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Coming Up Short

Movie Title: Shorts (2009)
Spoilers: No

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Shorts is a childish cinematic display that is so named for the fact that it is presented in the style of short or segmented presentations with narration by the show’s star, Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett).

Toe (that kid who played a young James T. Kirk in Star Trek) and his older sister Stacey Thompson (Kat Dennings) have their share of quirks like everyone else in the film, and so do their germaphobe neighbors, “Nose Noseworthy” (Jake Short) and his dad “Dr. Nose Noseworthy” (William C. Macy). They live in a community called Black Falls.

Toe is being bullied by Helvetica Black (Jolie Vanier) and her older brother Cole (Devon Gearhart). Toe’s parents (Leslie Mann and John Cryer) aren’t doing much to help things. They’re too preoccupied working for the tyrannical Mr. Black (James Spader, Boston Legal’s, “Alan Shore”), who runs a power-hungry corporation known as the Black Box Unlimited Worldwide Industries Incorporated. This madly competitive corporation produces “The Black Box,” a dubiously referred-to small black device that is supposed to do basically everything you could ever want it to do.

With a more charismatic cast of child actors than your usual lot, Shorts tells the story of four friends (Toe, Loogie, Laser, and Lug) as they come across a rainbow-colored rock. Whoever holds the rock is granted whatever they wish for. By the time the boys realize that wishing for all manner of frivolous things is dangerous, their school rivals and the entire town wants in on it. Realizing that the rock is much better than his Black Box, Mr. Black’s hunger for power causes him to take a personal interest in it.

You need only a touch more perception than that of a giggling busload of cheerleaders to see where things will end up. Be that as it may, there were so many better angles that could have been taken to develop this plot…and might I add, less disgusting angles! I get tired of saying it, but what is it with the lack of care taken in the production of kid’s movies?

As a critic, I am sometimes told when I assign a low grade to a certain kid’s film that I’ve gotten too old and “no longer know how to think like a kid” (as one recent emailer put it to me). I turn their logic around on them and point out that I think it’s the other way around; it’s the adults who “no longer know how to think like a kid” who make the movies for kids, which is why so many of them tend to suck buffalo scrotum. A movie needn’t be stupid to appeal to a juvenile audience. But what can I say other than throwing up that old adage: “My words are like sweet perfume wasted on a desert air!” *sigh*

Shorts wobbles and finally falls face-first on the side of “thumbs down” being that the story is told in a most ridiculous and intellectually insulting fashion. The series of “shorts” that gives the movie its title does nothing but smear the story, which from the start, puts little effort into keeping focused on its goal.

You have bullies, braces, broken arms, and brainless boyfriends. You have germ freaks and weird neighbors who cover their house in plastic…and boogers that come to life! Your local elementary school has plenty of qualified critics who could take this film apart. But what they will likely miss is what the older crowds should stop to pick up on.

The adults in Shorts act every bit as dumb and as unruly as the kids, and that was intentional. Old or young, the poor ways people behave when more options are open to them is what the film is driving to demonstrate. While the movie is muck, the message is commendable. The Black Box and the rainbow-colored wish rock are analogous to our ever-growing dependency on technology to solve our problems and to gratify our corrosive and all too American “convenience-is-king” mentality.

Believe it or not, there was a time when a cell phone was just a cell phone. No Yahoo! Messenger, no internet, no palm pilot features, no music downloads…none of that. Those born after 1995 might have a hard time coming to grips with this realization, but we never knew the difference without those things. Today, cell phones do nearly everything. And what do we do? They give us internet on the go and we complain about how small the screen is. Where…when…will it stop?

Human nature being what it is, it's not stopping anytime soon. We wish for too much, and if we could have everything we wished for right at our fingertips, we would sink in the boiling moat of our own vanities. In a day and age where “e”s and “i”s are the first letters of more than half of the products on the market, I’m happy to see a retreat from the obsession of convenience-crazed commerce—if only in a flop of a film with nothing else going for it.

Want in on a bit of irony? I wrote this review on my T-Mobile Dash! :O

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rating: PG
Summation: A young boy's discovery of a colorful, wish-granting rock causes chaos in the suburban town of Black Falls when jealous kids and scheming adults alike set out to get their hands on it.
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Jimmy Bennett “Toe Thompson,” Jake Short “Nose Noseworthy,” Kat Dennings “Stacey Thompson,” Trevor Gagnon “Loogie,” Devon Gearhart “Cole Black,” Jolie Vanier “Helvetica Black,” Rebel Rodriguez “Lug,” Leo Howard “Laser,” Leslie Mann “Mom Thompson,” Jon Cryer “Dad Thompson,” William H. Macy “Dr. Noseworthy,” James Spader “Mr. Black”
Genre: Family

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