FILM REVIEW: Shorts

PG • 89 mins • 21 August

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: William H Macy, Leslie Mann, Kat Dennings, Jon Cryer, James Spader

Rating:

Shorts (unwieldy full title: Shorts: The Adventures Of The Wishing Rock) is budget-busting action king Robert Rodriguez’s first attempt at an anthology film for children, and it’s exactly the sort of kid-in-a-candy-store experience you’d expect. It kicks off in fine style with “The Blinkers”, an absolute gem of a piece about a brother and sister’s manic staring contest, and by far the funniest thing that’s Robert’s written since… well, probably ever.

The film then begins proper with a guide to the town of Black Falls, a mysterious community where no-one is quite as they seem and strange secrets… hang on – this is cult favourite Eerie, Indiana isn’t it? The rest of the film does indeed feel a bit like you’re cramming a big spoon of serial [sic] into your mouth, as the following five “episodes” detail the often hilarious effects a rainbow-coloured stone that grants wishes has on the small town. The stories are themed around how technology is pushing us apart rather than bringing us together, but it’s mostly just an excuse for Rodriguez to bombard us with giant crocodiles, aliens and William H Macy doing parkour over a killer bogie. There’s plenty of fun to be had, and more often than not, the groan-inducing puns will leave you giggling childishly into your sleeve. Though if there’s a reason why all the bad guys are named after fonts (like Helvetica), it was lost on us, and no doubt, most of the intended audience too.

It doesn’t quite gel – aside from the opening chapter, none of the other tales would really work as stand-alone stories, and you get the impression that before being arbitrarily chopped up and re-arranged rather pointlessly in non-chronological order, it was originally a single narrative. And Rodriguez really needs to learn to pump the brakes occasionally: the problem with going mental in a sweetshop is that afterwards, when you’ve had more than your fill of low-jack CGI and farting, boinging sound effects, you’re always left feeling just a little bit sick. Still, at least it’s not The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl 2. Brrr.

Jon Hamblin