Shorts Review
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Director Robert Rodriguez has made some pretty ground-breaking movies for grown-ups—movies that you’d never, ever take your kids to see, like Sin City and Planet Terror. But the father of five often takes time off from the business of directing violent movies for grown-ups to direct quirky kids’ movies—like the Spy Kids trilogy and his latest, Shorts. Unfortunately, though, Rodriguez’s kids’ movies don’t always live up to the same ground-breaking, eye-popping standards as his grown-up movies.

Shorts is a wacky and spastic family fantasy that follows the residents of the Black Falls Community after a magical rainbow-colored rock starts making their wildest wishes come true. The story is broken up into episodes (or “shorts”) which are told out of order, but that doesn’t really matter—because, for the most part, the stories stand on their own.

  
 
First, there’s the story of Toby “Toe” Thompson (Jimmy Bennett), a brace-faced loner who’s constantly bullied by Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) and Cole Black (Devon Gearhart), the children of his parents’ tyrannical boss (James Spader). When Toe finds the rainbow rock, he wishes for new friends who can help him battle the bullies—but, of course, he doesn’t quite get what he expected.

Elsewhere in Black Falls, the rock also takes a kid named Loogie (Trevor Gagnon) and his brothers on an action-packed adventure—and it turns one of Nose Noseworthy’s (Jake Short) boogers into a big, angry monster. But it’s all fun and games until the rock gets into the wrong hands: Mr. Black’s.

With its quirky, low-budget sci-fi style and its campy comedy, Shorts feels like the kind of imaginary adventures that you used to act out while playing with your friends on lazy summer afternoons. Unfortunately, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s fun to watch.

Those crazy, made-up adventures lose that silly backyard fun when they play out on the big screen—and, as a result, the movie generally has all the wit and charm of a class clown whose jokes just aren’t that funny anymore. The story is random and often just plain ridiculous, and the humor often revolves around various bodily fluids. And while I’m guessing that the jerky effects are supposed to feel like a kids’ home movie, they only make the finished product look cheap and slapped together.

Meanwhile, while Bennett is lovably nerdy (in a hammy kind of way) as the unfortunately named Toe Thompson, the other young actors are pretty uncomfortable to watch. I’ll cut them some slack, though—because, after all, they’re just kids. The problem, however, is that some of the adult actors aren’t much better. Some of them (like Spader) are underused, some (like William H. Macy, who plays the germophobic Dr. Noseworthy) seem rather pointless, and others (I’m lookin’ at you, Kat Dennings) are just plain bad.

In theory, Shorts was great idea. The story is imaginative and fun—and even childlike—but the finished product is so jerky and random that it’ll make your head spin. And while that may be a good thing about Rodriguez’s grown-up movies, it makes this kids’ movie bewilderingly bizarre.

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