by Rick Grant
Grade: B / Rated PG / 89 min
Robert Rodriguez has a knack for creating innovative kids’ films. He seems to have made this genre his specialty. As writer/director/producer/composer, Rodriguez created a delightful child’s fantasy with Shorts. The story revolves around a special rainbow rock, which, like a genie, grants the holder his or her wildest wishes. Ah, but be careful what you wish for, it could be a giant booger.
Interestingly, this story happens out of sequence in little vignettes, which creates a convoluted but nifty narrated sequences. The kids are adorable and typical suburban Wasps. They live in the Black Box community-a company that controls their lives. If the parents are fired they have to move out of the housing division.
The Black Box is like the Swiss Army knife of electronic gizmos. It morphs into many different devices with little squares changing into each mode. Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) lives with his parents, Mom (Leslie Mann) and Dad (John Cryer) who both work at Black Box industries.
While roaming the neighborhood, Toe and his friends find a rainbow colored rock which they discover has special powers to grant the holder wishes. The rocks passes through many hands as each kid wants to control the rock. One can only imagine what the kids wish for, like an unlimited supply of candy bars.
James Spader plays Mr. Black, CEO of Black Box industries. He rules with an iron hand and fires people at the drop of a hat. Mom and Dad Thompson work on competing teams to develop the ultimate Black Box that will do everything imaginable.
While Toe has possession of the rock he wishes for backup to fend off the school bullies. So a cadre of tiny alien space ships guard him during his school day. The aliens are only two inches high but are badass little beings.
The premise wears a bit thin after the rock keeps changing hands but there are some surprises, and the out of sequence story keeps the kids guessing. But, it’s easy for adults to figure out. The special effects are inventive and Mom and Dad Thompson end up fused together, which is hilarious.
When Mr. Black gets wind of the special rock, he wants it to be the most powerful man in the world. If he has the rock, he doesn’t need to sell the Black Box, he can wish anything he wants, like piles of money and power. Well, the rock has limits, as the story goes on to portray.
This film will interest 9 to 12 year old kids but will baffle smaller tykes. It’s wish fulfillment for this age group who wish they had more control over their lives. It’s the perfect film for kids about to go back to school. If they only had that wishing rock, their lives would be much easier. Yeah, but they wouldn’t learn by their mistakes.
by Rick Grant