Like the previous Spy Kids movies before it, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World is a product of the tireless work of its creator, Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez is well-known for his many talents spanning a range of filmmaking disciplines – among his contributions here are writing, directing, producing, cinematography, and music.
Unfortunately, involving oneself heavily in a project sometimes leads to a measure of nearsightedness, and that’s the case here. All the Time in the World is jammed full of creative ideas, but the execution is often nonsensical. Kids will love it, but adults will likely be frustrated.
Rebecca and Cecil (Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook) are ordinary kids with the usual movie-type quirks – she’s a skilled prankster, while he reads a lot about electronics and advanced physics. They fight, a lot, constantly betting money and trying to score points against each other. They also don’t think too much of their stepmother, Marissa (Jessica Alba), who just happens to be a former spy for the OSS, recently retired to give birth to a child with the kids’ father Wilbur (Joel McHale), and to look after the family.
When a villain known as the Timekeeper begins stealing time from the world, Marissa is reactivated. She’s holding onto a mysterious sapphire that is the only known defence against the Timekeeper’s Armageddon Device. But the jewel ends up in Rebecca’s hands, and the kids are soon attacked by enemy spies.
Journeying to OSS headquarters with their guardian, a robot dog named Argonaut (Ricky Gervais), the kids learn about the old Spy Kids division, now defunct. But former Spy Kid Carmen (Alexa Vega) thinks they might have what it takes to become Spy Kids themselves, if they can learn to work together.
All of this looks great on paper, and indeed Rodriguez is to be commended for an intelligent story that also links into universal themes of family and valuing the little time we have together on this earth. But the action on screen is often jumbled and hard to follow. Ideas are piled on top of one another with little explanation or exploration, and we get an unpleasant feeling that the film is going nowhere fast.
Take the film’s central concept, for example. The Timekeeper is stealing time from the world. Apart from a couple of early scenes where characters are surprised by the clock’s sudden jump, this idea simply fades into the background, adding no sense of urgency to the story. News reports continually tell us that the world is in dire straits, but we have no idea how or why. It’s frustrating to be asked to accept these ideas without explanation, and it happens frequently, which takes us out of the story.
The performances are not bad, even though the adults often sound like their dialogue was written by a 6 year old. Jeremy Piven, in multiple roles, often seems confused which part he is playing at any one time, but given the story, that may have been the director’s choice. It’s also fun to see Spy Kid stars Vega and Daryl Sabara return, even though very little is done with them.
In the end, though, all of this won’t matter too much to kids, who will love the action, gadgets, and 3D effects. Less successful is the film’s “4D Aromascope” gimmick – the scratch’n'sniff cards don’t work very well, and add nothing but distraction. In fact, they only seem to encourage more toilet humour, which the series has avoided pretty well up to this point.
In the end, there are better kids’ movies out there. But, given the kid appeal and family-friendly message, this one might be worth your time.
Tags: movie review