The latest in Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids" franchise feels once again like an elaborate home movie. You'd be impressed if, say, a family member had ginned up these neat costumes, cute props and a three-act script. Gosh, Uncle Robert, this is almost like a real movie!
The thing is, this is a real movie. You'll pay upwards of $15 for a ticket and 3-D glasses to see "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D," a price tag that makes the amateurishness slightly less adorable. At least this one comes with the added "dimension" of smell, in the form of a card that you can scratch and sniff during various scenes.
The original spy kids, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabra, are no longer kids, which means they appear only briefly while the film introduces a new family. Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook) are 10-year-old twins coping with a workaholic dad, Wilbur (Joel McHale), and a harried stepmother, Marissa (Jessica Alba), who is actually a top-secret super-spy. When time itself begins speeding up, Marissa is called to investigate, and soon Rebecca and Cecil are pulled into the fray.
Everyone is clearly having fun: Alba gets to battle bad guys while holding a toddler and a sippy-cup; Jeremy Piven hams it up in multiple roles; Ricky Gervais, voicing a robotic dog, reaches a hit-miss ratio of not quite 2:1. Throughout, Rodriguez hammers hard at young funny bones with cartoony sound effects and kid-caliber one-liners like "Never underestimate the power of puke."
As for the "Aroma-Scope," it's a mixed bag. Some of the smells seemed randomly chosen (why bacon?) and several didn't seem to work at all. There was one scene whose aroma I'm still trying to place. Sheesh, Uncle Robert!
PLOT The key to a time-travel device lands in the hands of two ten-year-olds.
CAST Jessica Alba, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook.
PLAYING AT Area theaters, some in 3-D.
BOTTOM LINE Another amateurish entry in this oddball franchise, but it squeaks by on its humble charms.(some crude humor).
RATING (2.5 Stars)