Over the course of MTV News’ Summer Movie Preview Week, we’ve featured popcorn superhero flicks (“Captain America” and “Green Lantern”), hard-R comedies (“Bad Teacher” and “30 Minutes or Less”), rebooted franchises from the past (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Conan the Barbarian”) and much more. But we haven’t yet focused on movies aimed at kids.
All that changes on Friday (April 29). We’ll be rolling out an exclusive clip from “Kung Fu Panda 2” this afternoon, and right now, we’re bringing you an exclusive chat with Robert Rodriguez, the writer/director of “Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World,” the first film in the series since 2003. The new movie introduces new characters — including Jessica Alba as a spy mom — but also stays true to the original mythology and integrates familiar faces from earlier installments. In this way, Rodriguez told us, “Spy Kids 4” is not so much a reboot as a sequel with fresh talent.
In a wide-ranging conversation, he laid out extensive plot details, explained why these films continue to be appealing a decade after they were first introduced and the surprising (and kind of gross) inspiration that led to the movie, which hits theaters in 3-D on August 19.
MTV News: It doesn’t matter if you’re doing something like “Machete” or a “Spy Kids” movie, you’ve always got some tricks up your sleeve. How are you going to wow us with “Spy Kids 4”?
Robert Rodriguez: Man, I can’t say everything just yet! There are going to be some things you’ll see and go, “Hey, why didn’t he tell me that?” You know, we did three of these movies, and then stopped because the kids were getting older. But families still come up to me and say they’re watching them, so 10 years later, it felt right to do another one. I got the idea when I was making “Machete” and Jessica came over to my house for lunch with the kids, and she was bringing her daughter out of the backseat. But her diaper had exploded and the kid had made a huge mess and just seeing Jessica dressed up, so beautiful and glamorous, but having to deal with this baby with an exploded diaper, I just thought, “I’d love to see her as a spy mom.” I wrote it around her and figured she’d have two new stepkids who don’t think their mom is cool, but she’s really a spy and their dad plays a spy hunter on a TV show and doesn’t know his wife is a spy. There’s a robot dog and a spy baby and a new villain, played by Jeremy Piven. And I was looking at my own kids and how quickly time is going by and how you wish you could freeze a moment, so the villain is the Timekeeper, and he is taking time from people and the world is getting faster.
MTV News: Amazing! All of this, born from one dirty diaper.
Rodriguez: That’s the thing. Sometimes storytelling is very visual and it inspires you. Then you build and you build, and suddenly you have a movie you’re excited to make. You forget it’s the fourth one. Oh, and the original spy kids show up, and they’re in their 20s. They’re the older spies who are trying to reopen the spy agency, which got shut down because of budgetary reasons. Jessica plays Antonio Banderas’ younger sister, so she’s still part of the original family. She’s the aunt of the original spies. It’s not really a reboot, so much as a sequel with new kids. And the Timekeeper, he takes time away from you if you’re not spending it with your family, because of a personal thing he went through. It’s a pretty cool villain plot, because he’s not really a villain. And Jessica is so awesome as the spy mom.
MTV News: Yeah, we just saw that first picture of her with the baby strapped to her chest, but she’s still wearing her badass spy gear.
Rodriguez: Yeah, the badass spy gear! The opening scene is a flashback where she’s about to give birth to the baby. The day she quit being a spy was the day she gave birth, so she’s on her last mission, nine months pregnant, on her way to the hospital and still catching the bad guy. So she’s repelling, sliding across the cars. Anyone who’s been pregnant will tell you: “You’re not supposed to do that!”
MTV News: We haven’t really seen Jessica in a mature role like this, playing a mom. Did you have a sense that she wanted to take that next step in her career?
Rodriguez: Yeah, I think she liked the idea, because she got married young and had the baby young, so she was dealing with the whole baby situation when we had this idea. We thought it would be a perfect way to deal with what her life is really like, except in this, she’s an ass-kicking badass. She gets to show the actual trials of dealing with a baby while having a career.
Rodriguez: Completely. She’s very collaborative. She said, “I really want to be funny. I should do this, I should do that. I think when I’m with the kids, this is the kind of game I’d play with them.” She really brought a lot to the table. She knows children and what would come off best for the character.
MTV News: You’ve got a lot of funny actors in this one, like Joel McHale.
Rodriguez: Joel McHale, he’s awesome! He really is a scene-stealer. He brings you ad libs. Even if it’s written, you look at the script and go, “Oh, he just made it sound funnier.” Sometimes I’d tell him just the concept of the scene, and he’d ad lib 30 things and they’re all funny. The hard part is figuring out which one to use.
MTV News: Do you see this as the start of a whole new trilogy?
Rodriguez: We’ll see what happens with number four. I know they want to make more of them. The reason these movies do well is that there’s not many live-action films that are very empowering to children. Parents could never understand it, but that’s why Power Rangers are so popular — because there are kids beneath those suits. Kids like and support anything that empowers and supports them. It’s a powerful idea to know you can be a kid but also a spy and you can strap on a jetpack and fly around the world and not have to have your mom drive you to the mall.(MTV)