Opening 3 May 2012
Hats off to director/script-writer/producer Robert Rodriquez! This is his fourth Spy Kids film since 2001 and it’s still thrilling, fast-paced, interesting, and fun to follow. How many films have you seen recently which can lay claim to all of those qualities? And, although it is a film for children, adults will have a good time, too.
We start out in the suburbs and the home of a typical patchwork family: father Wilbur Wilson (Joel McHale), second wife Marissa (Jessica Alba), his twins from his first marriage Rebecca and Cecil (Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook), and the new baby. Marissa gave up her career to be a housewife and mother (although the twins haven’t accepted her in this role), while her husband tries his success with a new reality TV show. Naturally, anyone familiar with any of the previous three Spy Kids is not surprised when this peaceful environment soon explodes in a flash of world-encompassing threats. In this case it’s The Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven) who, by controlling worldwide time, threatens to bring down all of mankind with just a few tick-tocks. All he needs is the special locket which happens to be with the Wilson family.
Various family members rise to the challenge and gradually reveal their special talents to each other. Marissa returns to her old job as special agent, baby in tow. Rebecca and Cecil, accompanied by their dog Argonaut, turn into super kids. (Dogs seem much more noticeable in films these days ever since they gave Uggie the Dog a prize in Cannes for his role in The Artist.) Argonaut also has special talents, including speaking genteel British English (voiced by Ricky Gervais). Soon their cousins, Carmen and Juni (the original Spy Kids from the first films – now grown), reappear to help. There is much action supported by wildly colorful scenes with various objects jumping into your lap, a la 3D; the world is saved and the family looks towards a more companionable future, with new respect for everyone. The only exception is father Wilbur, who seems to have missed out on the excitement.
Numbers from one to eight appear on the screen throughout. This is the signal to scratch the corresponding number on your card for a sniff of whatever is smelly on screen. Neither the scratch card nor the 3D technique is actually necessary to insure the success of the film. It stands very well on the basics alone without the frills. The moral of the story: time is how you use it, and this can be some well-invested fun time for the whole family. Watch for another sequel; after all, Spy Baby is waiting in the wings. (Becky Tan)