The day of Spy Kids 4's release was the day 3D finally died, after its brief renaissance, and it's particularly saddening to see the generally lively and dynamic Robert Rodriguez reduced to churning out crappy, opportunist rubbish like this in the vain hope of reviving a franchise everybody else had long since given up on. Including, it seems, its own stars: with only 50% of the original leads returning (first-wave Spy Kids Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, now fully-grown, and obliged to serve as glorified tour guides for their young replacements), we here get Jessica Alba as an agent struggling to juggle raising a family with her day job trying to stop an arch-villain named Tick Tock from speeding up the world's clocks - thus threatening whatever quality time she has left with her offspring.
It's a betrayal of whatever those earlier films stood for: where the first instalments insisted that the gadgets available to these kids were less vital than their own common sense, this one takes place in a weird, day-glo futurescape where endless zappy weapons and effects are thrown on to prevent us having to think about anything. (Like, say, how Spy Kids 4 makes Rodriguez's ill-fated The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl seem an underrated gem - and that had 3D to make your eyes bleed.) In the absence of wit, the family values embedded in the script get hectoring, and the cast are - to a man (or kid) - utterly useless: Alba her usual albane self, the new juvenile leads (one of whom labours under the name Cecil, FFS) almost unimaginably charmless, while Ricky Gervais craps all over that legacy he's always banging on about, audibly disinterested as the voice of a robot dog who namechecks YouTube and pisses oil whenever the occasion calls for it. (It might have been funnier with Karl Pilkington at the mic.)
The novelty - though Polyester and one of the Rugrats sequels actually got there first - is the use of 4D, so-called scratch-and-sniff technology. Having participated in this gimmickry with rapidly diminishing enthusiasm, I can report that the bacon Alba's on-screen husband rustles up smelt like Pez sweets; that a baby's spew smelt like Pez sweets; that some sweets smelt a little less like Pez sweets; and that the dog's farts smelt wholly, and unmistakably, like Pez sweets. At the latter, I did double-check to see if the samples had been printed on Pez sweets, but - no - it was a piece of cardboard that'll doubtless be left to litter the multiplex, and thus the most apt souvenir of Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World itself.
Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World is in cinemas nationwide.