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Life is too short for Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. The ability of the story’s villain to speed up time, the better to hurry the day until Armageddon, merely makes you wish you had access to fast-forward button to shorten the misery, just as the countless fart jokes and dismal fourth-dimensional Aroma-Scope (the same scratch-and-sniff card used by John Waters for Polyester 20 years ago) create an intense desire to get out into the fresh air without delay. Arriving eight years after the lame third installment in Dimension’s profitable series, this seems like far too little way too late.
Decorously but absurdly encapsulating the contemporary notion of the working mom, bulgingly pregnant secret agent Marissa Wilson (Jessica Alba) uses a zip line and engages some enemy goons in a martial arts contest just before checking into a hospital to give birth. A year later, the villainous Time Keeper (whose face is an old-fashioned mantle clock) is a tick away from stealing time from the rest of the world. So, with Marissa sidelined with her gaseous little tot, her tiresome stepchildren (Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook), in the company of a chatty dog (voiced by Ricky Gervais at his least amusing), jump into the breach to do battle with the time bandit’s helium-voiced henchman against a backdrop of cheap-looking visual effects, which are often dominated by giant turning clock gears in this digital age.
The incessant banter spewing from the mouths of the two child leads is both puerile and dull, with writer-director Robert Rodriguez seemingly far more interested in airing banal views about how busy parents and kids could arrange to spend more quality time together than in creating anything resembling a coherent plot or suspense. Once upon a time a promising filmmaker, Rodriguez still works frequently but to ever-diminishing returns, exhibiting laziness as a writer and slap-dash tendencies as a director.
Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, who played the title characters in the first three franchise entries, 2001-3, are back but all grown up now playing secondary agents for the spy outfit OSS. Jeremy Piven essays the head of the organization, as well as two other roles but he, like all the others here, is just marking time and cashing the checks. Everyone’s time, that of the filmmakers as well as the audience, is worth more than this. Dimension chose not to press-screen the picture, and all of three people were present for the 12:01 a.m. show caught.
Opens: Friday, Aug. 19 (Dimension)
Production companies: Troublemaker Studios
Cast: Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Ricky Gervais, Jeremy Piven, Danny Trejo
Director-screenwriter: Robert Rodriguez
Producers: Robert Rodriguez, Elizabeth Avellan
Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Directors of photography: Robert Rodriguez, Jimmy Lindsey
Costume designer: Nina Proctor
Editor: Dan Zimmerman
Music: Carl Thiel, Robert Rodriguez
PG rating, 88 minutes
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