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After the atrocious family films Spy Kids 3D : Game Over and The
Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, I was not interested in watching
Shorts, another independent family film directed by Robert
Rodriguez.However, a look at the cast revealed the presence of some
competent actors (James Spader, William H. Macy, Leslie Mann and Kat
Dennings), so I decided to risk myself and watch this movie.To my huge
surprise, Shorts resulted to be an excellent family film which is
likable and hugely entertaining, thanks to the skillful performances
from the young cast and Rodriguez's irreverent screenplay.
At setting the movie on a real environment (instead of the artificial digital universe), Rodriguez did not require of big excesses for telling the story.The special effects look realistic, but they do not loose Rodriguez's characteristic surrealism on them.Shorts may not be his best family movie (I liked the original Spy Kids a bit more), but it is the one which mostly represents the naughty childish imagination, which is funny and innocent but not lacking of some subversion.
All the performances from this movie show a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but the movie rests on the shoulders of the childish cast with excellent results.The phenomenal discovery of Jolie Vanier is particularly remarkable.She reminded me thanks to her histrionic force and great presence of Christina Ricci on her juvenile roles.
With the exception of Up, Shorts is the best family film I have seen this year.I ended up taking a great surprise with this great family movie, and I recommend it as an excellent option for the whole family.
Shorts is amusing and doesn't take itself seriously at all. It
resembles Malcolm in the Middle, with the central kid's narration, the
high-speed montages, and exaggeratedly eccentric characters.
The plot winds around a strange rainbow-colored rock that grants wishes. Inevitable, this results as you would expect, with carelessly thought out wishes backfiring for some good-natured slapstick comedy.
The actors make a pretty good ensemble cast, and seem to be enjoying making the film, but I think they know there won't be a lot of Oscars handed out for this movie. The montages are used as a buffer between scenes. They simulate video camera rewinding, or the kid's confused memory right after eating too much sugary cereal--I'm not sure. But I do think they're used too much, making them distracting. The story is told in non-linear style, jumping from the present to flashbacks and back again, but this seems more of an unnecessary gimmick that really doesn't help tell the story.
The adult characters are nutty and over the top, but the actors faithfully go for the silliness and do adequately. The child actors do well too, especially newcomer Jolie Vanier, as the bitter rich girl bully. She has one of the few characters with enough dimension (albeit comically exaggerated) to logically evolve throughout the story, and plays the role to the hilt. Her facial expressions are hilarious, and dominate every scene she's in. This actress has a promising future.
What the movie makers were wishing for was a simple kids' comedy, and that's just what this film is, no more--no less. It's all just some good clean fun, clowning around for its own sake.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shorts is a kids' film by Robert Rodriguez. Like his friend and
oft-times collaborator Tarantino, Rodriguez makes the films he wants in
the way he wants and serves no master save himself as regards
expectations. Shorts is such a film.
The story is simple - a wishing stone turns up, kids and others make wishes, mayhem ensues, people learn lessons. The telling of it is less simple - told in often non-linear flashback, the structure of the movie is more than a little messy. When taken into account along with assorted poo and snot sequences, the telltale influence of the younger members of Rodriguez' family looms into view: as with Sharkboy and Lavagirl, Rodriguez incorporates creative input from his kids on the grounds that they probably know best what kids like.
And you know what? He's probably right. To me, as an adult, this movie often struck me as if the kids were handed the camera and told to go off and film what they want, and what resulted then got state of the art CGI plastered over it - this didn't disguise the lack of maturity in the source material and structure, it simply made it look slicker.
But perhaps I'm simply not the best person to judge because it seemed to me that the kids in the cinema were loving it.
And it was interesting to see William H Macy, James Spader and Leslie Mann taking part in something like this. Newcomer Jolie Vanier has a big future ahead of her - she has a strong screen presence.
Shorts is a chaotic mess, but has a gawky charm of its own.
