- Rated PG
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
t’s cute that Robert Rodriguez wants to make movies that he can show his kids, but it’s a shame that he panders to their inner (or is it outer?) juvenile delinquent in the process. His first foray into family-friendly territory, “Spy Kids,” was fabulous, but after two inferior “Spy Kids” sequels and one horrific 3D experiment (“The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl”), it’s clear that Rodriguez’s passion for kiddie fare exceeds his natural talent for creating it. Nothing exemplifies this better than “Shorts,” which is an unholy mess of a movie. It is a literal assault on the senses, the celluloid equivalent of an air horn and a hammer going “Honk! Whack! Honk! Whack!” for 90 minutes. When the credits rolled, all I could think to say was, “Ow.”
The title may imply that the movie is a series of short stories, but it is actually one long story cut into small chapters and told out of sequence. The narrator, a friendless dork named Toby Thompson (Jimmy Bennett), comes into possession of a rainbow-colored, wish-granting rock, which he uses to help defend him against a group of bullies run by one Helvetica Black (newcomer Jolie Vanier, who’s a dead ringer for Christina Ricci circa “Addams Family Values”). The rock changes hands a number of times, and the more people wish, the crazier things get, to the point where there are crocodiles running up a castle wall, and a group of kids is attacked by a giant snot monster. Yep, a giant snot monster.
There is next to nothing that works here. The child actors are all pretty bad, and the grown-ups aren’t much better. The CGI is atrocious, and the story is weightless, not to mention riddled with plot holes and bad movie clichés. (If one simple sentence can clear something up, then for God’s sake, keep your mouth shut!) There is a mildly amusing running gag involving two kids in a staring contest, but the movie focuses most of its energy on the genius of the Black Box (a digital Swiss Army knife of sorts), while filling in the gaps with pratfalls and the aforementioned snot monster. Usually there are one or two things that can save a movie, but “Shorts” is one of those instances where the entire movie needs to be scrapped and started from scratch. Or just scrapped.
If there is one thing that defines Rodriguez’s work, even the bad stuff, it is an enthusiasm for big ideas. Not playing it safe is commendable, but “Shorts” is overrun by big ideas, and poorly executed ones at that, resulting in a big pile of noise. A colossal waste of time and money.