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Shorts: Unfortunately, Not Short Enough

An hour and twenty five minutes is too long to sustain Shorts, a film that I was over around the time the giant booger began attacking people. That is the pinnacle of creativity and wit in Robert Rodriguez’s latest kids film– instead of a kid eating a booger, a booger is trying to eat kids. Ha ha. Thoroughly disjointed, full of child stars that lack notable onscreen personality, and surprisingly preachy, Shorts is unoffensive but utterly forgettable. In a summer when the options for children have been Up, Ice Age 3, Harry Potter 6, and Ponyo, a film so heartless and generic really is inexcusable.

The film is told in a series of shorts which are not shown in chronological order (amusingly, the structure isn’t too dissimilar from the other major film opening this week, Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds). My favorite was the ongoing battle of a brother and sister in a staring contest… unfortunately, that came first and was quite brief. The actual plot follows a wishing rock, discovered by several kids in a living community for families whose parents work on the Black Box, a device invented by the villainous Mr. Black (James Spader). He’s not trying to take over the world, but he does head a multi-national corporation, and he fires people who challenge his authority– how evil! The narrator, Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett, who played young Jim Kirk in this summer’s Star Trek movie), and his family members (Jon Cryer, Leslie Mann, and Kat Dennings), all get involved when zany wishes go wrong.

You would think a film where a giant wasp, a giant dung beetle, a slew of small aliens, and a crocodile army fighting a giant black robot would be more entertaining. The “shorts” structure simply doesn’t work, and seems to have been placed into the proceedings to try to disguise the enormous holes in character development, narrative arc, and creativity. The ruse fails, however, since the movie’s shortcomings are clear as crystal. I like Rodriguez’s charm and energy, and even his very fake special effects normally have their appeal, but here, everything is jumbled together. The adult actors look embarrassed, except for Spader, who hams it up to Boston Legal levels, trying to overcome what everyone else has already given up on. The child actors are all unmemorable, except for Trevor Gagnon as the unlucky Loogie (and there’s a character named Nose Noseworthy! This is the most boogercentric film I’ve ever seen!)

If your child likes to be entertained by smart, sweet, funny, and exciting films with energy and character, go see one of the four films mentioned in the first paragraph, most of which are still in theaters. If your child would think a giant man-eating booger is the pinnacle of cinematic brilliance, by all means, take him to Shorts. The characters in the film try not to blink in a film-long staring contest. I, in stark contrast, was struggling to keep my eyes open.

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~ by russellhainline on August 21, 2009.

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