*** (out of 5)
August 21, 2009
Jimmy Bennett as TOE THOMPSON
Jake Short as NOSE NOSEWORTHY
Kat Dennings as STACEY THOMPSON
Trevor Gagnon as LOOGIE
Jolie Vanier as HELVETICA BLACK
Leslie Mann as MOM THOMPSON
Jon Cryer as DAD THOMPSON
William H. Macy as DR. NOSEWORTHY
James Spader as MR. BLACK
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There’s a bit of history repeating itself with the movies being released this weekend. Two years ago, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino released the exploitative splatterfest known as “Grindhouse.” Now, they are both dropping a movie on the same weekend, with almost no crossover audience whatsoever.
While Tarantino is “killing Nah-zies” in his new film “Inglorious Basterds,” Rodriguez is going back to making movies for little kids with the film “Shorts.”
Here is the perfect litmus test to decide whether you’re going to like “Shorts”: 1) write down your age; 2) look at your age; 3) if your age is more than 12, you won’t like it.
It’s as simple as that. “Shorts” is cut from the same cloth as the latter “Spy Kids” films and “The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl.” Unlike other kids films that we’ve seen over the past year or so, like “G-Force” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” “Shorts” has very little appeal for adults. It’s hyper-kinetic, it’s goofy, it requires an attention span of no more than three seconds, it’s loaded with boogers and bathroom humor and its plot is practically incomprehensible to anyone who has gone through puberty.
In short, it’s like a cartoon. Something along the lines of “Chowder” or “The Misadventures of Flapjack.” “SpongeBob SquarePants” is on a higher intellectual plane than “Shorts.”
But don’t take these comparisons as necessarily harsh criticisms. “Shorts” was never made for adults in mind. Like Rodriguez’ other kids film, it’s made for kids, particularly young boys. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
The story follows a group of kids living the town of Black Falls, where the nefarious Mr. Black runs the show. He employs everyone in town, and they all work to make his all-purpose Black Box a juggernaut in the marketplace. When some kids find a magical wishing rock, they start making wild and crazy wishes – everything from “telephonesis” to an army of crocodiles – and throw the town into a spin.
“Shorts” is told in a series of six short films, slightly out of order, which reveals the overall story. The shorts themselves have a throwback feel to Rodriguez earlier short films, like “Bedhead,” and can be fun to a degree. But be assured, this film is a tour-de-force of immature humor and kids-level silliness. One short features a 36-hour staring contest between siblings, and another features a giant booger monster that tries to eat the kids. It’s not high-brow humor in the slightest.
However, this movie isn’t made for the parents. Rather, it’s made for kids. It has a random creative craziness that you can expect from Rodriguez. My boys, ages 6 and 8, had been looking forward to this movie for weeks. When we finally saw it, their only disappointment was that the movie wasn’t in 3D. Otherwise, they loved it. Heck, why wouldn’t they? They were precisely the target audience.
I know I’ll get some flack from friends and colleagues about my relatively positive review of this movie, but if I can give “The Time Traveler’s Wife” or “The Ugly Truth” a similar rating because it definitely reaches its audience, why can’t I do the same for “Shorts.” It’s not making my top ten list of the year, but I’m sure it will for my kids.