By Clint Morris
I appreciate advances in technology as much as the next guy; from the calculator watch to the chic Vic 20 video game console to self-scratching testicle reachers, the Morris family goes steady with techno-progress.
But technology has to come with a purpose. Like a clock without a big hand, what good is a gadget or toy that’s of no use to anyone?
And I tell ya, besides my 4-year-old and her penchant for doggie-pooh jokes and bright colours, ”Spy Kids 4” is going to struggle to find its market these days.
More a reboot than a sequel, the Robert Rodriguez directed/produced/written sequel keeps the same premise as the original films – two youngsters turn super spies and are charged with the mission of taking out a bad guy – but trades a few names and details to disguise the fact it’s merely another watered-down duplicate subdivision in a once-promising franchise. Jessica Alba plays “stepmom” Spy, TV’s Joel McHale plays “fauxspy” Dad, Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”) plays a shady corporate type, Ricky Gervais voices a dog (yup) and newcomers Mason Cook and Rowan Blanchard take the title roles.
Robert Rodriguez is the cinematic equivalent of Hoyt Axton’s luckless inventor in ”Gremlins” — well-meaning but insignificant technological advancements are his speciality. And ”Spy Kids 4”, or the latest in an advertising package designed to promote his backyard film studio in Texas? This year’s flywire screen on a submarine.
The first couple of ”Spy Kids” movies were decent enough family films which were mostly successful in combining special effect with story (and it helped that the first two films featured reputable and dependable names like Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino and the great Ricardo Montalban), but these last two ”Spy Kids” movies – the last being ”Spy Kids 3D”, adding a useless extra dimension in place of character development and plot – play more like cheap fan-made tributes to the originals.
Much like the studio that commissioned them, they’re cheap, performed (no big guns in this one – well, maybe Jessica Alba, but she’s just a port over from Rodriguez’s ”Sin City”) and written (is there a plot?), and mostly, the main attraction, that being the in-house conceived special effects, aren’t even that impressive. I’m sure in 2001 they would’ve looked impressive, but the lack of money Rodriguez hate to shoot this latest one is evident from the moment you see a talking dog piss an oil slick. Yup, fun for the whole family.
Rodriguez seems to be drinking from the same water fountain Eddie Murphy is – they both started out doing very impressive, hardcore adult films, many of which are now considered classics (Rodriguez’s ”Desperado” and ”Sin City” were Rodriguez at the top of his game) but these days they only seem to want to cater to whoever spends his or her days doing number two’s in a sand pit.
A featurette, a kid interviewing Robert Rodriguez about the movie, and some deleted scenes make up the bonus features component.