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Warner Bros. Pictures

Shoddy Shorts

Movies | Film has colorful flourishes but wastes its talented cast

Issue: "The Purge," Sept. 12, 2009

Some movies are like junk food: they guarantee fun with colorful packaging and sweet promises but, once consumed, are quick to induce sluggishness and regret. Like high fructose corn syrup, Shorts (rated PG) feels over-processed and leaves you hungry for something substantial. While kids may briefly enjoy the proliferation of booger jokes and computer effects, adults will be sorry they wasted 89 minutes.

The latest offering from writer/director/producer/editor/composer/cinematographer (the list, believe it or not, goes on) Robert Rodriguez delivers a film that zings with camera tricks and colorful flourishes, but lacks intelligence, wit, or purpose.

The plot involves a rock that grants the holder any wish. But in the predictable tradition of be-careful-what-you-wish-for fables, the rock doesn't always obey as desired-a wish to fly transforms a kid into a bird, while a wish to grow up turns a teenager into a giant. The film follows the rock through a zany neighborhood of megalomaniacs, bullies, and dreamers. Kids, parents, and corporate magnates seek and use the rock to increasingly ludicrous ends. The story is told out of sequence, in a series of separately titled "shorts." But instead of feeling innovative, the nonlinear editing seems tacked on like a band-aid to cover up the absence of a sustainable plot.

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One or two clever moments (including a recurring parody of our technology obsessed culture) briefly entertain, but the talented cast (William H. Macy, Leslie Mann, Jon Cryer, Kat Dennings, and James Spader) is wasted on lazy comedy and booger monsters. In the lead role, Jimmy Bennett (young Kirk in the latest Star Trek) is likeable enough, while the other kids (with the exception of the entertaining Jolie Vanier) seem like interchangeable clones chosen more for their haircuts than acting abilities. Amidst all the bells and whistles, I simply found myself getting bored.

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