Shorts (2009)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Comedy, Fantasy Comedy  |   Release Date - Aug 21, 2009 (USA)  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - United Arab Emirates, United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Cammila Collar

Robert Rodriguez, director of such awesome highs as Spy Kids, and such icky lows as Shark Boy and Lava Girl, probably has a lot of people wondering which end of the spectrum he's hit with his latest family-friendly effort, 2009's Shorts. Well, the verdict is in. If you are ten years old, then you might be happy with a movie about technologically magical devices that can do anything (PDA? Laptop? Electric razor?), mystical rocks that grant poorly stated wishes in literal terms (I wish you'd just GROW UP! Ruh-roh!), and angry alligators that run around on their hind legs (actually pretty terrifying). If you are a grown-up, then you might be mildly amused with a movie full of booger jokes, trite life lessons, and James Spader's big, fat face. Either way, you won't be miserable, but by the same token, you won't be ecstatic either.

Shorts weighs in with a solid C -- nowhere near the torture of Shark Boy, but never even touching the joy of Spy Kids. Told in a series of five segments (the shorts intimated in the title), the story follows a boy named Toby "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett). His family lives in a corporate community set up for the employees of Black Box Unlimited -- an all-powerful company that manufactures a device that can do or be anything: the Black Box. The company's hard-line boss, Mr. Black (Spader), is bent on dominating the marketplace, and pits two of his executives against each other in coming up with even more limitless capability for the product's next upgrade. The only problem is that the two execs (Jon Cryer and Leslie Mann) just happen to be husband and wife, as well as Toe's parents.

Meanwhile, Toe, who is a total weirdo outsider kid, finds a magical rock that grants wishes. This treasure offers him a reprieve from loneliness and bullies, but it also looks to be the answer that Black Box is looking for, which pings it on the radar of Helvetica, Mr. Black's bitchy daughter (Jolie Vanier). Many crazy antics ensue, as Toe and his new misfit friends all scramble to keep the stone in the right hands, and inadvertently fill their world with wild, cartoony obstacles in the meantime. It's all good fun; it's just not the makings of a classic. That's kind of disappointing for the grown-ups who know what creative feats the director is capable of, but for the kids that this movie was made for, it's sound entertainment.