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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shorts

Before anyone gets their bloomers in a bunch let me give you a brief glimpse of Shorts, the latest low-budget children’s craptacular from Spy Kids writer and director Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez never ceases to amaze as he jockeys from very adult blood and guts projects such as the “Planet Terror” segment in Grindhouse to kiddie fare like this or The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D. And yes, that one starred future New Moon panties-dampener Taylor Lautner, but that’s a whole other story we can reminisce about when the Twilight sequel bows on November 20th.

As for
Shorts, despite Rodriguez’ involvement, parents won’t have to worry about any unmentionables being aired unless you consider the repeated use of the word “booger” an unmentionable. Yes, I said “booger.” That should give you an idea of how tacky this brain-dead twaddle really is. One of the main “Shorts” of the title, a tale told in five inexplicably out of order ‘chapters’, is about a renegade giant booger which chases after the boy from whose nose he first came, apparently wanting him to produce another booger for the monster to have as a friend or to eat the kid as revenge for his having eaten other boogers in the past. I think I threw up in my mouth a little just writing that sentence. And this epic bit stars none other than Oscar nominee and Emmy winning actor William H. Macy (The Tale of Despereaux) as Dr. Noseworthy, the scientist responsible for bringing his son Nose’s (Jack Short; The Anna Nicole Smith Story) nasal excrement to life.

Actually, it’s not the Doctor who manages the miracle
of life even if he thinks so, it is the magic of an alien rock that passes from owner to owner and kid to kid in this sandbox (alleged) comedy. What tiny plot threads its way through the mismatched Shorts concerns a megalomaniac Bill Gates type by the singular name of Black (James Spader; late of tv’s “Boston Legal”), determined to rule the world with his ever-adapting invention, The Black Box, which can morph from a toaster to a cell phone to a gun in seconds. He is determined that every human on the planet buy one and it is up to those sitting on his executive staff to make that happen. To encourage their aggressive competition to make this happen Black even goes so far as to pit staff members against one another, a particular problem for Mr. and Mrs. Thompson (Jon Cryer; tv’s “Two and a Half Men” and Leslie Mann; 17 Again), since they are forced to head up opposite teams and are told that the losing team will be fired and lose their company-owned homes. As you can see, with adult characters that have no first names their general usefulness is limited to moving the plot along as lackeys for the kids and not much else. The real “stars” are the children who handle the alien rock and make wishes on it, like it is a genie’s lamp. After all, the barely par special effects are what the children in the audience are really expected to come to see anyway. So the gist of the story is taken up with Toby “Toe” Thompson (Jimmy Bennett; Orphan) and his juvenile battles with Black’s bully daughter Helvetica Black, Jolie Vanier (
Strange Little Girl), and her henchman, her brother Cole Black Devon Gearheart (Changeling) as they snatch the rock back and forth and wish an assortment of ridiculous things to appear and disappear or events to transpire then not.

To up the preciousness factor Trevor Gagnon (Richie of tv’s "The New Adventures of Old Christine") is also cast as Toe’s sidekick to help explain any and everything to Toe since the audience is not expected to have any clue what the heck is going on, though it is hardly necessary because by the second ‘chapter’ I was so uninterested in the whole mess that I was praying I could grab hold of the rock and wish this movie was never made. You will feel the same if you make the mistake of wasting your money on this sad little brain-drain. It should have been called Shortchanged because that’s how you’ll feel if you pay to see this stinker. There’s a whole lot better stuff you could to do for your kids than dump them in front of this for two hours. Try that instead. They’ll love you for it.

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