As legend has it, director Robert Rodriguez was between takes filming 2010’s Machete when he noticed star Jessica Alba off-set, changing her baby’s diaper. Behold, Rodriguez had an epiphany– an idea of how to resurrect the Spy Kids franchise that had been left for dead 7 years earlier.

And so we get Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, starring Jessica Alba as a spy who takes her infant daughter on missions with her, BabyBjörn-style.

Not content with just a hot star, a relatively-amusing premise, and an established kid flick franchise on his hands, Rodriguez decided to take things a step further and present the fourth Spy Kids movie in ‘4D’… with the fourth ‘D’ being smell.

Introducing Aroma-Scope. We’ll have more on that later.

Alba is covert spy Marissa Wilson, with the OSS (that’s ‘Organization of Super Spies’). She decides to retire after the birth of her daughter, so she can spend more time with the family, which includes husband Wilbur (Joel McHale) and stepkids Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook).

When her old nemesis The Timekeeper (you’ll never guess that it’s *spoiler alert* Jeremy Piven) and his henchman Tick Tock (Piven, too) arrive on the scene to wreak havoc, Alba’s boss (yet again, Piven) calls her back into action. It’s only when the fight hits too close to home that the kids learn the true identity of their stepmom. And before long, the whole family is donning gadgets and gizmos to battle evil.

On the whole, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World isn’t a terrible movie, but the target demographic is so specific (I imagine only 8-10 year old boys and girls will enjoy it) that it’s going to miss out on a lot of moviegoers who otherwise might have enjoyed it. It’s a tad too tense and in-your-face for anyone younger than, say, third grade, and the humor is too juvenile (poop and farts and puke abound) for anyone older to enjoy.

That being said– for that narrow window of youngsters, the movie among the more fun films to hit screens this summer. The action keeps coming at you at a nice pace (pausing only for a tedious life-lesson monologue toward the end), the actors all have their tongues so firmly planted in their cheeks that they’re liable to need stitches, and the special effects (while, yes, cheesy) are fun and very 3D.

Plus, fans of the original trilogy will be happy to see all-grown-up Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) back on the scene, helping to sniff out the trouble and save the day.

…which brings us back to the whole smell-o-vision thing. Filmgoers are given a postcard with eight scratch-and-sniff scents on it, and at various points in the movie a number flashes, telling you which scent to inhale. I don’t know if I was alone (and I doubt I was), but try as I might, I couldn’t smell anything other than the paper it was printed on. Perhaps a light aroma of blueberry. Maybe. In the end, though, I think it was good it didn’t work; from the on-screen cues, I was apparently supposed to be smelling blue cheese dressing and noxious fumes, among other delightful odors.

I’m not sure why it didn’t work (after all, I can still remember the smell of a licorice-scented scratch-and-sniff sticker I encountered in fourth grade), but it didn’t.

Fortunately, though, the movie itself did… at least for the most part. And it’s going to have too, anyway. We have a gap of more than a month until the next kids’ movie on the horizon, September 23rd’s Dolphin Tale, and then another month-plus until November’s Puss in Boots.

Guess summer’s officially over.

2.5/5 stars