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One-man film crew Robert Rodriguez' moonlighting into kiddie fare has at best produced mixed results, here epitomized by his latest juvenile project, "Shorts," a wishy-washy tale about kids finding their inner heroes and saving their smalltime town. Returning to the hyper-earnest mode of his "Spy Kids" trilogy, director-writer-DP-editor Rodriguez nonetheless can't muster enough cheerio for anyone but the youngest viewers to get over an overabundance of special effects and a monotonous feeling.
As well as pertaining to the stature of its young protagonists, the title of Rodriguez' wishful thinking tale concerns his narrative's central gimmick: a series of short episodes shown as per the whims of its young narrator Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett). Told in a fractured timeline, the series of interlocked episodes show how the town of Black Falls is dominated by the techno mogul (James Spader), and how a group of kids -- including Toe -- change the neighborhood for the better with the help of a rainbow-colored stone that grants the wishes of anyone who possesses it.
Save for the campy blink-first-standoff between two kids, "Shorts"' subplots never evolve into a compelling unit, with Rodriguez running amok with his "homemade" CGI -- perhaps reflecting the unrestrained euphoria of a kid getting his hands on a magic stone -- that does nothing to add to the novelty of its uncharacteristic style. Ultimately predictable and reeking of half-assed effort, the whole procedure gets exhausting after a few rounds of cutesy moxie, though at least Rodriguez wisely sticks to the context of his movie's title and keeps his film reasonably concise.
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