Shorts Review: Memento for Kids

August 18, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Film Reviews

SHORTS: On General Release Friday 21st August

With so many people to please, taking on a children’s film can be quite a balancing act.

For the kids you want some colourful characters, a good dose of fantasy, and – vitally – a sound moral to the story. For subjecting the little ones to films sans moral fibre will only spawn an emotionally stunted generation.

As for the mums and dads who foot the bill, it helps when there’s the odd bit of hidden adult humour or some naughty double entendre.

This precarious tightrope situation is all too apparent in Robert Rodriguez’ latest, Shorts.

Welcome to Black Falls, a suburban town under the thumb of the Black Box corporation and its tyrannical boss Mr. Black. The corporation produces The Black Box (a sort of re-imagining of the iPhone), which can be anything you want it to be. A mobile phone, a laptop, a toaster…

Toe Thompson is an 11-year-old loner, alienated from his sister, shunned by his busy parents, and bullied by Mr. Black’s daughter, perhaps the best named character ever – Helvetica Black.

Things start to look up for Toe when he discovers a multicoloured rock that grants wishes.

We watch the “be careful what you wish for” spiel unroll as the rock makes it into unworthy hands and the products of ludicrous wishes ravage the town. It gets clever though (perhaps to compensate for the simplistic storyline). The movie is composed of a number of “shorts” that play out of sequence, each about a different shenanigan abuse of the rock creates. Oh…

While the kids might enjoy the tiny spaceships, armies of alligators and giant bogeys, there just isn’t enough here for the grown-ups. That double entendre is nowhere to be found. Those hidden jokes are very well hidden.

But the characters are good, with particularly funny performances from the kids and William H. Macy playing a crazed germaphobe which is fun.

Unfortunately the film becomes victim to its own insistence to be outlandish. The premise to begin with is quite dodgy (a wish-granting rock? Yawn), there’s overzealous use of CGI, possibly seeking to fill the void left by lack of narrative, and the questionable moral to the story feels very much scrambled together.

Shorts may have benefitted more from a linear storyline. The shuffled (another Mac reference) series of shorts doesn’t seem to contribute much at all. If anything it works against the movie. With no sense of progression or ideas as to where the film is headed, it’s more a befuddling experience. Made worse by the scores of alligators et al.

It’s a shame really, everyone on screen is so charming, and so on board.

But way too silly.

Leonie Mercedes

Check out our reviews on Aliens in the Attic and Imagine That for more summer holiday cinematic treats for the little rascals.

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