Get your counters ready, because Spy Kids 4 is headed for world dominance in fart jokes. The baby is a running fart joke, the enemies pull the “who did it?” routine, and the robotic dog bombs the old green mist when the kids pull his finger. Rick Gervais isn’t at his high point here as the dog.
That’s not even getting into the dirty diaper tossing or the vomit bag defense during a mid-flight battle. Taking all of it in just seems like it’s too much. With the promise of additional financial gain, Spy Kids 4 dives into obnoxious 3D and mind-numbing 4D with scratch ‘n sniff cards. Thankfully, in theaters (according to those who were there), those were minus fart odors. Oh how the desperate have fallen.
None of this is even getting into the actual plotline, an inept attempt at combining the overworked parents with a criminal mastermind stealing time. Toss in more contrivances, like the kids holding the key to stopping it all (of all the places…), and it’s pure fodder for pitiful green screens and fast-moving visual effects.
Clearly geared young, Spy Kids 4 opens with a pregnant Jessica Alba chasing after a criminal while in the midst of contractions, a joy for parents who then have to ditch their stork stories for something else. It will be almost as much fun as trying to convince the little ones their dog doesn’t have a British accent when you turn it on.
At the very least, there’s a smidgen of heart to be had, the brother and sister learning to work as a team. There’s some understanding between the family, and what’s more fun than bonding over bad guys getting crushed by oversized gears, right? The old Spy Kids return now fully into adulthood to pass the torch, but it’s not going to help transition their career from child stars to something with bite.
You can’t blame the newcomers, Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook, both taking over the roles with energy. They’re being kids, clearly have a good time with the material, and should appeal to the target audience. To the parents forced into this one, you have all sympathy in the world.
Spy Kids 4 is nothing less than an out and out stunner in HD, with a straightforward look that doesn’t tamper with much of anything. Colors remain natural to their environment and glossed over with intense saturation that makes the whole thing look coated in Jolly Ranchers. Primaries have a rare zest, and flesh tones land right where they should.
The only thing dampening the fun are the pitiful green screens, clearly set within a world revolving around the shrinking budget (smart since this is the lowest earner of the franchise by a landslide margin). Immense sharpness and digital clarity means the effects stand out on an even greater level than on DVD, hampering the effort, not helping it.
Trade-offs? Substantial increases in exquisite high-fidelity detail, in close or from medium shots. Environments are sterling, objects so crisp it’s literally like looking through a window, as cliché as that may be. That phrase was made for this disc, and some of the exteriors. What stunners.
Black levels keep up with this HD madness, and the brilliant contrast is everything sought when putting in a new disc. There’s not a single flub to mention that can be traced back to the encode, not even during the intense, fast-moving action scenes. Anchor Bay has a winner.
Moments of this DTS-HD mix are intense. As the kids first activate their new found technological wealth, whatever this disc has in it is spilled into the speakers. Mason dons Hulk-like gloves that blast the ground with awesome low-end force, while Rowan spins a whip that travels effortlessly through the soundfield.
Most of the action scenes are like that, from the chase that opens the movie to the finale inside the clock tower world. When it has a chance, it does some hefty work, and of course with the best of fidelity kept in mind.
It’s probably important to note the whole thing sounds a little sedate, not as aggressive as it could be with all of the firepower potential. As the kids hop into the flight chairs and dash through the city, there’s little wind effect passing through, even though it’s clearly a factor. It’s there, just minimized. The focus is clearly on making sure the gadgets travel like they should, and they do. What’s missing are the little things, stuff kids won’t care about anyway, but if home theater loving parents have to endure it, at least give them something to play with.
There’s a surprising amount of content here, unfortunately shoved behind a slow loading screen that forces the user back into the main menu after each piece. If it’s worth it to you, deleted scenes will kick things off, all fluff, and running for eight minutes. A kid reporter actually does a great job interviewing Robert Rodriguez in her own feature for seven minutes.
Passing the Torch details the new kids and their roles. Rowan and Mason’s Video Diary gives the kids cameras to take around the set to highlight their day followed by How to Make a Robotic Dog, which details training techniques. Ricky Gervais as Argonaut lets the actor speak on the role and why he took it, happily so too. Go figure. Spy Gadgets is rather self-explanatory, diving into the world of various spy toys.