Robert Rodriguez' Shorts is childish, unrealistic and immature - in a
good way. It's by no means a masterpiece, but once again the director
has proved he has a way with children's films. The plot is jumbled up
and out of order like a Tarantino movie and doesn't demonstrate a
particularly unique idea; what it does masterfully accomplish, however,
is creative entertainment. The look and feel of Shorts is wildly
inventive, fantastical, definitely kid-worthy, and quite simply a whole
lot of fun.
To tell the tale of the crazily kooky adventure granted to the usually uneventful town of Black Falls, narrator and star Toby "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) skips ahead, rewinds backwards on screen and dodges through the timeline of events. He decides to tell the story completely out of order in a series of shorts. While messing with chronology is typically a nuisance, it works well for Rodriguez, keeping things continually interesting and building upon minor characters, while effectively holding the attention of kids.
Black Box Incorporated is the center of interest for the entire town. It's run by the ruthless Mr. Black (James Spader), who is only concerned with upgrading his all-in-one black box multi-tool invention to outdo his many competitors. The box works like a Transformer, reconstructing itself automatically into a cell phone, vacuum, toaster, grenade, dog trimmer, baby monitor and much, much more. His team leaders (Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer) are the parents of Toby, and his daughter Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) - or "Hel" for short - makes Toby's life miserable, bullying him incessantly at school. When neighbor Loogie (Trevor Gagnon) discovers a magical rock that grants wishes, Toby's real troubles are about to begin.
Although a movie about wishes run amok isn't entirely new, the family-friendly, clean setting and bright tone of the film contributes to solid entertainment. While it serves as a fantastical, quixotic tutoring on wishing for something worthwhile and being careful what you wish for, the execution and planning of the muddled events is truly worthwhile. Little green aliens can't fix Toby's "lack of friends" problem, prevent an army of crocodiles from eating Loogie's homework, protect the Short brothers from pterodactyl abduction, or save Nose Noseworthy from the Big Bad Booger. Boiling down to the basic carefree fantasies of kids, the welcome notion of getting anything you can imagine, and the realization that understanding and friendship can resolve more than wishing yourself out of a predicament, Shorts playfully amuses with a vastly creative eye for merriment and nonsense. This is a film that proves pure fantasy can be pleasant and adults don't have to be bored to death with the material their children drag them to.
- Mike Massie
OK, so I do not like movies like this. But I have to say that this movie was kinda fun, and it had an original plot that is something that kids really want to see. Good clean comedy comes out of this movie every once and a while. A good laugh can be expected from this film. I gotta say that the creator had a really good imagination when making this movie, he really knows what kids would really wish for. The kids acting was fair. On the other hand the adults become a little stupid. The special effects looked a little cheap. And sometimes the imaginative stuff goes a little to far. But I only recommend it for kids 9 and younger. They are sure to enjoy this film and have a thrill. But teens and adults may find this movie to be not so good, because since its meant to be only for kids, people over the age of 13 might find this movie to be way too childish. But it is somewhat fun. This is an ordinary family/kids movie which is slightly a little good as any other.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Eleven-year-old Toe finds life a bag full of troubles. Till he
discovers a make-a-wish rock that turns out to be the solution to all
his troubles. Also, the reason for a suburban town's troubles.
The movie is divided into six, jumbled up episodes and its bursting with special effects. SHORTS is far from entertaining. Staring contests, giant dung beetles, aliens and walking crocodiles - Rodriguez crams them all into the 90-minute film about needing to be careful what you wish for - literally. Director Robert Rodriguez has tried very hard to sustain the interest of young viewers by keeping scene durations short and gags long. I watched this movie along with my 12 year old cousin and he looked happy. I found it interesting in parts, like the opening scene between the brother and sister challenging each other as to who could resist blinking longer than the other.
