Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: Shorts (2009)

89 minutes
Rated PG (for mild action and rude humor - should have been a G)

by Scott Mendelson

Shorts is a gloriously old-fashioned kids flick made with a knowing cleverness. The picture is fast-paced, funny, colorful, exciting, and absolutely appropriate for children while entertaining for adults. Shorts is no classic, but it clearly does not want to be. It aims purely to be a breezy and pulpy children's adventure film, no more and no less. Robert Rodriguez again proves himself a jack of all trades, as his family pictures (Shorts, the Spy Kids series) are every bit as imaginative and often more entertaining than his R-rated action pictures (the Mariachi trilogy, Planet Terror, From Dusk Till Dawn).

A token amount of plot: told in seemingly random chronological order, this picture is a series of shorts concerning the discovery of a magic wishing rock and the effects it has on the town of Black Falls. While the stories generally center on the youngsters of the town, the inexplicable rock soon begins to have most unexpected consequences for the adults as well. Can Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) use the rock to bring his parents (Jon Cryer and Leslie Mann) closer, while keeping the bullying Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) and his older sister (Kat Dennings) at bay? Can Nose Noseworthy (Jake Short) use the rock to cure his father's (William H. Macy) crippling fear of germs? And what effect will the rock have on the president of the town's leading company, Black Box (James Spader), who is desperately trying to make his 'do everything' Black Box gadget into the must-own vanity item? All these questions and more will be answered should you decide to dive into the wonderfully weird world of Shorts.

What's most refreshing about Shorts is its lack of pretension. It is a kids flick through and through, but it's an awfully good one. As you'll notice from the above synopsis, the cast is filled with talent, all of whom are relishing their chance to play in this particular sandbox. The only qualm is the lack of pretty much any and all Rodriguez vets, as even Danny Trejo is nowhere to be found. Still, everyone is game and their presence does wonders to elevate the simple fable. As always, this Robert Rodriguez film is cheerfully low-budget and cheap-looking in the best way. The special effects are gloriously hokey looking, which only adds to the old-school appeal. And like the Spy Kids trilogy, there are no real villains. Yes, there are antagonists who do bad things, but there is redemption and mercy for all. The seemingly random order of the stories allows kids to discover the relatively simple callbacks on their own, and some of them are genuinely funny (a lost homework assignment provides a great pay-off).

Despite or because of its shoestring budget and overtly innocent intentions, Shorts works as a perfectly charming film for the whole family. It works both because of what it does not contain (violence, profanity, any hint of sexuality) and what it does contain (charming characters, a clever narrative, witty dialogue, and eye-poppingly goofy visuals). Watch Shorts with your kids, or just borrow someone else's kids to give yourself a proper excuse.

Grade: B

1 comment:

Watch Full Movies said...

This is a movie only an 8 year old could make up, or Robert who seems to be insanely connected to his kids. And that's a wonderful thing.


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