Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.
For Threequel Weekquel, I made sure I’d seen all the films leading up to each time travel-y third installment. In the Fourquel Morequel Edition, however, there are only two franchises that desperately resorted to time travel as a way to renew interest, and both of them are eye candy cash-grabs for kids, so fuck it. I’ve only previously seen the first movie in each series. Let’s proceed.
SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD IN 4-D (2011)
Super-pregnant superspy Marissa Wilson (Jessica Alba) is hot on the trail of Tick Tock (Jeremy Piven), a squeaky-voiced nutjob with the ability to manipulate time. After catching him, she is immediately rushed to the hospital where her new husband Wilbur Wilson (Joel McHale) and his children Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook) are– nope, I just stopped caring.
Okay, look, the movie has a couple of high points, but not enough to salvage it. For starters, instead of just blatantly stealing the “our parents are spies!” plot of the first movie, only the wife is a spy, unbeknownst to the rest of her family. On top of that, Marissa is stepmom to Rebecca and Cecil, so she’s trying to win their love while raising a baby daughter with Wilbur. On top of that, her husband is a reporter who hosts a show called Spy Hunter where he attempts to blow the cover of “the spies among us,” but he hasn’t caught a single agent, including his own wife.
Beats riffing on reality TV, eh, Joel?
These are fairly interesting set-ups, right? Unfortunately, they don’t do anything clever or unpredictable with them because they needed more room for time puns and farts.
Oh, also, the lamest villain plot ever.
So a guy in a clock mask who we have every reason to believe is Jeremy Piven has an ingenious scheme: he’s going to speed up time until there’s no time left! Muahahahahuh? What this entails, I don’t have a damn clue. Clocks tick really fast? The sun sets at octuple speed, but only when it looks cool and doesn’t affect the plot? As an adult, I can appreciate the Axe Coppish nature of his ridiculous plan, especially when it’s hammed up with a wink and a nod, but I can tell you right now that Kid Me would be shouting, “None of this makes any sense!” at the TV.
Please just cut back to Wilbur Wilson, Spy Hunter. And stay there.
But seriously, back to those time puns. Any phrase you have ever heard that contains the word “time” is in this movie. It’s up, it’s out, it’s only a matter of it; they’re all blasting at your face in a constant stream. Timestream? Get it?! That time of the month? That’s probably in there! I don’t remember! Honestly, you could base a drinking game around whenever a character says “time,” and come to think of it, Robert Rodriguez has probably played it. Also brace yourself for “just watch me” and “I’ll clean his clock” and “holy fuck, this dialogue really ticks me off.” And if you’re wondering what these complaints are doing in the story section, please, join me in throwing up your hands and crying, “What the shit?” as you witness… time flies.
Fuck it. I’m out.
Yeah. Plot-relevant puns. By the way, these little robot flies don’t do anything pertaining to time. They just buzz at the main characters and get swatted away. If you’re not going to take being a villain seriously, at least make sure your prop comedy is thematically airtight. It’s about more than just timing– SON OF A BITCH, wait, they never did that one. Hmm.
Anyway, so the kids figure out mom’s a spy and get into her spy stuff and go have spy adventures like a couple of kid spies. Like the first one.
Joel McHale is the bright spot. He’s over-the-top and corny and knows exactly what this movie is without any cynicism.
Though he was probably hoping Rodriguez would cast him in Machete.
Jessica Alba’s talents as a non-actress are on full display as she conveys “spy” by wearing leather and “mom” by wearing messes.
Caption it yourself.
Children aren’t people.
Just offscreen: a kid wrangler with a tasty treat.
Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, on the other hand, are now fully-formed people. Unfortunately, they’re people who needed to say “yes” to more than just a quick cameo in Spy Kids 4.
“Hey, the original Spy Kids!” – Nobody, because fans of the first one are also this old.
Jeremy Piven is sort of fun as Tick Tock, but you can’t tell because of the squealing helium voice they gave him in post for no discernible reason.
“A badass villain? No, kids like those little aliens from Toy Story. Change it!”
Jeremy Piven also plays the head of the spy agency, which is a rather puzzling choice for a time travel movie, wouldn’t you say? I mean, a good guy and a bad guy that are clearly identical? Hmmmmm. Weird.
Do you see a clue, boys and girls? Where? The guy from Entourage? Good work!
Ricky Gervais is the voice of… *sigh* the talking robot dog, Argonaut, who I hate to admit is sometimes funny. His screen time is split between being cheekily British and farting.
Wait a minute, I don’t think Ricky farted his own farts.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Did I mention the farting dog? Because this is some groundbreaking effects work.
Did I say “groundbreaking”? I meant windbreaking! Kidding again, I meant soul-crushing.
The time travel is a big purple smoke tube.
A description that seems to also fit Jeremy Piven pretty well.
There’s also some time freezing, which I think you can do in iMovie, can’t you?
Seems that way.
These Spy Kids movies are mostly fake, cartoony CGI that looks like a video game. It’s all wacky and in-your-face and gets tiresome pretty fast.
Agh, goofy jet.
Ugh, lightning whip punch thing.
Oof, big fake sets and THOSE GODDAMN TIME FLIES.
OTHER (SPOILERY) STUFF:
- The 4D in the title refers to little scratch-and-sniff cards that were handed out in the theater, so you could not just see Gervais Dog’s butthole, but smell it. Admittedly, I did not experience the picture the way it was meant to be inhaled, so entire layers of subtext may have been lost on me. I humbly apologize.
- Obvious spoiler unless you’re an idiot kid. So not only is the head of the good guys clearly also the bad guy in the first ten minutes, but he steals a page from that wizarding world I hate by choosing an alias that’s an anagram of his doomsday device’s codename. Fuck you. That’s not a smart reveal and it never was. I’m one pissed little kid right now.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
One of the Spy Brats says some crap about time travel. Whatever.
“You can’t actually travel through time. Time stays the same.
You’re just creating multiple versions of yourself that appear at different points in time.”
It’s pure coincidence that Cinemanaut Becca just recently posted about how children’s movies often resort to the lowest forms of humor because they think kids are stupid and want stupid movies. Well, unfortunately, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D proves that the trend continues. It’s puke and farts and dumb and the only reason I’d watch it again is to play The Time Pun Drinking Game. Now come on, Rodriguez, if this film series can spin off Machete, at least redeem this mess by showing me Wilbur Wilson, Spy Hunter in Machete Kills.
LATER THIS WEEK:
Pokémon 4Ever (2001)
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.