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STUDIO: Warner Brothers
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
Rodriguez uses kids to stage an anthology.
William H. Macy, Kat Dennings, Jon Cryer, James Spader and Leslie Mann
A local company has created the latest must-have gadget. While the adults work on a new way to market it, their kids are left to have wacky adventures. One day, these adorable kids discover an alien wishing rock. Toss in some throw-away booger and fart jokes to pad out the events to nearly ninety minutes. Throw the results in a theater to die a quick death. That’s how you get this movie.
Robert Rodriguez loves to walk this strange line between Adult and Kiddie fare. Following up the financial disaster that was Planet Terror with this film must’ve made sense. The guy just went through a divorce and had his CG pegleg goomah leave him. He was in a bad place and needed a hit. A summer kiddie film release was easy cash. Throw in some CG, a semi-decent cast and a short runtime for an easy pleaser. It always looks great on paper.
Shorts works as an anthology for the Adderall crowd. Three tales of kids and adults not understanding each other until a magical device gets dropped in their lap. Everyone’s story runs in opposite directions, until they all come back to that stupid Wishing Rock. The adults want to find a new way to market it, while the kids want to use their imagination to make bigger and brighter things. Crocodiles walk on two legs, kids get telephone head attachment and a baby learns telekinesis.
The previous Rodriguez kiddie flicks were semi-entertaining and had coherent plots. Hell, Spy Kids didn’t fall apart until the third movie. I would bash Shark Boy and Lava Girl, but the film was written by a seven year old kid. Shorts is a director with a following trying to garner a hit by appealing to the lowest reaches of the mainstream. This is a babysitter movie, while the adults go about the business of the day. This isn’t art, this isn’t even kitsch. It is a bland void of commercial appeal and limited vision.
Toe Thompson barely reaches the levels of the previous Rodriguez heroes. I’m not going to blame that on the performance of Jimmy Bennett. The kid barely gets a chance to serve as the focus of the movie. He bounces back and forth between the stories, that the focus rarely shines on him. If he would’ve changed his name to pointless CGI, Rodriguez might’ve given him some more face time.
When the adults come into play, you see the other half of Rodriguez’s failure. Inside Black Box Industries, we’re treated to a collection of stereotypes and hollow acting. James Spader, Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer have no personality and can be easily switched around. The only one who attempts to be different is William H. Macy. But, that’s like arguing the difference between Country Ham and Prosciutto.
This isn’t one of the worst films of 2009. It’s not even one of the worst DVDs. It’s an awful example of what happens when a director doesn’t acknowledge their true self. I would love to sit Rodriguez down and make him give me a personal commentary. I want to know the plot of the film. Not what’s happening onscreen, because that isn’t plot. Kids screaming and mugging for the camera isn’t plot. A hyper ten year old holding a rock and screaming for fart rainbows isn’t plot. Plot has a point. This film had Kat Dennings and she didn’t even show any cleavage. Hell, I would’ve given the film a better score if she wore that blue shirt from The 40 Year Old Virgin.
The DVD only sports a digital copy and the basic educational Rodriguez featurettes. The director will teach kids how to make cookies in 10 minutes. Plus, he’ll teach them the simple basic of digital filmmaking. The last part might seem a little dense for a 10 minute quickie lesson for kids. But, I guess it makes sense. It doesn’t make up for the crappy film.