I really didn’t expect to go to Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D Aroma-Scope, but my co-host and light of my life, Mandi, was insistent. Rarely have I seen her so excited for an upcoming movie that wasn’t about teenage wizards (or vampires). Actually, I’ve never seen her so excited for any film.
It wasn’t too surprising, I figured, since the first Spy Kids movie was truly excellent and the second two instalments were pretty great as well. Not only were they family films made by a proper director—not just cheap product rolled off a studio assembly line—but they also showed there was more to Robert Rodriguez than ultra-violent, post-modern grindhouse flicks. They had heart, a unique style, great writing and they had great casts. Some of his best work by far.
I would have been more confused by Mandi’s excitement if I’d known Mandi had never actually seen a Spy Kids movie. I didn’t know until we were pulling into the cinema parking lot that she was going purely for the Aroma-Scope experience. As far as seat-filling gimmicks go, this one apparently works (except our theatre was only about 20% full).
And as far as hi-tech cinema gimmicks go, it’s delightfully low-tech. It doesn’t require special cameras and doesn’t cause vertigo in the audience. It’s juts an old-school scratch’n’sniff card.
It also doesn’t really work. At least for me. Whenever the flashing number appeared on the screen and I scratched the corresponding dot on the card, all I smelled was a vaguely fruity, candy-like aroma. Something like if you stuck your nose in the penny-candy bins at a 7-Eleven. Supposedly, I should have been smelling bacon and dog-farts at some point. What I got out of it was was candy necklace.
But maybe that was the point. I suspect it’s really an elaborate prank by troublemaker Rodriguez as a statement on how the 3D trend is utterly stupid. A joke that is, perhaps, a little rich since Spy Kids 3-D was in that terrible old-school anaglyph 3D.
As with 3D, or computer animation, elaborate car-chases, or any other gimmick, the success—or failure—of Aroma-Scope should have been a trivial matter. The film should have been able to entertain on it’s own.
Though I haven’t watched the first three films in years, I feel pretty confident in saying All the Time in the World is easily, far and away, the worst of the Spy Kids movies. Even without comparing the film to its older siblings, it feels more like a Nickelodeon than a Troublemaker production. Spy Kids movies have always been about Technicolor silliness, but were tempered with enough adult content to appeal to a wider audience. Though they weren’t highly complex movies, they weren’t dumbed-down for the younger members of the audience either. This film is purely for children.
Which might be why we’re given only a brief two-second long pseudo-cameo by Uncle Machete—one where he isn’t even mobile, but frozen in time. Why they even bothered to get Danny Trejo out of bed for it is baffling. Especially with his own film, the R-rated Machete, released only last year. One has to suppose it was merely just to put his name on the cast-list.
The cast-list is, by the way, the main problem with the film. The first three films in the series had great villains played by uber-charismatic juggernauts Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Steve Buscemi and Sylvester Stallone. All The Time In The World has the merely adequate verging on unwatchable (pun intended) Jeremy Piven.
This generation’s dad, Community‘s Joe McHale, proves he’s a TV-grade actor and not a movie star like Antonio Banderras while movie star Jessica Alba proves she’s still simply terrible when called on to deliver comedy (or some acting) and not just pout seductively while writing on a Sin City stripper pole. That is to say she’s in neither Carla Gugino‘s nor Salma Hayek‘s league.
The only shining light in the supporting cast of adults is Ricky Gervias providing the voice of Argonaut, the robotic dog. Depending on your feelings about Gervais, that’s probably a make or break statement.
That all might even be fine if the kids were alright. The kids are all wrong. Rebecca (Rowland Blanchard) is no Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Cecil (Mason Cook) is no Juni (Daryl Sabara). Unfortunately, Carmen and Juni are no Carmen and Juni either. True to form, these great child actors grew up to be lousy young-adult actors and—adhering to the recurring theme of the franchise—they put aside their differences and work together as a team to derail the final third of the film.
That recurring theme, by the way, has gotten tired. The script is clearly more a re-boot than a sequel. The age/power dynamics of the siblings are carbon copies of the original duo. The life lessons about the importance of family and setting aside petty differences are rehashed from the original films as well. Not that these aren’t perennial themes worthy of revisiting, but they really felt like as much rote regurgitation this time around as the regurgitation jokes. Even all the puns and references surrounding the new angle of spending/wasting time felt like missed opportunities instead of being a tightly written script such as the first film boasted.
The inevitable over-arching plot of a villian with a doomsday machine is to be expected and gets a pass. That’s always merely been the backdrop for the cleverly-written interpersonal dynamics and action set pieces in these films. The dynamics and set pieces are not clever this time around.
I’ll admit I could be looking back on those first three films with rose coloured glasses (or red and blue coloured in the case of the third film), but if this movie isn’t genuinely poor in comparison, I must have been far more inebriated the entire time I was studying applied arts in college than I thought (no mean statement).
Rating: 2½ inexact aromas out of 5 insufferable brats.