Friday, August 28, 2009

Movie Log: Shorts

My sons love Robert Rodriguez's movies. Oh, sure, they only know his stuff for kids -- the three Spy Kids movies and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl -- but they really like those movies. That's not to say that they even realize that one guy directed all those movies, because I don't think they do know that. But they know what they like, and they like Rodriguez movies for kids. So they've been bugging The Wife and I about Shorts for as long as the previews and ads have been running, and I took them to see it this Saturday afternoon, after the rain and general bad weather put the kibosh on our planned trip into NYC.

It's a very boyish movie, telling a series of linked stories -- in a fun back-and-forth, no-wait-I-should-have-told-you-this-story-first series of "shorts" -- set in a small Texas town where all of the parents work for Black Box, a company that makes an all-in-one gizmo made of smaller, endlessly reconfigurable black boxes. (It looks like sugarcube-size nanotech, to be honest.) The CEO of Black Box is mercurial and demanding, and living in this town is contingent -- for both working spouses and their families -- on continuing to keep him happy and the Black Box rolling out ever newer permutations. Into the pressure cooker of the development of version X (which has a very Mac-ish logo; one might wonder if James Spader, as the CEO, is meant to resemble Steve Jobs) drops a rainbow-colored stone that grants wishes. As the movie makes clear near the end (in an unfortunately heavy-handed way -- Rodriguez doesn't let his young audience get it themselves), the wishing stone is what the Black Box wants to be, and what everyone really wants.

And so there are a series of stories, told somewhat out of chronological order, in which various kids -- mostly boys -- find the stone, use it to make unfortunate or badly-thought-through wishes, and then only just barely manage to make it through the subsequent adventures. Our main hero kid -- who has braces, no friends as the movie begins, and a bully problem in the form of the CEO's very Wednesday Addams-esque daughter -- holds the whole thing together, through his narration and his instinct, almost alone among the kids, of wanting to keep the stone safe and not do ridiculous things with it.

There are a number of lessons near the end, and I'm afraid they become a bit obvious. (They're nice lessons, and I hope my boys take them to heart, but they thud down strongly.) Rodriguez has done this with most of his movies for kids -- he's great at the action and the adventure, but he always has his characters talk far too much at the end about what they've learned, when he should leave it more to inference.

Shorts may have parents rolling their eyes in the end, and probably will be less appealing to the female half of the human race (of whatever age), but it has a lot of fun as it goes along and it did not disappoint a number of boys who were very eager to see it (my own, and many others in the theater). So I have to count it as a success on its own merits.
Listening to: Cracker - James River (live)
via FoxyTunes

No comments:

Post a Comment