Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Cast: Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Joel McHale, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Screenplay: Robert Rodriguez
Time: 84 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)

SPY TOYS: Mason Cook and Alexa Vega as Cecil and Carmen

PREAMBLE: I have often said that in order to enjoy mindless movies like Transformers, we should "leave our brains at the door of the cineplex". Well, in order to enjoy this Spy Kids sequel, we need to work harder; we have to lower our IQ to the level of four-year olds! 'Mindlessness' doesn't quite cut it, it is juvenile indulgence, meaning, it is only for kids below five.

And if you have been following the cinema ads and promos, you would know that this movie comes in 4D - with the added dimension of 'smell'. For that, viewers are given a numbered card (called Aroma-Scope) so that they can scratch-and-smell when the number appears on the screen. This is a childish gimmick for the kids and for adults, it is more of a nuisance because the scents are faint and the exercise distracts us from the action on the screen. Although there are many fart and poop scenes, the Aroma-Scope only provides scents of chewing gum and other edible stuff (thank goodness for that). History has told us that all smell-o-vision gimmicks mostly stink.

Rowan Blanchard as Rebecca Wilson

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Marissa Cortez Wilson (Jessica Alba) is such a dedicated spy that even when she is nine months pregnant, she manages to take down notorious villain Tick Tock (Jeremy Piven) before going into labour and retiring from her spy duties. Her aim is to devote all her time to her newborn and her stepkids, Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook) and hubby Wilbur (Joey McHale).

Soon, however, she may not have that much time. One year later, Tick Tock and accomplice, The Timekeeper (also Piven), are back at their attempt to rob the world of 'time' - and Rebecca, Cecil and their 'guard dog' Argonaut (voice of Ricky Gervais) must save the world (what else?). Also, they team up with Marissa's niece and nephew, Carmen and Juni Cortez (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara reprising their former Spy Kids roles) to make this mission a family reunion of sorts.

HITS & MISSES: Writer-director Robert Rodriguez seems to be milking the same old cinema-script cow, urging parents to spend more time with their kids. This 'message' has been used by almost all family movies throughout the decade. The time-theft and time-travel conceits can be puzzling to children even if they allow Rodriguez to make use of all sorts of time-related gags. Of course, Rodriguez cannot resist the poop and fart gags, as well as throwing food all over the place. These, I understand, are the laugh-out-loud staple for American kids below five.

Among the cast, Blanchard and Cook are suitably cute and effective as the new title characters. Bringing back former Spy Kids, Vega and Sabara, is a good idea, adding a nostalgic touch for parents in the audience. Ditto that for Danny Trejo's short cameo as Uncle Machete. However, the irony of Daddy Wilbur being a 'Spycatcher' on TV is lost on the kids and scores no points with the adults.

As for Jessica Alba (as Marissa the younger sister to Antonio Bandera's character), she provides the main box-office lure to the movie, nothing more.

THE LOWDOWN: Only for those with young kids.


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