Helevetica Black played by Jolie Vanier is the only kid who showed any potential. She could be a good actress in the future. The adults don't really have much part to play in this. Jon Cryer and Leslie Mann who play Toe Thompson's parents have a very funny scene where they both wish to be closer to each other and are merged together to the hip. This is a spoof or nod to the Hindu god and goddess, Shiva and Parvathi. These gods believe in equality in every aspect of their existence and Shiva merges into Parvathi to prove that man and woman are equal. That form is called 'Ardha-Naareeshwara'. I liked that a lot. I'll be generous in my view and give this movie a 6 because it is a movie made for kids. 10 year olds & younger will really enjoy this and will have lots to talk about in school after watching this. It is a good age to think magic is real and everything they wish will come true because of a rock. Hey, I thought Aladdin's lamp and Hogwarts were real when I was younger..!
Told in a very disjointed style, Shorts tells the tale of a group of
children and adults living in the secluded Black Falls community where
the popular Black Box all-in-one gadget is created. A rainbow coloured
"wishing rock" falls from the sky during a rain storm, and bizarrely
imaginative wishes are granted one-by-one for everyone that gets their
hands on it. But not all wishes are as good as others.
Robert Rodriguez, an all-in-one filmmaker unlike any other, has created another imaginative family film I imagine he is proud of because he can sit and watch it with his children. While the man made his bones on bullet strewn bloody epics like Desperado and Frank Miller's Sin City, he has never been one to shy away from the family genre. But with every entry, the work just continues to become sloppier. Inspired by his children or not, Rodriguez must have known Shorts was a bad idea from the start. But this clearly mattered very little.
I am clearly in the wrong demographic to even begin deciphering what works and what does not in Shorts, but the film is a mess from start to finish. Employing a bit of the style of his buddy Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez fashions the movie to work as smaller, unorganized stories within a grander framework (thus explaining the title of this opus). It is never confusing, but it becomes really annoying listening to the narrator, main character Toby "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) tell us he does not remember the way the story goes every time the story jumps back or forward. Even worse is the addition of rewind, fast forward, and pause buttons that keep appearing during the film. Sure it is quirky and amusing the first time it shows up, but it just becomes bothersome and irritating as the film goes on. It really makes no sense why it is not told in any chronological order and just seems like Rodriguez mixed it up just to make the film a bit more interesting than it actually is.
The film's storyline, as simplistic as it is, really offers nothing new to the family genre. Inherent issues about crumbling family units, making friends, and just genuinely finding your place in the world have all been done to death, as have stories about people wishing for things. And while some of the issues do succeed in being imaginative and unique, the stereotypical family film issues are anything but. Rodriguez throws them all into the film (and even a minor subplot about small green aliens) with a no-holds barred attitude dictated by a man who could care less what people think. And when the film reaches its credits, it really feels like all he did was throw ideas at the wall and went with the ones that stuck.
As said, the imaginative wishes provided throughout the film by every character are what make the film. A booger monster, walking crocodiles and a baby who can speak to other through her mind are just the start of what you can expect to see during Shorts. And as the film goes on, the ideas just become sillier and more creative as they go along. But sadly, they do not appear all appear to be coming from the mind of Rodriguez. And that is where the film hits another bad turn: the special effects that create these wishes leaves a lot to be desired. Almost every single one looks freakishly amateur and unpolished. I know Rodriguez does a lot of the work himself, but after watching something as digital and special effects friendly as Frank Miller's Sin City, and how realistic that looks, it is a bit sad to look at this mess of a film as being from the same film-making group. It just feels all too disappointing, and like it was just pumped out too quickly before it was really perfected.
The acting, much like the rest of the film, is not all that great. Bennett is amusing in the lead role, giving everything he can as a child actor. Yet it does not seem like he was provided much to do outside of what the script asks for. He has a much stronger presence as a supporting character in Orphan, and was better even in his minuscule role as Young Kirk in the recent Star Trek reimagining. I was much more impressed with newcomer Jolie Vanier as the villainess Helvetica. She appears to have really dug into her bad girl role, and is given ample opportunity to make something of the role. And in a movie like this, that is never really all too hard. Adult actors like Kat Dennings, William H. Macy, Jon Cryer, Leslie Mann and James Spader are all given a fair amount to do, but never really seem to give it their all. They just seem to be going through the motions, acting as ridiculous and goofy as they need to, and not doing much else.
