by Jeff Meyers
Audiences of a certain age might remember the live-action movies Disney released in the '70s. Filled with C-list over-actors, precocious kids and lots of pratfalls, they were absolutely heeee-larious to your average 7-year-old. Robert Rodriguez's Shorts is cut from a similar cloth, sporting an amateurishness that borders on endearing. But as much as a first-grader may love it today, in 2020 he'll have the same epiphany you had about Hot Lead and Cold Feet — it sucked.
And Ken Berry and Karen Valentine never had to go toe-to-toe with a giant living booger.
Rodriguez brings his hypermanic pacing and homegrown special effects to the tale of a nerdy tween named Toe (Jimmy Bennett), who stumbles across a rainbow-colored wishing stone that, well, grants wishes. The magical rock is then passed from one kid to the next, unleashing all sorts of wacky unintended consequences. From castles and aliens to upright crocodiles and a giant dung beetle to the aforementioned booger monster, icky setbacks befall both kids and adults with Tex Avery-style aplomb.
Rodriguez, knowing his concept is paper-thin (his kids invented the story), chronologically scrambles the narrative so we're forced to yo-yo back and forth in time as each kid mucks up his or her wishes. It's all breathless and slapstick and cute but, honestly, never very funny.
Yeah, with his canted angles and delirious flights of fancy, there's plenty of Rodriguez's boundless energy. Zipping from one story to the next he fills the screen with lots of stuff. But none of it engages. The stories are predictable and instantly forgettable. The adult cast (James Spader, Leslie Mann, Jon Cryer and William H. Macy) phones it in and, excepting Christina Ricci look-alike Jolie Vanier, the kids can barely act.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.