Jimmy Bennett, Jake Short, Leslie Mann, Jolie Vanier, Kat Dennings, Jon Cryer, William H. Macy, James Spader
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Smack dab between "Planet Terror" and "Machete," writer/director Robert Rodriguez serves up "Shorts," his latest family film about 11-year-old Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) and his discovery of the Wishing Rock, a rock that grants anyone who holds it anything they wish for and, not surprisingly, it's not long before the Wishing Rock creates chaos in the town of Black Falls.
Black Falls is one of those one business small towns, in this case the business is Black Box Industries headed by the film's resident bad guy, Mr. Black (James Spader). It's Mr. Black's kids, Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) and Cole (Devon Gearhart) who spend nearly every school day taunting Toe, while Toe's parents (Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer) toil away trying to help Black Box build an even bigger and better, you guessed it, black box that is essentially an all-purpose tool that pales in comparison to the Wishing Rock.
"Shorts" is, in actuality, a series of shorts about the misadventures caused when a wide variety of townsfolk find themselves in possession of the Wishing Rock. Ranging from Jimmy's big sister (Kat Dennings) to one of the town's leading scientists (William H. Macy) and his son Nose Noseworthy (Jake Short) all the way to the brother and sister Blinkers who spend pretty much the entire film having blinking contests, "Shorts" is a non-stop, CGI-laden and often over-the-top family film heavy on the goofiness and razzle dazzle special effects of the most humorous kind.
At a modest 89 minutes, "Shorts" moves quickly and energetically and entertains consistently throughout its entire runtime. While it's the adult stars you'll likely recognize, it's Jimmy Bennett and Jolie Vanier who steal the show and keep things going from scene to scene. Vanier, who eerily resembles an "Addams Family" version of Christina Ricci, is freakishly delightful as the humorously bad girl, Helvetica.
Featuring Rodriguez himself in no less than eight roles and six members of his family in the cast, "Shorts" has the constant feeling and look of a film Rodriguez made truly for his family with much love and care. Filled with lots of positive messages about the importance of family and self-esteem in the midst of all the CGI chaos, "Shorts" is that rare family film that manages to entertain, throw special effects at the screen and still keep a positive vibe.
Tech credits are solid across the board, not surprising given that Rodriguez handles writing, directing, camera work and a few other key tasks. Easily one of the better live-action family friendly options this fall, "Shorts" is likely to please the same folks who've enjoyed the other family flicks from Rodriguez such as "Spy Kids" and "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D."
The Independent Critic