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Monday, November 14, 2011

SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD -- DVD review by porfle

Am I not supposed to love this movie?  Not according to IMDb's user vote, which currently gives it about a 3 out of 10.  Fortunately, my inner ADD child doesn't read IMDb, and he thinks SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (2011) is like a giant gumball machine of fun which rates way more than that.

Writer-director Robert Rodriguez gives his own inner child free rein here and the result is a consistently inventive and lightning-paced romp packed with just about everything a kid might want to see in a movie.  Not the least of which being the chance to vicariously get swept up in a series of wild spy adventures with a couple of kids--make that Spy Kids--who suddenly find themselves having to save the world.

Rebecca Wilson (Rowan Blanchard), who loves to pull practical jokes, and her twin brother Cecil (Mason Cook), a brainy bookworm, are the typical bickering, competitive siblings.  Their dad Wilbur (Joel McHale) stars in a TV series called "Wilbur Wilson: Spy Hunter" but is unaware that his own wife Marissa (Jessica Alba) is herself a former OSS superspy now retired to take care of their new baby. 

In addition to struggling to connect with her dubious stepkids, Marissa is suddenly called back into action when a supervillain known as the Time Keeper threatens to end the world as we know it by accelerating time.  Needless to say, Rebecca and Cecil eventually end up as OSS agents themselves when the discontinued "Spy Kids" program is reactivated, with Rebecca's prankish ingenuity and Cecil's superior intellect saving the day.

The film opens with a very pregnant Marissa in hot pursuit of the Time Keeper's impish second banana Tick Tock even as her contractions begin, which gives us a good idea of the story's lighthearted and fantastical nature right off the bat.  It also gives us a taste of the endless barrage of cartoony CGI sight gags that will increase exponentially for the rest of the film, climaxing in the Time Keeper's vast clockwork lair with its huge rotating gears and deadly spinning second hand.

Once it gets going, the action never stops.  A surprise attack on the Wilson home by the Timekeeper's henchmen sends Rebecca and Cecil--via prerecorded holographic messages from Marissa--into an elaborate panic room where they hop into rocket-propelled jet luges that whisk them on a screaming aerial joyride to OSS headquarters with the bad guys hot on their tails. This is fun stuff, kids, replete with barf bag bombs (Cecil gets airsick), multiple sight gags, and thrilling special effects, during which their tiny robot dog Argonaut keeps up a steady stream of lowbrow one-liners (Ricky Gervais does a great job voicing the mutt who thinks he's a canine James Bond).

The OSS headquarters turns out to be like a theme park filled with awesome gadgets which the kids avail themselves of before striking out on their own after the Time Keeper.  Eventually the entire Wilson family, including Spy Baby of course, is united in the fight, only to be thwarted by "time bombs", freeze rays, and other unforeseen dangers.  Fans of the first three films will no doubt be pleased to find the original Spy Kids, Carmen (Alexa Vega, looking sharp these days) and Juni (Daryl Sabara), now grown up, joining in the action themselves. 

Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook are perfect as Rebecca and Cecil and perform like pros while still coming across as real kids.  Not only are they good, natural comic actors but clearly are very directable as well.  McHale and Alba make an appealing couple, with Jessica looking especially fit in a series of skintight spy outfits.  Jeremy Piven, appearing in multiple roles including OSS leader Danger D'Amo, does an outstanding job and is key to making some of the film's more heartfelt moments work.  Speaking of which, the subplot with Marissa trying to fit in as the kids' stepmom is nicely handled, as is the message (non-too-subtle, but this is a kids' movie) about not taking time or family for granted.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a Robert Rodriguez kid interview, "Spy Kids Passing the Torch" with Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, deleted scenes (with Danny Trejo as "Uncle Machete"), "Rowan and Mason's Video Diary", "How to Make a Robotic Dog", "Ricky Gervais as Argonaut", and "Spy Gadgets."  The film is available both as a single DVD and a 4-disc combo pack with Blu-Ray+bonus, DVD+bonus, Blu-Ray 3D, and Digital Copy.

As colorful, fast-moving, and frenetic as any anime or CGI cartoon, SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD is the kind of giddy-fun thrill ride of a movie that I wish I'd been able to see as a kid.  Apparently there are some pretty convincing reasons not to like it, judging from its low IMDb rating, but darn if I could find any of them.  I even enjoyed the fart jokes.

Buy it at
Blu-Ray+DVD+Digital Copy combo pack

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