You know, it is not often that an outside source affects my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of a movie. Seriously, if a movie is good it's good and if it's bad its bad. There really should not be any amount of external material that can sway you one way or the other. Certainly your enjoyment and interpretation can be informed by marketing materials and word of mouth, but those movements will be minor. In the case of Shorts, I listened to a revealing interview with writer/director Robert Rodriguez. This interview changed my opinion of this movie. By all accounts, Shorts is not a very good movie but knowing what I learned I found myself enjoying this on a level that I had not originally expected. I do not expect everyone to have the same experience I have, but it may be something to consider.
Shorts is a movie that is squarely targeted at the young. If I had to guess, I would say if you are male and between the ages of 8 and 13 you will likely get a kick out of this movie. The movie plays right into their wheelhouse. You have staring contests, weird kids who eat boogers, bullies, parents who don't understand, geeks, invisible friends, aliens, a wishing rock, and plenty of imagination. Unfortunately, when it comes to the adults in the audience, there is a lot less to get excited about (unless your experience mirrors mine).
At the center of the story is Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett, young Kirk in Star Trek '09). The youngster acts as main character and narrator. He tells the story of a magical wishing rock and the effects on his town. Interspersed are a series of tangentially related stories involving other people with the rock, dealing with bullies, busy parents doing the jobs, and a few other fantasy tales.
Everything is all jumbled up as we are told everything out of order. You see, young minds do not always store events chronologically. This makes the ability to recall them in proper sequence is not necessarily an easy task. In a way Shorts is a kids version of Pulp Fiction. Essentially, the film is a series of shorts (hence the title) that are all mixed together to tell a larger story arc.
The wishing rock becomes the focus as everyone who gets their hands on it tries it out with varying degrees of success. I know this doesn't say all that much about the plot of the film, but it really is all over the place. It all fits together in the end, but the structure plays fast and loose with story requirements.
The acting is less than good and that says something considering some of the people here. The cast includes the likes of William H. Macy, James Spader, Kat Dennings, Jon Cryer, and Leslie Mann. Yes, the kids are the main stars, but you'd think the adults would bring a little respectability to it.
The story has a lot of energy to keep it chugging along, but it does not have much in the way of heart. I cannot say I cared for any of the characters. The one interesting piece of the story concerns the Black Box, an electronic device everyone uses to do just about anything. It represents society's eve growing reliance on technology and the way it is tearing us apart and building up walls between us.
All right, I am sure you have an idea if you'd like this or not. It is not a good movie. Poor acting, thin story, mediocre effects, the list goes on. I am also sure you are wondering why I was yammering about enjoying the movie earlier.
You see, the stories told here saw their beginnings in tales made up by Robert Rodriguez's kids. He encourages creativity in his children and they write together. Rodriguez takes these stories as potential movie ideas and this movie is a result of Rodriguez family creativity and collaboration. This is what made the movie work more for me, if only a little.
Do not get me wrong, this is not destined to become a go-to movie for me. Still, the idea that a family got together and crafted the basic stories together is something special. It affected me in an unexpected manner. Honestly, don't you think that story is great? Knowing this altered the way I looked at the movie. Fascinating how that works.
Audio/Video. The 1.85:1 widescreen video looks quite good. There is no grain, no digital artifacts or defects. There is a high level of detail and the colors just about leap off the screen. It is funny that for as good as it looks, it still feels a little lifeless. Perhaps it is too clean, it has moved from film transfer to digital transfer and this saps some of its personality in favor of the high definition experience. Of course, that could also be the result of a great transfer saddled with a mediocre movie.
The audio track follows a similar path as the video. It is crisp and clear with plenty of sound going on all around you, but it lacks any real subtlety. It hits hard and fast and never looks back. That said, there are really no issues with it technically, it is more personal taste as the track comes from everywhere.
- Magic of Shorts (9:19). This is a brief look at the origins of the story and the creation of the effects using CGI and practical techniques. Interesting, but really surface stuff, nothing all that deep.
- Short: Show and Tell (5:20). Let's follow the kids around the set. Not really all that interesting.
- 10-Minute Cooking School – Chocolate Chip Volcano Cookies (9:58). These have been a staple of Robert Rodriguez DVD's for years. He always manages to show us some good food, although I have never tried any of the recipes myself.
- 10-Minute Film School – Short Shorts (8:50). Robert Rodriguez is an interesting person, he not only makes big Hollywood movies, but small home videos. He shows what adding sound effects and some effects from off the shelf software can spice up home movies. Great stuff.
Bottomline. No, this is not a good movie. If you are much more than 14, don't expect to enjoy much. The movie jumps all over the place by design, looping around on itself as the story comes into view, sure it is a bit interesting but not really. My rating get bumped up a bit because knowing of the origins really added to my experience. I am thankful for that and would love o hear more stories with similar origins