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MOVIE REVIEW

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D

Another ‘Spy Kids’ clunker

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By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / August 20, 2011

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Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s DIY inclinations have made for some pretty reliable genre entertainment over the years. He’s cranked out movies like his “Mariachi’’ trilogy and “Machete’’ almost entirely from his Texas mini-studio, with minimal Hollywood involvement and maximum scruffy panache. Puzzlingly, though, Rodriguez’s various family-geared movies - notably the “Spy Kids’’ series - have been annoying creative clunkers, the one area where doing things his way has seemed like an iffy way. Despite some promising casting, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World’’ is more of the same.

As accidental sister-and-brother adventurers Rebecca and Cecil, new kid leads Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook get material and direction on a par with their predecessors. (Grown-up Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, who starred in the first three movies, turn up as the recruits’ cousins.) The newbies stumble into the family business when their secret-agent stepmom (Jessica Alba) takes on bad guys plotting to bring the world to an end - by making everyone’s clocks advance really, really quickly.

The mission grows more inexcusably convoluted from one scene to the next, although the timepiece-themed baddies are cool in a ’60s Bat-kitsch way. (Another throwback is the movie’s potpourri-generic “Aroma-scope’’ handouts - Rodriguez’s way of offering some quirky added value now that the View-Mastery 3-D of “Spy Kids 3’’ and this latest sequel isn’t so novel anymore.)

The kindergarten crowd may get a kick out of scatological silliness like a robot dog (voiced by Ricky Gervais) dropping metallic “butt bombs’’ to thwart pursuers, but that’s the height of imagination here. Gervais is mostly wasted, as are Jeremy Piven in a multiple-character turn and Joel McHale (TV’s “Community’’) as the kids’ civilian dad. Alba, meanwhile, is again ridiculously shoehorned into a comedy gig, although she does have an amusing opening bit spying while nine months pregnant. If only diaper bomb gags weren’t the inevitable follow-up.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.

SPY KIDS: All the Time in the World in 4D Written and directed by:

Robert Rodriguez

Starring: Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook,

Jeremy Piven, and Ricky Gervais

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 89 minutes

Rated: PG (mild action and

rude humor)

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