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November 2011

Spy Kids 4D

cast: Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Alexa Vega, Rowan Blanchard, and Mason Cook

director: Robert Rodriguez

89 minutes (PG) 2011
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
EIV DVD Region 2
[released 12 December]

RATING: 7/10
review by Donald Morefield




Spy Kids 4 line-up
Spy Kids 4D: All The Time In The World

Much sillier than the Mission: Impossible franchise, but never as dumbly comical as Get Smart, the Spy Kids trilogy (2001-3) by Robert Rodriguez varied between secret agent adventures for pre-teens to video-game antics like a kiddie version of Tron that way too cool for Disney. Filmed in the smell-o-vision of 4D 'Aroma-scope', Spy Kids: All The Time In The World is a ten years later affair, with the original movie's Cortez couple (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) now out of the picture, this starts as pregnant Marissa (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four, Sin City, Machete) is forced out of retirement in order to stop a threat of super-villainy.

Having dealt with some henchmen, the plot jumps ahead to find Marissa is struggling to cope with sundry domestic hassles of precocious step-kids Rebecca and Cecil, and her own inevitable baby makes three tykes who are always getting into trouble, never mind saving the world. In a blatant reference to both Long Kiss Goodnight and True Lies, action-girl Marissa is married to Wilbur (Joel McHale, TV comedy Community), the hapless presenter of a failing 'spy-hunter' reality-TV show, who's blind to the fact of his wife's former profession.

When bad guys raid the family home, safe-room contingency plans go automatically online, switching over to the fantastic sci-fi world of virtual pop-up displays, super-techno gadgets, and some flying escape-pod shenanigans, while also revealing robot watchdog Argonaut (voiced by Ricky Gervais) as the kids' babysitter. Time-travelling evil mastermind (Jeremy Piven, tackling three roles here), a fresh revival for the OSS agency's mothballed 'spy kids' programme, numerous in-jokes (including a cameo for Danny Trejo as Uncle Machete!) linked to espionage in the cinema or TV, and visuals rich in clockwork motifs, provide just some of the genre content for this engaging and ultimately quite amusing sequel.

The original spy kids, Carmen (Alexa Vega), and Juni (Daryl Sabara), are now grown ups, but it's very much to the movie's credit that director Rodriguez has hired both of them back here as mentors for the next generation. Of course, there is an agreeably subdued social commentary about the modern world's pressures upon the family unit (as 'quality time' is always at a premium), alongside the pleasantly formulaic message about growing up into a responsible teenager, but such material in this movie is never insultingly moralistic or absurdly inappropriate for the scenario.

DVD extras and options include a scratch 'n' sniff card, plus 3D visuals - if you really like that sort of thing.



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