There were certainly worse ideas in 2011 than rebooting the Spy Kids franchise. It’s a film concept that’s easy to refresh: recruit a new batch of charming kid actors, update the gadgets for the new era, weave in some family values, and spin up a kooky spy-fi premise.
And Spy Kids: All the Time in the World actually gets the fundamentals of the story right: We have a fresh, family-focused remix of the Spy Kids 1 premise. This time, only one of the adults (Jessica Alba) is in the know, while the second parent (Joel McHale) is ironically host of a spy hunting-themed reality show.
There’s strong emotional undercurrent to all of the action, too, as daughter Rebecca struggles to accept Alba as her step-mom. The sense of shifting identities and uncertain loyalties underpins the espionage drama in meaningful ways.
Once again in the Spy Kids series, too, the story’s villain provides a powerful element of artistic reflection for Rodriguez. The Timekeeper, we eventually learn, is a child who missed his parent’s love due to professional obsession.
But if the guts of this film are a Pillsbury vanilla cake — sweet, fun, satisfying, forgettable — then its icing is rancid ketchup, here in the form of single worst comic relief sidekick that I can recall seeing on screen. Ricky Gervais voices an endlessly quipping robo-dog named Argonaut, ruining almost every fun moment with a stupid joke. It’s so damn distracting.
Nearly as bad as the excessive potty humor. The original trilogy was not devoid of poop jokes, but they were at least used sparingly and moderately cleverly. Here, barf/poop/fart is the default punchline (which the theatrical released captured with scratch-and-sniff smell-o-vision cards), which is both unpleasant and lazy.
So, yeah. It could be worse. I don’t mind the cast. I like the family stuff. The set pieces are good. The appearances from the original trilogy’s stars are well-done.
But I knock off one rating point for Argonaut and another for the scatology, bringing the movie down from “decent” to “avoid,” unfortunately.
Not Good (2/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.