I started writing this review a few weeks ago after seeing the film, but forgot about finishing it. After watching the movie, it feels like Rodriguez acted the same way when he was writing and putting the film together. There are a few shells of interesting ideas that are on display at various points throughout the film, but they are never fully realized. I can really appreciate the family aspect of the production, and how much of a one-man team Rodriguez is. But this is just not a great film. It has imagination, but it lacks the ability to really stretch and mold it into something worthwhile. It easily could have been made into a stronger film if anyone on the team really put some effort into it. As it is, the newcomer Vanier is the only real reason to even attempt to sit through it.
(Portions of this review originally appeared on http://www.dvdfanatic.com).
I saw this with my son (10) and his friend. I expected to fall asleep
because of the poor reviews on IMDb, but to my happy surprise it awoke
the inner child in me. The wishes were plausible for children and the
FX were enjoyable. The two kids with me complained that they would have
had better wishes than in the movie or about this and that, but they
barely moved a muscle while it was playing, didn't ask for popcorn or
Overall, this is a great family film in the Disney vein of talking Herbie cars and other implausibilities that I loved as a child and am glad I saw with my child. Better than Spy Kids 2 or 3D, Shark Boy and Lava Girl.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I got dragged into this movie by my 7 year old son who did not forget
the trailer since he saw a man turn into a wiener (seriously)! After
the fantastic and heartwarming artistry that was "Up" which we saw
yesterday, "Shorts" was simply its diametrical opposite--brash and
The story is simple enough. A boy gets hold of a colorful wish-granting stone, which initially was only used for some innocent children's fantasies. Later on however when the adults get their hand on it, more seriously dangerous wishes were made. Director Robert Rodriguez (of "Spy Kids") decided to chop up the story into 5 short films and they were not presented in order (purely for effect, but no apparent logic).
Throughout the film though, my seven year old boy was restless. He even called it lame at one point, particularly that short about the "booger monster" (again, seriously). What's worst, his most awaited scene of the guy turning into a wiener happened only in the fifth and last short! So he was antsy until that part showed up, and was only happy afterward it seems.
OK OK, I admit, there were funny parts. My most laugh out loud moment happened at the very end though. And the treatment was light and good-natured. Kids will enjoy this, as they should, since this IS a kids movie first. Adults will just have to try hard to find their inner child and laugh along with their kids. Let's just call it family time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shorts (2009): Dir: Robert Rodriguez / Cast: Jimmy Bennett, James Spader, William H. Macy, Leslie Mann, Kat Dennings: Candy coated crap about the prevail of smaller factors. If one of those smaller factors was the screenwriter then perhaps the screenplay would be above juvenile level. It regards a rainbow coloured stone that ends up in the possession of several people who use it to make wishes into reality. This is never explained and although director Robert Rodriguez showcases his imagination, he never tops his Spy Kids. Perhaps if the screenwriter had gotten his hands on that rock then the screenplay would be Oscar calibre. Jimmy Bennett plays the bullied kid who narrates the film. If he isn't bullied after the release of this film then it is safe to say that he possesses the stone. What is truly sad is the talent that is greatly reduced in this garbage. James Spader plays an evil tycoon in what amounts to one of his worst roles. William H. Macy plays a germ fearing scientist. Perhaps he should be more concerned with dense scripts such as this. Leslie Mann plays Bennett's mother in a role that may make her want to revive her 40 Year Old Virgin role. Speaking of which, another actress from that film that makes a wasted appearance here is Kat Dennings as Bennett's older sister. None of these performances are terribly ambitious, and like the screenplay and special effects it comes up short on magic. Score: 2 / 10
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