DVD Release Date: December 1, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: August 21, 2009
Rating: PG (for mild action and some rude humor)
Run Time: 89 min.
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Actors: William H. Macy, Jon Cryer, Leslie Mann, Kat Dennings, James Spader, Jimmy Bennett, Jake Short, Trevor Gagnon, Devon Gearhart, Leo Howard, Jolie Vanier,
While its charms may be in relatively short supply for anyone over the age of, well, 10, Shorts is an eccentric, time-jumping adventure that merges comedy, sci-fi and a short treatise on the dangers of too much technology into one mostly family-friendly movie.
In what's ultimately a reminder to "be careful what you wish for," Shorts is broken up into several short episodes (hence the movie's name) that eventually tell the story (out of order, of course) of our lovable protagonist Toby "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett). In fact, his story is so wild, zany and unpredictable that these episodes often overlap, meaning he's got to start over, fast forward and rewind from time to time.
Like many kids, Toe has overcommitted, workaholic parents (Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer) who text more than actually talk to each other. And while it would be easy to blame all of Toe's social shortcomings on sheer parental neglect, it's really the demands of his mom and dad's overbearing boss Mr. Carbon Black (a deliciously evil James Spader), who practically owns the town and subsequently, everyone who works for him, that's one of the main culprits.
Largely ignored at home and relentlessly picked on by a snotty girl named Helvetica (really, shouldn't he be giving her grief since she shares a moniker with a rather lackluster font?), Toe finds a much-needed burst of happiness when a mysterious, rainbow-colored rock is literally thrown at him.
In a rather fortuitous turn of events (or rather, a burst of movie magic), the colorful stone turns out to have special powers that are particularly useful to anyone nearby. With a simple "I wish," whatever the person wants happens immediately—subject to the rock's interpretation of what's being said, though.
This minor flaw in the system leads to some of the movie's funnier (or downright hilarious, given the young audience I was watching with) moments, particularly when Toe wishes for friends (his new pals turn out to be tiny aliens coasting on small plates) or asks for the ability to move things for his mind (he substitutes the word "telephonesis" for "telekinesis" and ends up with a large phone sprouting out of his head).
However, before life gets too comfortable, Toe realizes (just like the title character in Aladdin or Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz experienced before him) this "getting everything you hoped for" definitely has its dark side, too. Thankfully, the requisite "lesson" portion of the film doesn't ever get incredibly heavy, though. All the moralizing is fairly unobtrusive with the need for having the latest hi-tech this or that surprisingly getting hammered the hardest.
Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the guy behind the Spy Kids series and equally at home with decidedly R-rated adult fare including Grindhouse and Sin City, Shorts always maintains a feeling of wide-eyed, childlike wonder throughout with colorful, over-the-top imagery and thoughtful, age-appropriate performances from its leads. Given that Rodriguez has kids smack dab in the demographic (they even make cameos in the movie), he speaks the language and knows what's funny when you're a kid—and conveys it well.
While maybe not quite as memorable stylistically (or message-wise) as something from Pixar or possessing the iconic characters like a Disney flick does, Shorts still makes for an enjoyable afternoon diversion that also won't elicit too many eye rolls from the patient parents accompanying their kids. And like many accounts of instant wish fulfillment, it may even make you a little more thankful for what you already have, always the best lesson of all.
- Drugs/Alcohol: None.
- Language/Profanity: No expletives, just a few negative words thrown around like "dumb butt" and "idiot" There's also some rude scatological humor involving nose picking and passing gas.
- Sex/Nudity: None.
- Violence: Those afraid of snakes, crocs or bugs may find a couple of the scenes disturbing or a little scary. But aside from that, all the bumps and bruises that occur are meant for comic effect.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.