Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
August 22, 2011

This is what 'goodwill' looks like.

All the time in the world, none of the money

Kim Hollis: Spy Kids: All the Time in the World opened to $11.6 million (whatever the 4-D equivalent of that is). What do we think of this result for a film with a modest $27 million budget?

Bruce Hall: Much has been made of the fact that this is a lot less box office than the last Spy Kids flick pulled in on opening weekend. More has been made of the fact that these are not very good films. But I think we all know this doesn't really matter. Like those endless horror sequels, you can bet they'll keep churning these out as long as they're profitable. I'm afraid we'll keep seeing these every few years, long after they are finally relegated to direct to DVD hell. But back to the present - there also isn't really any direct competition in this demographic over the next couple of weeks. So despite poor word-of-mouth, another solid weekend plus what will surely be decent movement on DVD should eventually make this a backhanded success.

Brett Beach: I liken this to Scream 4's underwhelming $18 million opening/$38 million final take performance earlier this year. (This opened at 66% less than the previous Spy Kids.) After eight to ten years away comes a film that reeks (in 4D, ha ha) of an attempt to relaunch/reboot, when the target audience has all grown up or moved on and the new product doesn't seem to inspire anyone on either side of the critic/viewer aisle (compare the incredibly positive RT scores for the first two Spy Kids to the slams at this). I think that what may have hurt this even more is the answer to the question: are the Spy Kids films beloved enough for parents to have ignored the bad reviews and gone to see this? I believe the answer is no. But Rodriguez continues to be a one-man show and can keep his budgets cheap, and will this surely be rented by a lot of someones on DVD in a few months. Oh, and lest there be any confusion, I really liked Scream 4. Emma Roberts rocked the last 20 minutes like a SCUD missile.

Aside: The fourth dimension was smell (as in scratch and sniff cards that went to all theaters playing the film). I saw a local theater that was not playing it in 3D (but presumably had the cards) advertise on the marquee that it was in 2D. I think they would have been perfectly in their legal rights to advertise it as 3D. Just saying.

Reagen Sulewski: The scratch and sniff promo reeked (sorry) of desperation for a franchise that's well past its sell-by date. While I've got tons of respect for Rodriguez's ability to put out a professional looking film, essentially out of his garage, it's starting to seem a bit like the joke about the dog standing on its hind legs "the wonder is not that it's done well, but that it's done at all".

At some level I feel like a bit of a heel ripping on him for these films as they're obviously a labor of love, but he is throwing these out there for public consumption. Given that he can obviously keep to a budget, he'll never lack for work, but I just wish he'd choose better projects to love.

Tim Briody: I was unaware of this existence of this until very recently and basically treat it like a reboot, as it's got new Spy Kids (given that the original two are now ages 22 and 19). I was a bit shocked at what Spy Kids 3-D made and while this was almost guaranteed to be profitable, it's not going to be to the level that the previous entries were.

Edwin Davies: This is more than I expected it to take on opening weekend, considering how long the series had lain dormant, but given the success of the first three films (which boasts a combined $310 million domestic take against a combined budget of $111 million) I was fully prepared for it to do better if its name recognition meant anything. Obviously, it didn't. I think that audiences could smell a dud (I didn't intend for that to be a 4-D pun, but it's kind of hard to talk about the film without referring to its fetid odor) from far away, and the kids who enjoyed the first three are much too old for the series, which always unashamedly skewed young anyway, and the film didn't really seem enticing to a new generation. Still, Rodriguez's great skill as a film-maker has been his ability to make films cheaply, so this will probably makes its money back once the worldwide final gross is known, and if not then, certainly once it hits DVD. Not a great result, but not an out and out disaster in the way that some of the openers this week have been.

Samuel Hoelker: Does it hurt, also, that the 4D aspect was done so poorly? I've heard nothing but awful things about the scratch-n-sniff, much like Spy Kids 3's 3D. This was never going to be a huge movie, but why not take care and make the gimmick a gimmick that actually works? I'd want to go see it if the "aromavision" was worthwhile, and while I don't think it would have made it a hit, it would have helped word-of-mouth the most that a movie like Spy Kids 4 can be helped.

Jason Lee: Other than the period between 2001 and 2003 when the three Spy Kids movies were released, kids really haven't taken to RR's adolescent-aimed films (see the $39 million finish for Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and a $20 million finish for Shorts). Given that it's been eight years since the last Spy Kids film, it looks like All the Time in the World will end up more like Lava/Shorts than its franchise brethren. I don't find that surprising at all.

