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.”