It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since the last Spy Kids adventure, 2003’s Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. In that respect, director Robert Rodriguez is a victim of his success. Between subsequent Hollywood attempts to create a new kiddie super-spy franchise (see: Agent Cody Banks) and Spy Kids-style kids’ films from Rodriguez like The Adventures Of Shark Boy And Lavagirl and Shorts, pint-sized special agents have been only slightly less ubiquitous on the big screen than their adult counterparts. How are we supposed to miss the Spy Kids franchise when it feels like it never went away?
In the belated fourth entry in the Spy Kids series, the perpetually miscast Jessica Alba stars as a pregnant secret agent so dedicated she dodges bad guys and pursues evildoers even after she’s started to go into labor. Alba’s stepchildren (Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook) know nothing of Alba’s secret life saving the world, nor does husband Joel McHale, a professional spy-catcher so clueless he can’t detect the spies inside his own home. But when a time-obsessed madman known only as The Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven) begins robbing mankind of its time, Blanchard and Cook are pressed into service as Spy Kids under the direction of original Spy Kid Alexa Vega, now a top operative within her organization. Ricky Gervais continues his sad descent into glum self-parody voicing a Poochie-style talking robot dog with ’tude.
The Spy Kids series once seemed charmingly homemade. These days, it feels less charmingly homemade than maddeningly amateurish. The franchise similarly used to offer at least something for adults, but if Spy Kids: All The Time In The World aimed any younger in its puerile scatological humor and monosyllabic dialogue, it would be pandering hard to the pre-natal demographic. With its shiny colors, super-campy action, and villain who can’t stop making terrible puns relating to his identity, Spy Kids: All The Time In The World provokes traumatic memories of another third sequel from a franchise that had similarly worn out its welcome ages before it stopped: Batman & Robin. Schumacher’s infamous botch at least induced morbid fascination; this is just leaden kitsch clumsily conceived and painfully executed.