Rodriguez lets imagination run wild in bizarre 'Shorts'

Article Published: Sep. 24, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Rodriguez lets imagination run wild in bizarre 'Shorts'

Whether or not you like Shorts, a film many will love and many will hate, it's impossible not to smile as you watch writer/director Robert Rodriguez's imagination run wild and free. Whether directing more mature films (Sin City, Desperado) or family films (the Spy Kids trilogy), you never quite know what he's going to do next - or where the next scene will take you.

I'm not sure whether or not Shorts will work for most audiences, to be honest, but I still had a great time. The title refers to the style in which the story is told - there film has five chapters that are show in a jumbled order, much like the style of Rodriguez's friend and frequent collaborator, Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill). It begins with an epic staring contest in "Episode Zero" and then jumps from story to story, each centering on a particular character's adventures with a magical, rainbow-colored wishing rock that falls from the sky.

Although it's an ensemble, the film centers on Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett, who was also in Star Trek and Orphan this summer - not bad for a 13-year-old), a kid who is bullied by the vicious Helvetica Black (newcomer Jolie Vanier) and her gang. Leslie Mann (17 Again, Funny People) and Jon Cryer (Alan on Two and a Half Men) play Toe's parents, who are high-powered executives for the Black Box Corporation that is led by the scheming Mr. Black (James Spader, Boston Legal), who needs a better version of their famous do-it-all Black Box device that can be a phone, baby monitor, hair clippers, potato peeler, etc.

The children who find the wishing rock quickly realize that their wishes don't always turn out as planned - their wish will be granted, but the stone might take some leeway if they're too vague. This leads to sight gags out the wazoo, and Rodriguez's visuals are just as fresh and funny as ever, whether children wish for a guarded fort or a strained couple wishes to be closer together. Each gag is funny in its own right, and I believe that Rodriguez has returned to the imaginative images he created in the first two Spy Kids films (like Thumb Thumbs or the literal Spider Monkey) after stale outings with Spy Kids 3 and The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.

There's a lot in Shorts that might turn off parents - the attack of a giant booger (who looks like Major Mucus from Earthworm Jim), for instance, and other touches may be deemed "immature." Not all of the characters are fully fleshed out, either, though I'm not sure some of the characters would have been much more interesting had we gotten to know them better.

Plot or characters shortcomings aside, I liked Shorts for the same reasons I liked Spy Kids and Desperado - Rodriguez has a bizarre imagination. He ignores conventional ideas when he makes a movie and, for better or worse, brings his wacky ideas to life. If you're open to some juvenile humor sandwiched between some truly bizarre (but totally original) imagery, Shorts might just be for you.

Shorts is rated PG for mild action and some rude humor. It is currently playing at the Parkway Theater in West Jefferson and the Regal Cinemas 7 in Boone.

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