Every 10 year old’s fantasy springs to life in this fun but ultimately forgettable family friendly romp.
Shorts is a series of episodes, not always told in order, as typical of eager kids by young lead Toby “Toe” Thompson (Jimmy Bennett). As each plays out in the community of Black Falls, where adults work for Black Box inc and live in box A, B, or C style homes in it’s surrounding area. Interconnecting story lines unfold with wilder and wilder events due to the power of the wishing rock. A rainbow colored round rock that grants any wish to those that possess it.
Shorts has an infectious kinetic energy about it that shows in it’s quick 89 minute run time. This is an A.D.D. addled CGI loaded, be careful what you ask for, kid’s flick with a subtle adult back story about spending more time together.
The Black Box does it all. It takes Apple’s “There’s an app for that…” iPhone ad to outrageous levels. How about a morphing box that is a cheese grater, phone, and bull horn? The black box can do it all. The story touches on the fact that with these all in one super connected devices, we are becoming more disconnected and spending less personal time together.
The ensemble cast lead by the kids, Toe (Bennett), Nose (Jake Short), Loogie (Trevor Gagnon), and newcomer Jolie Vanier as Helvetica Black do a great job. When a film leans this heavily on younger actors the results can be disastrous. Director Robert Rodriguez utilizing his experience from the Spy Kids trilogy and Shark Boy and Lava Girl avoids the pit fall. There is genuine enthusiasm that pervades from all performances and feels very natural and real. The adult cast holds it’s own with Jon Cryer, Leslie Mann, William H. Macy, and James Spader giving solid performances as the adults in the film. I especially liked the Steve Job’s references of Spader’s Carbon Black character. If you’re a hardcore Apple/Mac fan there are lots of not so subtle references to him and his company during the film.
Given the prevalence of CGI, it’s very spotty and cartoonie at times. Being that this is a kid’s film I wasn’t sure if this was an aesthetic choice or a budgeting/timing issue. Given the fantastical nature of the film, in which alligators run and scale walls on their hind legs and a booger monster attempts to eat a people, I am willing to be a bit forgiving.
If you go into Shorts expecting a fun family flick you should walk away satisfied. It has laughs for the kids and adults alike. This modern morality tale about how much of our ultra connected lives can end up pushing us further apart, and being careful what you wish for.
I give shorts 2 Nutrageous bars out of 5
by John Coovert