David Mumpower: I am of the opinion that everyone involved with this project fully expected it to be the worst opening of the franchise to date. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams was criticized harshly for being a blatant money grab, thereby explaining why its debut was $10 million less than the original earned. Spy Kids 4 is no different in this regard. It is a way to reintroduce the Spy Kids concept to a new generation of kids while maintaining Rodriguez's mantra of frugal feature films that cater to a specific audience effectively. This particular release reminds me of a William Castle gimmick movie (he's the guy whose daughter founded Dark Castle Entertainment in his honor). The stunt earned about what it deserved with the primary question being whether it demonstrates a portion of the legs we've grown to expect from the franchise. Whether it does will be the determining factor in whether Spy Kids 4 finishes on the happy side of the ledger sheet.

He wears great hats.

Kim Hollis: What is your perception of Robert Rodriguez as a director?

Bruce Hall: I wonder if he isn’t a bit of a modern day Roger Corman. He specializes in making cheap, profitable movies that aren’t always very good. But they bear a distinctive signature style that among other things, demonstrates a zest for life and a passion for his craft. Rodriguez and BFF Quentin Tarantino have done much to return a sense of full blown adolescent swagger back to the sub hundred million dollar segment. Still, I can’t call myself a fan and would debate the creative value of a lot of his work. But he’s an inventive and imaginative artist, and a positive force in the industry. I’m glad he’s around.

Brett Beach: To borrow a little bit from an old Tarantino riff, I think the most interesting question to ask a filmgoer would be: Do you like Planet Terror or Death Proof? And not which do you like more, but which one do you like, period. I don't think many people, if pressed, would answer that they liked both. Rodriguez may have delivered more fully on the promise of the project, but by definition, that made his film violent and trashy and not as interesting to watch more than once. I have not seen all of RR's films but would have to say my two favorites are From Dusk Till Dawn and El Mariachi.

Desperado did a lot to sour me on him for quite a while. (I have thought about it doing it for Chapter Two, but that would entail watching it again.) It carried all the air of a violent, would-be hip, inside joke and I carry around an intense dislike for it akin to what I feel for Reality Bites - although not as much as I loathe something like Patch Adams). So in sum, if Robert Rodriguez stopped directing tomorrow of his own free will, it would not rouse much sadness in me.

Edwin Davies: I've always liked the idea of Robert Rodriguez. He's got a great origin story - kid grows up loving films, makes award-winning short, sells his body to medical science to earn enough money to finance his first feature and uses the buzz from that to break into Hollywood - and, to me, it's a pretty beautiful expression of his passion and love for cinema. As a concept, he's a great example of how someone can come from nowhere to become something of a force in Hollywood. In execution, I think he's a pretty lousy film-maker, or at the very least is someone who got good enough to break into the film industry and then stopped trying to get better, so even though his career spans almost 20 years at this point, there's still a slightly amateurish and slapdash aspect to everything he does. I'm glad that he exists to inspire young people to get out there and make films, I just wish that he inspired them to make good films.

Samuel Hoelker: My ears always perk up when I hear his name, but that's always as far as my interest goes. I've realized I seldom care about anything he does, although I have nothing but respect for him. It must not be easy to alternate between ultra-violent films and children's movies, even if most of them aren't very good.

Jason Lee: I agree with Samuel. I think he's a talented enough director that I pay attention when he's got a new film out, and I think he definitely has a great eye for visuals, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to go see his movies. I think maybe, that's his problem.

David Mumpower: I liken some of his work to that Princess Bride quote, "You rush a miracle worker, you get lousy miracles." What Rodriguez has that differentiates him from most filmmakers is an ability to relate to the consumer. The Spy Kids franchise is only for children and it doesn't attempt to be for anyone else. The same could be said of Machete, The Faculty, Planet Terror, or my beloved From Dusk Till Dawn. In my estimation, Rodriguez has only made two truly commercial films in his career, by which I mean three titles that did not have finite target audiences. Those features are not coincidentally his best works to date, Sin City and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. And even these two titles see the most famous people in the films get maimed horribly. Rodriguez has no intention of ever being conventional. He has discovered that his ability to make niche movies for such a low price that there is little risk to them makes him unique in the industry. I have a great deal of admiration for him due to this maverick style of movie creation. I just wish he'd do more Sin City-type projects in between the kid films and the ultra-violent ones.