One of my biggest complaints with Hollywood in the last decade has been the lack of new ideas. More and more we're seeing remakes of classic movies -most of the time they're not that great, but in some cases they are. Because of this, it seems some of my most favorite movies have been the "independent" films. Shorts is one of those independent films with a refreshingly different story. From the same mind that brought Sharkboy and Lavagirl to life, Robert Rodriguez wrote and directed this movie, which is named after the way he decided to present the story - as a series of shorts.
But calling the movie that is probably going to cause this movie to fail at the box office, as that is not what the movie is all about. Shorts is the story of a small tightly-knit community that is centered around what apparently is the most important company on the planet, who happens to have their manufacturing plant in the middle of a large residential neighborhood. Only employees can live in the neigborhood as well. One day, during a massive rain storm, a small rainbow colored rock falls from the sky and is discovered by three brothers who followed a rainbow to it's end (or is it the beginning?). This rock isn't ordinary however, as it will grant whomever is holding it wishes. Is having all of your wishes come true something you'd want? Probably not - and that is what this movie explores and does an excellent job of.
Story/Script/Plot Development (A): At first I wasn't sure if doing the story in the "shorts" format would work - at times it seems like the movie goes all over the place, but in hindsight it works - and it's an interesting way to tell the whole story, since the entire plot revolves around four families, and each family impacts the story in their own way, and at different times. Because of this, some of the shorts actually focus on each little story line, and they all come together by the end of the movie. Robert Rodriguez did an excellent job on this, as early on, you'll feel sympathy for the lead character, and also follow him and his friends grow as the movie progresses.
Cinematography (B): A decent job with the cinematography, but nothing to write home about during the home, so it just gets a B.
Acting/Chemistry (A): Using mainly no-name younger actors, the focus is more on the story rather than on the actors themselves. Jimmy Bennett plays the lead character, Toe, and we last saw him in May as the young James T. Kirk in Star Trek. Obviously he gets more screen time in this movie, and does a decent job here. We are also introduced to Jolie Vanier who plays his arch-enemy, Helvetica, who is the daughter of the owner of the company (played by James Spader); she does a remarkable performance in this movie and I hope we'll see her again in the future. Jon Cryer and Leslie Mann play Toe's parents, and while we don't get enough time with them to see a more in depth performance from them, there is just enough chemistry between the two for the few scenes that they are in. William H. Macy plays the scientist father of another kid that you will be introduced to later in the movie, and he does an excellent job for this role.
Use of locations/Costumes/Special Effects (A): Filmed basically in one small community in the greater Austin, TX area, the movie only goes where it needs to go, and it works. Costumes are really nothing special - as it's just regular clothing. The special effects however, are done surprisingly well. In one scene, two main characters have to be become siamese twins, and it doesn't scream CGI! even though you know that it is. But the best CGI has to be from the device that the company manufacturers. Called the black box, it's basically a black cube, kind of like the Allspark from the first Transformers movie, that will transform into almost every gadget you would ever need. Smartphone? Check. Baby monitor? Check. Toaster? Check. Bluetooth headset? Check. Fan? Check. Just watch and you'll see all different variations of the black box during the movie, including the final one in the other homage to Transformers.
Movie Score (D): The biggest disappointment has to be the score, or the lack of one. I don't recall the score setting any themes or adding to the movie at all, so while it doesn't get an F because it doesn't detract from the movie, there just isn't anything to add to it.
Final Grade (B): A strong B+, but I can't give it any extra points to bring it up to an A. It's a good movie that doesn't involve a lot of inappropriate language and is really Robert Rodriguez's best kids' film to date - even better than the Spy Kids franchise. At the same time it's not your traditional Hollywood film.