a Christian Family Friendly Entertainment

Time is of the Essence in Spy Kids 4

  • Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2011 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Time is of the Essence in <i>Spy Kids 4</i>

DVD Release Date: November 22, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: August 19, 2011
Rating: PG (for mild action and rude humor)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Sequel
Run Time: 89 min.
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Actors: Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Joel McHale, Ricky Gervais

Every working mom knows how difficult it is to balance career and family; imagine how tricky that can be when mom’s job is being a spy. With the birth of her first child imminent—as in, her water breaks while she’s beating up bad guys—Marissa Wilson (Jessica Alba, Little Fockers) retires from her job with the OSS to concentrate on raising her new baby and mothering her stepkids.

A year later, things are not going so well. Stepkids Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard, The Back-up Plan) and Cecil (Mason Cook) still haven’t accepted Marissa into the family. Dad Wilbur (Joel McHale, The Informant!) is never around; he’s too busy trying to get his “Wilbur Wilson: Spy Hunter” reality show off the ground. And worst of all, Marissa’s archenemy “Tick Tock” (Jeremy Piven) is back on the streets—and somebody has to stop him before everyone, literally, runs out of time. Naturally, Rebecca and Cecil wind up in the middle of the action and, like the Spy Kids who came before them, find a way to save the planet.

As plots go, this one is pretty thin—but plot isn’t really the point of this kind of thing, is it? One welcome twist is that young Cecil is hearing-impaired. This in no way slows him down and he actually uses his hearing aids to his advantage more than once. It’s great to see a perceived “disability” shown in such a positive light.

In many ways, Spy Kids: All The Time in the World (fourth in the film franchise) is a kid version of a James Bond film. There are tons of super-cool gadgets, lots of relatively mindless action, corny jokes by the bushel, and an evil villain trying to destroy the world. In this case, the gadgets include a talking robotic dog voiced by Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying) in a bored-but-sarcastic tone that contrasts nicely with the pooch’s adorably furry face. The violence tends to be of the cartoon variety where a solid punch results in a knockout but no lasting injury. The one-liners range from groan-inducing to eye-rolling, but aside from too many fart/poop jokes for this reviewer’s taste they’re harmless enough. Even the villain isn’t all bad . . . when you learn what inspired his actions he becomes almost sympathetic.

Along with the gadgets, 3D effects, and grade-school humor, the film delivers a surprising number of worthwhile messages. Understanding that you can’t change the past, accepting people for who they are, the danger of keeping secrets, and “when the chips are down, you have to work together” all come into play. Maybe the most valuable lesson for parents and kids alike is “it’s not about how much time you have, it’s how you choose to use it.” Taken to heart, that sentiment alone is worth the price of admission.

Curious about what “4D” means? The much-ballyhooed “aroma-scope” turns out to be a scratch & sniff card issued with the ticket. At various times throughout the film a number appears on the screen; one is supposed to scratch and sniff the appropriate number on the card. Younger children will require help with this as the cards take significant scratching before any kind of scent is produced and even then the dominant scent is cardboard. Still, it’s a novelty that may help keep restless little ones occupied. Otherwise, the 3D version is OK but if you want to save money by going to the “regular” version you won’t miss much.

All in all, Spy Kids 4 is a fun, family film with positive messages and plenty of kid appeal—at the showing I attended cries of “That was AWESOME!” filled the air as the credits rolled. Even if you don’t have “all the time in the world” you won’t regret packing up the kids and heading to the local theater for this one. It’s only 89 minutes, after all.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: None.
  • Language/Profanity: A tiresome number of fart/poop jokes (fortunately none with corresponding scratch & sniff numbers); “butt” with –bombs, -head, etc.; and a drawn-out “shitake mushrooms” that’s clearly a double entendre.
  • Sex/Nudity: Brief kiss between married couple.
  • Violence: Plenty, but all of the cartoon variety: no blood, guts, or lasting ill effects—even the hardest conk on the head does not result in concussion. A certain ick factor from vomit and diaper “bombs” but the camera doesn’t linger.
  • Spiritual Concerns: A lot of talk about triggering “Armageddon” with apparently no clue what Armageddon really is; one comment, “The ancient Mayans got it right.”