Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World



Positive messages can't save worst film in action series.
  • Review Date: August 19, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 89 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Rodriguez' movies are all about entertainment.

Positive messages

The movie's overall message is a positive one -- that you should never put off spending time with the people you love or doing what's truly important, because time goes by quicker than you imagine. Even the villain's message is that people deserve to be punished for "wasting time." Several characters reinforce the theme that if you don't spend time wisely, you'll live with regret.

Positive role models

The Wilson parents prioritize their families over their jobs, and the kids learn to stop mistreating their stepmother. Juni and Carmen stop bickering to work together as a spy "team" again. Cecil has hearing aids, but the fact that he's hard of hearing is never portrayed as an impairment -- if anything, his aids give him an edge.

Violence & scariness

Cartoonish violence and action sequences in which people fall but aren't fatally injured. No one bleeds or dies in the action scenes, even though the agents are using hand-to-hand combat, martial arts, and high-tech gadgets to fight their enemies. The kids use mechanized weapons that include an electrified lasso or whip and special gloves that can do serious damage.

Sexy stuff

A husband and wife share a couple of kisses and some embraces. Marissa and Carmen wear form-fitting, occasionally cleavage-revealing outfits and skin-tight spy uniforms.


Mild insults include "butt head," "bobblehead," and a brattily uttered "STEP-mother." Carmen says the memorable "shi...take mushrooms" (a reference to the exclamation in previous installments). A few utterances of "oh my God."


Several products and designer brands are prominently featured, including car companies Mercedes (and its subsidiary Smart Car), Mustang, and Mazda; the ubiquitous Apple computer; and some watch companies.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the fourth installment in the Spy Kids series (the first in 3D) features the same level of action/fantasy violence as the previous versions, with an added dose of toilet humor thanks to the Baby Spy. The language is unremarkable save for a couple of insults ("butt head," etc.) and the famous "shi...take mushrooms" line from the other movies. There's more noticeable product placement here than in the first three films (particularly car companies and Apple computers), as well as many more scatological jokes. Overall, though, the message is positive and family focused: Don't waste time or delay what's important.

What's the story?

Undercover OSS agent Marissa Cortez Wilson (Jessica Alba) is married to TV presenter Wilbur Wilson (Joel McHale) and stepmother to his two kids, Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook). On the day she has her own baby, Marissa retires from life as a spy. A year later, the last criminal she put away -- time "stealer" Tick Tock -- has escaped from prison with the help of a nefarious villain called the Time Keeper. Together they've figured out how to make time accelerate so quickly that it will literally run out, and the world will end. The only thing that can stop this time Armageddon is a mystical crystal that's housed in a locket that Marissa gave her combative stepdaughter. Eventually the Wilsons end up back at the OSS, where Rebecca and Cecil must use their skills to bring down the time bandits and save their parents.

Is it any good?


This film continues the Spy Kids series' downward spiral and ruins the memory of what was once an exciting family film franchise. Writer-director-producer Robert Rodriguez has gathered an all-star cast of his friends (in addition to the Wilson parents, there's Jeremy Piven as OSS director, Ricky Gervais as the voice of a robotic dog Argonaut, a return cameo by Danny Trejo as Uncle Machete, and Spy Kids veterans Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara as Carmen and Juni Cortez), but their talent is wasted in this ill-thought installment.


Gone is all the passionate banter between Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino; they're replaced here by a bland Alba and McHale, whose dialogue lacks anything resembling chemistry. The kids are cute at first but quickly grow obnoxious, until near the end, when they're sickeningly sweet again. There are so many platitudes that even the villains can't help pushing the movie's commendable but annoyingly overt message that we should stop wasting time and start spending it with the people we love. Even the original spy kids can't add any oomph to this forgettable film; instead, we're left with a gimmicky trifle of a comedy filled with fart jokes and an accompanying "Aroma-Scope" card that's just a reminder of how much this movie stinks.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's message about time management and family unity. How do the characters all make choices that show they've learned the big lesson?

  • Do you think the movie's violence has less impact because it's cartoonish and no one seems to really get hurt? Is unrealistic violence less disturbing?

  • How does the movie compare to the other Spy Kids films? Do you think the series should continue?

  • How is Cecil's hearing depicted? Do his hearing aids affect him negatively or positively?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 19, 2011
DVD release date:November 22, 2011
Cast:Alexa Vega, Jeremy Piven, Jessica Alba, Joel McHale
Director:Robert Rodriguez
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Adventures, Book characters
Run time:89 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:mild action and rude humor

This review of Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 10 year old Written bysqueek12 August 20, 2011

Worth seeing for children

Positive message overshadows any other negatives.
Educator and Parent of a 5 and 8 year old Written byclcfh August 19, 2011

Fun with some good discussion starters but troubling language

Kids who liked the other movies will like this one. The scratch and sniff cards that make the movie "4D" add some fun over a typical movie experience. The blended family and hearing impaired child can be good discussion starters, and perhaps even the reaction of the husband's boss to the wife taking her baby on a job with her. The shitake mushrooms quote was alarming in a way it wasn't in the other movies.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Adult Written byEbro August 24, 2011

We give it a thumbs UP! We liked it!

We have seen all the Spy Kids Movies and were thrilled to see a new one. My 10 year old loved it. As an adult I was entertained and somewhat bored in parts, but please bear in mind ... it's a kid's movie. We especially liked seeing the Carmen and Juni characters/ actors all gown up. So I have to give this movie a thumbs up!


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