(C.E. Chambers would like to announce the addition of a new film critic: “My Seatmate Speaketh 2011” located under CAPSULE FILM CRITIQUES 2011 on the sidebar. Mr. Seatmate is not a plot spoiler like C.E. Chambers.)
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World
By C.E. Chambers Posted September 9, 2011
theatrical release poster
Babes in black leather, butt balls (think spy tools), and a hot pink electric whip that a young girl uses to subdue bad guys. And an oil slick that spews from a talking dog’s collar that stops handsome OSS agents dressed in suits from pursuing two spy-kids-in-the-making. (How much money does a stunt man receive for falling on his okole – think Hawaiian – after attempting to run through treacherous black goo?) These are my most vivid memories of this film, the fourth in the well-regarded “Spy Kids” series, written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez.
The bad news: Joel McHale and Jessica Alba (who play the parents) are bland, unworthy replacements for charismatic Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino. Rowan Blanchard, who’s the new spy girl, isn’t so much spunky as she is testy and tedious. Mason Cook as the new spy boy is laid-back but not a stand-out. Alex Vega and Daryl Sabara, who winningly played the spy kids in the first three movies, do return as adults and this imparts a wonderful sense of continuity at first. However, Sabara, as Juni, is unremarkable as a mature spy. She’s just another babe whose form-fitting working ensemble is vixen black and beige (a girl’s gotta have a gun strapped to her thigh ) whose best scenes occur when she’s swinging an eye-catching, multi-purpose electric whip. Actor Vega, who plays a mature Carmen, is also still employed by the venerated OSS (the greatest spy agency in the world) but he’s inexplicably surly and evil-eyed. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he would have been truly in his element playing a very twisted character.
The plot? Step-mom Marissa (Alba) is a very sexy, secret spy (is there any other kind in H*******d?) who can whup the bad guys butts whether she’s in imminent labor or holding a baby in one hand. Her step-daughter hates her. (This is one of H*******d’s easiest and most stereotypical ploys at creating tension between characters.) Her clueless husband (Joel McHale, host of the “The Soup”) works for a reality-type TV show called “Spy Hunters.” Marissa retires for one year from the spy business to raise a new baby and to spend more time with her family but is called back into service.
The major antagonists: A giggler named Tick Tock and another man called Mr. Clock (he wears a clock on his head, dummy) who plan to rule the world by speeding up time which will usher in the Day of Armageddon. (I just report; you decide.) There are more catch phrases and bromides about time than one can count (snicker).
Marissa’s two step-children are recruited by her niece, Juni, to help save the world, and they breach the defunct OSS Spy Kids Department’s warehouse which doesn’t make the OSS director (Jeremy Piven) very happy.
The good news: Jeremy Piven is very competent at playing three or four different roles (trust me: you won’t remember how many either). The kids’ convertible, aerodynamic space pods and the swinging, sliding, gliding giant clock works are pretty cool. And Marissa’s baby regularly lobs food wads at people and passes “gas bombs” (not necessarily endearing scenes but a very welcome euphemism).
I’m rather ambivalent about the butt balls: silver balls that erupt from a spy dog’s (redacted) when you pull his ear. Or is it his collar? No, when you pull that, there’s that wonderful oil slick that causes well-dressed men to fall on their (redacted). (English actor Ricky Gervais does the voicing for the robot dog.)
Theater goers are given an Aroma-Scope at the door so they can enter into The Fourth Dimension (smell) by scratching and sniffing one of numerous numbers during corresponding scenes. Busy little person that I am (I scribble notes in the dark), I restrained myself until after the show when, eating pizza in the rain (it happens in Hawai’i), I bravely tested the scents in front of other diners. Most of them smell appropriately like bubblegum.
Rated PG: very cheesy martial arts; bad guys riding very flimsy space-age airboards (hey, I was worried about them); danger of falling asleep in theater out of sheer boredom; inability to read scratch-and-sniff numbers on the Aroma-Card because of DARK THEATERS?
NOTE: Does anyone remember that allegedly breakthrough Enjoli TV commercial from the late 1970s that took advantage of complaints from feminists? A woman sang rather provocatively about women being wage earners as well as doing double duty as domestic goddesses and competent mothers: “…I can bring home the bacon, fix it up in a pan, and never, never, never let you forget you’re a m-a-a-a-a-n!” (The advertising agency should have checked out the women who live on ranches in states like Wyoming and Texas. They’ve always baked bread at dawn and helped to round-up the cattle almost in the same breath.)
That vintage commercial (see below) is so outdated it should be registered at the Library of Congress. Yes, American women still “bring home the bacon” but most don’t hang out their wet clothes on the “line” any more. And, according to trends in the entertainment industry, women need to wear tight, black leather jumpsuits and high-heeled black leather boots while changing diapers if they want to hang onto their men.
Late 1970s: See the first Enjoli commercial here with “‘Cause I’m A Wo-o-o-o-man” song. (“I can put wash on the line…”)
1980: See the second Enjoli commercial with the same song (the lyrics were edited a little) and a much slinkier “wife/mom.” (“…I can read you Tickety Tock….”)
Sadly, I found an online review of the new “Spy Kids” film that probably reflects the desperation of the typical American parent who’s willing to settle for poor quality entertainment if certain criteria are met: “Very strong moral, pro-family worldview where even the villains have something good in them and families are encouraged to make time for one another; no obscenities…”
[Afterward Sept. 10, 2011: “Lobbies” was changed to “lobs.” C.E. Chambers’ excuse? She’s researching a disturbing, new online video game that takes gamers into the “lobby” of a well-known cable news television station so they can “kill” commentators with the weapon of their choice. See excerpts from the video game with the recreation of a Fox News “Lobby” here. C.E.C. will be posting an update on this subject on Chambers World News.]