SHORTS review by Gary Dean Murray Aug 20, 2009 4:55:18 GMT -5
Post by BIGFANBOY on Aug 20, 2009 4:55:18 GMT -5
Review by Gary Dean Murray
Robert Rodriguez is exactly the kind of director I would want to be. Ignoring the trappings of Hollywood, he works in Austin, Texas and makes the films that he wants to make. His homemade studio is a model of efficiency and state of the art creativity. He has given us a number of films with the Spy Kids franchise being the most successful. His latest kid friendly flick is Shorts. The film is constructed as a series of shorts, six films that pull together to make a coherent narrative whole. The first little vignette is a brother and sister having a staring contest. This little bit of silliness travels throughout the entire film as a punchline for the rest of the plot.
Sounding more complicated than it is, we get the entire story unfolding like watching a DVR, with fast forwards and reverses. Our eleven year-old hero Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) is an elementary school kid who has parents (Jon Cryer and Leslie Mann) that work in competing divisions of the same company Black Box Industries. Their boss Mr. Black (James Spader) has as a centerpiece a device called the Black Box which has so many applications it makes the I-Phone look like building blocks. This Black Box can be transform into just about anything from a phone to a toaster.
The boss wants the newest generation of the product to be even more spectacular than the competition of the Purple Pyramid or the Silver Cylinder. In a Glenngarry Glen Ross moment, the winning team gets all the accolades and the losing team gets the can. Since the neighborhood of Black Falls is owned lock, stock and barrel by the company--everyone is an unwitting part of this scheme.
Well, one of kids finds a magical rainbow striped rock at, of all places, the end of the rainbow. Thus begins our adventure. This little gem will grant anyone their wish just by saying “I wish...”. Our hero wishes for some friends and is instantly invaded by a series of small spaceships. In a Batteries Not Included moment, they do everything to help our our hapless Toe. The film jumps to and fro, letting everyone see how dangerous wish fulfillment can be. Big sister, with magic rock in hand, wishes that her slacker boyfriend would just grow up and he eventually becomes the 50 ft man.
Toe Thompson is tormented by a group of kids who has a ringleader Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) the daughter of the boss. She is a daub of evil incarnate but does have a bit of a soft inner being, more misunderstood than actually mean. The magic rock goes from kid to kid and we get a fortress filled with crocodiles and snakes. One wishes for 'telephone-nesis' and the ends of a receiver appear on both sides of his head. It all builds to an adult costume party and the realization that sometimes it isn't a good thing when you wish for the wrong things. The adults show the kids the true harm of wishing.
This lovely bit of inventiveness was written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, based on an idea from his children. It has all that snap and flash one would expect from the creative mind of Spy Kids and The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl. This time out there is a decided air of playfulness. We get slapstick and crazed moments more along the idea of Our Gang comedies with remnants of films as diverse as The Goonies and Ghostbusters.
As the parents, Jon Cryer and Leslie Mann do a solid job. Their roles are a bit underwritten and clichéd but both seem to have fun being the butt of jokes. James Spader goes over the top and onto the parody mountain as our black Mr. Black. Again, he is not truly evil just a misunderstood genius who eventually sees the folly of his ways. The always great William H. Macy plays a scientist who accidentally creates a monster from a disgusting bit of filth. He gets to show some action-hero heroics that are never offered to the actor.
This is a kids flick and it is the kids that make or break it. The casting by Mary Vernieu and JC Cantu is impeccable starting with Jimmy Bennett as our hero. He has that classic 'Disney Kid' look of sweetness while still being his own in the role. But the greatest praises have to go to Jolie Vanier as Helvetica. She's a perfect foil for our hero, snarling with every breath. We have all known a girl like her in school, making lives miserable and reveling in the action.
Shorts is a kids film that will still entertain the grown-ups. With a sharp pace, this little bit of entertainment never overstays its welcome. While not a great film or a work of cinema, it is a fun little movie.
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