Review: Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D

Mason Cook, Joel McHale, Jessica Alba and Rowan Blanchard in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D (Dimension Films)

Here’s another case where compartmentalization is key. In My Rating Scale I try and stress that I am grading each and every film on what it is and not against every other film in the world. Meaning, I will not downgrade a film simply because I cannot live in a world where both See no Evil, Hear No Evil and Touch of Evil have the same score. In fact, I live in world where they do. I think they’re both brilliant in their own way. Which is just another way to introduce the fact that I will rate a Spy Kids film (or a Rodriguez family film) as such and not against El Mariachi or other films in this genre.

Having said that I do like this film. It’s not better than the first but it’s better than the third at the very least. There is in its circularity a cohesion to the narrative that one might not necessarily appreciate through the CG and 3D. Not to say that there’s any subtlety here but the theme seems more unified and more parallel than it has in most other installments it just doesn’t always seem like it is.

Reboots can be a tricky thing. Whether you’re just restarting a story with new characters or re-casting those characters you’re finding new actors to fit the archetypes that have made the franchise work. The most resoundingly successful aspect of this Spy Kids film is the new kids in the persons of Mason Cook and Rowan Blanchard. While they each show some echoes of their predecessors they have characters and abilities uniquely their own. Cook has a quiet depth and Blanchard an unpretentious spunkiness that make this new tandem a worthy rival of Vega and Sabara who themselves have very humorous and effective supporting roles in the film. Also, very entertaining in this film is Jeremy Piven whose interpretation is as funny as it is wild and he becomes a rather memorable villain in the series because of it.

One note of warning to send out there those that are not fans of potty humor best stay away from this film as it is most definitely the more pronounced in this film than ever. As a whole the story is enjoyable and moves quickly except for those parts where it circles around the drain, so to speak, before making that final connection. One piece of that puzzle is kind of apparent at the very beginning but I think even if you do get ahead of it it’s not likely to ruin it.

The effects work is somewhat stepped up here and holds up better to the 3D than the previous edition did. This is where most of the creativity in the film shines through.

While I will defend Robert Rodriguez in principle as it is his right, much as William Castle saw it as his duty, to create a fun gimmick to promote his film, the fact of the matter is the Aroma-Scope just does not work. I saw the movie twice at two completely separate theatres. The cards all have a unified odor and it’s hard to get those squares to smell like something different and when they do they rarely smell like what they’re supposed to be. However, that only detracts from the film minutely. Even if the smells were brilliantly accurate it’s still distracting you from the film (you look down, find the number, scratch and sniff). So no real damage done there.

Overall, I think that this film will definitely win over fans of the series, myself being one of them I was more than a bit skeptical when I first heard about it and I think that it will also create many new fans in its target audience. Moreover, I think that it ends on a note where growth of the story and the franchise is yearned for and not a place where you think potential has been maximized. Should the new generation continue it will do so in stronger films.

7/10

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Review- Dolphin Tale

Nathan Gamble in Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros.)

It’s impossible not to like a film like Dolphin Tale. While many of its story elements and motifs are tried and true it does find an interesting way to combine them and bring this dramatized version of a real life story to life very effectively. The only things that can really be cited as negatives about the film are that the edit isn’t as tight as it could be notably some scenes could be excised and there is that familiarity of certain elements and an air of predictability.

In spite of all that, however, the film does excel in creating an emotionally engaging experience that plays like a new age low key Free Willy (Yes, I know that was an Orca), which is a very good thing indeed. What is meant by that is that Winter, the female dolphin in question, is very much at the center of the film and it’s just as much about her as anyone but there’s also a connection between a boy and the animal and we understand and admire this connection without the histrionics the former employed. Not to say that Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) has a perfect home life but not everything in this film is extreme, the problems are more grounded, real and easier to identify with.

One of the more refreshing things about the film is that the social consciousness is already a fabric of the story so it never needs to be awkwardly commented upon as what starts Sawyer’s fascination with marine life is visiting Winter at a rehabilitation center. So unlike some films that deal with animals there’s not an iota of concern about characters domesticating, using them for sport or any other things that would detract from the purity of the fascination.

Another danger of animal related films is that the human characters, some but not all, are less developed and subservient and this doesn’t occur in this film. The editing choices mentioned at the beginning would not be anything that relates to the characters because you learn about all the characters in this film and see them build relationships and unite for a common goal and you become invested in the outcome for all their sakes and not just for the protagonist, which isn’t a frequent occurrence.

Learning about characters can be a delight or a chore depending on the strength of the cast. The cast of this film made it delightful. First, there’s the young lead Nathan Gamble who is the best young actor whom you’ve seen but can’t name. He’s been in such films as Marley & Me, The Dark Knight and The Mist. While his role here isn’t the most challenging he certainly does carry it with the deft of a veteran. The surprise of the film is debutante Cozi Zuehlsdorff who plays his friend Hazel and possesses unteachable ease and charm onscreen.

The adult core gives you solid expected performances from the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman but the surprise of that bunch is Austin Stowell. Stowell is an actor who looks the parts of wannabe swimmer and war veteran but has emotional range. He should be taking roles from Channing Tatum over the the next few years.

This is a 3D film, however, the screening I attended was in 2D. It was shot 3D and not post-converted so I plan on seeing it as such. You may want to do the same for a break down of real versus fake 3D check this site.

Dolphin Tale is a film that effectively creates the world of its story and it is a very pleasant place to go for a visit. You will find yourself engaged in it and moved by it. I believe that much like Soul Surfer (but maybe with fewer detractors) it will win over audiences for many weeks to come.

8/10