What's there to say about a movie when Jessica Alba is the best thing about it? Not much, obviously.
Alba, perpetually as rigid as a surfboard, at least is inoffensive — even likable — in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, which automatically makes her easier to take than practically everything else in this insufferable kid flick. A desperate attempt by writer-director Robert Rodriguez to resuscitate a franchise that was already running on fumes by its third entry back in 2003 (head here for recent reviews of the original trilogy on Blu-ray), this casts Alba as Marissa Cortez, a retired spy whose husband Wilbur (Joel McHale) and stepchildren Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook) don't know about her former profession (they think she's always been an interior decorator). But when her arch-nemesis, the dastardly Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven), reappears on the scene with a master plan to speed up time until it runs out and the world ends, Marissa is called back into action and subsequently forced to let her stepkids join her on the mission.
The "4D" in the title refers to the fact that this is presented in "Aroma-Scope," which means that patrons are handed scratch'n'sniff cards meant to be rubbed at designated times throughout the film. This is hardly a new idea: Like most cinematic gimmicks, it originated in the 1950s, and its most recent employment was in John Waters' 1981 Polyester (not Pink Flamingos, thankfully). The first smell deployed is bacon, and it's all downhill from there, with a couple of the spots reserved for flatulence odors. This, of course, is right in line with the rest of the movie, which has an unhealthy obsession with all things stinky: A robotic dog (voiced by Ricky Gervais) deploys "butt bombs," Cecil hurls used barf bags at villainous henchmen, Marissa wallops other goons with dirty diapers, and so on.
It's nice to see the original Spy Kids, Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara), as young adults, although they wear out their welcome around the time that Carmen wipes snot on Juni's shirt. As for the original Spy Parents, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez, they're nowhere to be seen, and the presence of Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino is sorely missed. Then again, more power to them for staying away from a movie that, like Conan the Barbarian, would smell in any dimension.
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