Shorts Directed by: Robert Rodriguez Cast: Jimmy Bennett, Trevor Gagnon, Jolie Vanier, Jon Cryer, Leslie Mann, James Spader. Running Time: 1 hr 15 Rating: PG
Plot: A wishing rock wreaks havoc in the hi-tech community of Black Falls.
Who’s It For? The cynic in me wants to say dim ten-year-old boys.
Expectations: The previews didn’t look too promising, but I do like kid’s movies. So maybe…
Actors: Jimmy Bennett as Toe Thompson: Bennett has his very own gawky, awkward charm and it mostly works. He was fantastic as the young James T. Kirk in Star Trek and in Shorts he floats along with the rest of the movie without much incident. There are some periods in his narration that are physically, painfully bad, and therefore… Score: 3
Trevor Gagnon as Loogie: Someday, Gagnon may learn to act, but alas, that day is still in the distant future. Score: 1
Jolie Vanier as Helvetica Black: This kid rocks the goth, villainous roll with gusto. Maybe it’s because I dig morbid, bad-ass chicks, or maybe it’s because I’m desperate for something positive to talk about, but I loved her in every scene. Score: 7
James Spader as Mr. Black: Spader hams it up for the kids and he pulls it off. He comes close to actually rubbing his hands together, throwing back his head, and going “MWA-HA-HA!” but, again, it works. Score: 6
Jon Cryer and Leslie Mann as Thompson Dad and Thompson Mom: I really like both Cryer and Mann, and therefore it was an easier pill to swallow. The characters are so disconnected and so whipped, that if it had been a couple of unknowns, I probably couldn’t have sat through it. Score: 6
Talking: Strong, smart dialogue sprinkled incredibly lightly amongst bland, pasty inanity. Score: 4
Sights: The movie is definitely fun to look at. The Black Box technology is especially cool and the CGI isn’t too distracting. Some of the camerawork is creative and interesting, but again, the violence is a bit much. When adult characters fall twenty feet out of a tree and stagger around, you can pass it off as slapstick. It’s just unsettling when it’s a kid. Score: 5
Sounds: The music is what I like to call “shenanigans based.” Honestly, it sounded like every other current kid’s movie on the market, so what can I say about it? Score: 3
Best Scene: My very favorite scene is when Helvetica (Vanier) figures out how to eat her school lunch despite two broken arms.
Ending: Appropriately fluffy given the rest of the movie.
Questions: I’m too demoralized by Shorts to come up with any probing questions.
Rewatchability: It’s overdramatic to say I’d sooner eat lead paint, so I’ll refrain. I’d rather not sit through this movie ever again in my whole long life.
Near the beginning of this movie, Loogie and his brothers are on a treasure hunt. “Ten paces West,” is the instruction and Loogie immediately picks a direction and starts counting down. “That’s East!” an annoyed brother says. So Loogie, as we all would, goes in the opposite direction and the other brother says, “That’s South!” And there you have it. That’s the experience you get when you watch Shorts: the opposite of East is South. It’s dizzying and not in a good way.
You know you’re getting older when you find the implications in a kid’s movie appalling; it’s almost as bad as being truly grateful when your parents give you socks for Christmas. Shorts is inventive conceptually and it has its enjoyable moments, but I found it almost nightmarish: there’s this isolated little community addicted to the Black Box technology, being run by a greedy overlord (Spader). Everyone is disconnected from each other and themselves and if the kids aren’t totally repulsive, they’re nasty as all hell. I was particularly disturbed by the scene where the bullies chase Toe (Bennett) up a tree and then pelt him in the head and face with large rocks. It’s this horrible dystopia filled with spineless parents and rotten little brats. It’s a creative idea, but I wouldn’t want my (future) kids seeing it.
Final Score: 3/10