Spy Kids 4' goes beyond 3-D with scented 'Aroma-Scope'

Associated Press • Aug 18, 2011 at 4:28 AM

LOS ANGELES — Moviegoers, at least in the United States, are showing a waning interest in 3-D. So Hollywood is looking to solve the problem as only it can: by adding a new dimension.

This time, it's not your sight but your smell that's being brought into the equation: "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D" director Robert Rodriguez is promising to throw audiences "nose first into the fourth dimension" this weekend when the latest installment in his family-friendly series opens with "Aroma-Scope," a scratch-and-sniff experience.

Rodriguez said he was inspired to add scent to his new movie after catching a whiff of the diaper of star Jessica Alba's baby. Which should serve as a warning that not all of the odors in "Aroma-Scope" are of the sweet sort.

The director, who comes from a family of 10 kids and has five children ages 5 to 15, says he thought the low-tech "Aroma-Scope" would be popular with his young fan base, and a way to make the movie more interactive. And parents will be happy to know that it's not going to cost a dime extra on top of the 3-D.

So how does it work? When you enter the theater and collect your 3-D glasses, you also get a card embedded with eight numbered icons. When a digit flashes on screen, it's time to scratch the square with that number and inhale.

At the film's premiere a few weeks ago at L.A. Live, youngsters in the audience seemed excited by the prospect, though squinting at a card in a dark theater didn't always make for the most seamless experience. (When the first number flashed on screen, choruses of "I can't see!" erupted in the balcony.)

Rodriguez said he started the process by sniffing a menu of smells from a company that specializes in printing scents for magazines and other publications, then decided which ones he wanted to work into the film.

He said unlike previous experiments with piping scents into theaters, his "Aroma-Scope" cards offer viewers control.

"The nice thing about cards is, if you don't want to smell you don't have to," he said. "You're doing it by your own willpower."



Is Robert Rodriguez on to something with "Aroma-Scope"? There are plenty of other recent movies that could benefit from a little olfactory bonus. Here are a few that come to mind:

—"The Tree of Life": Sure Terrence Malick's movie contemplates the meaning of life, God, earthly existence, all of that. But it could take Aroma-Scope to truly elevate the moviegoing experience. Without it, can you really sense the cut grass, the seashore, the DDT or, for that matter, the dinosaur?

—"Bridesmaids": There isn't a moviegoer out there who didn't cringe a little bit when Kristen Wiig and her friends began defecating in the bridal-gown shop. But did watching it offer enough of a visceral kick? A strategically deployed scratch-and-sniff card would certainly do the trick.

—"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides": Some would say this fourquel already ran the risk of giving us sensory overload. But there are so many great pirate smells that could help plunge us into that world. There's rum, for instance, or the wafting odors of the Fountain of Youth. Most of all, there's Keith Richards.

—"Larry Crowne": Tom Hanks demonstrates how to make French toast in Julia Roberts' college class. But the true smell associated with this schmaltzy film, based on the overwhelmingly negative reviews, should probably be cheese. May we suggest Limburger?


(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

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