by Peter Paras | Fri., Aug. 19, 2011 3:45 PM
Review in a Hurry: When a demented clock maker threatens to snatch up all the time left on the planet, a new duo of spy kids arrive to save the day. First they have to become spies, but that won't take long once they discover their new stepmom (Jessica Alba) is a super spy and their dog is a talking robot (Ricky Gervais).
Fans (and their parents) of writer/director Robert Rodriguez's over-the-top candy-colored series know what's in store—bad acting, terrible effects, a barely there plot. But even the tangiest of confections lose their flavor eventually. For Spy Kids that "time" has arrived...
The Bigger Picture: What started a decade ago as a fun side project for Rodriguez—and a surprise hit—has become tired (as most sequels do) and rather obvious.
There's still plenty of plenty diaper bombs and other brightly-colored goop but the timing feels off. Much of Spy Kids 4 feels like underdeveloped riffs on the series. Even kids will have a hard time paying attention.
So there's the Timekeeper's plan to speed up time: first in nanoseconds then entire days. Essentially, this adds up to characters looking in astonishment as their timepieces speed up. It's as exciting as it sounds.
The identity of the Timekeeper is a mystery, since he sports a cheap plastic clock mask. The main baddie is his accomplice Tick Tok, who's a villain less by action and more because he wears big goggles and speaks with an annoying chipmunk-type voice.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Piven is the boss of OSS, the spy headquarters, delivering nearly all his lines like they're punchlines to non-jokes. Can that get things worse? A scene with a dozen computer-generated Pivens is a big yes.
All the while the new kids spend most of their time not actually doing that much. They bicker, play practical jokes (more goop) and fumble into becoming the titular spy kids. This amounts to much camera mugging and plenty of eye-rolling.
The original Kids were never great thespians but they owned their excitement to becoming a spy! These new kids, well sure they want to play with gloves that can make you go SMASH! and own backpack that has nearly everything in it but they don't seem very compelled to ya know, save the universe. And if they can't be bothered. Why should we?
Incidentally, the original spy kids do show up. Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara are older now but they're still directed like younger actors: all mugging, all the time.
Alba does her usual job of kicking butt, but here she brings a one year old along for missions. The baby is cute but it's a bit unsettling to see the tyke shoved into moments of frenetic action involving weapons and aerial stunts.
As is usual, pretty much all the name stars are wasted in their roles. Were you really expecting much here from Joel McHale, Gervais and Piven? We didn't think so.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Among many bad performances, Jessica Alba still manages to be so likable—and she looks great in a black cat suit!
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