Robert Rodriguez is possibly the most two-faced filmmaker working today. For every one of the movies on his resume like the hard R rated “Sin City” or “Planet Terror” that splatter the screen with blood and guts there is a kid friendly title that the whole family can enjoy. He’s half grindhouse director, half low budget Walt Disney. His new film “Shorts” follows in the same footsteps as his other Saturday matinee movies “Spy Kids” and “Shark Boy and Lava Girl.”
The movie is set in the community of Black Falls, a small company town where everybody works for the same business, the “all-in-one gadget” makers Black Box Industries. When a freak thunderstorm deposits the mysterious Rainbow Rock in the neighborhood, which grants wishes to anyone who finds it, the area transforms from suburban to strange overnight. As the strange rock passes from person to person it becomes clear that you really have to be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.
That’s the condensed version. Because the Rainbow Rock throws the town into such chaos, the story is told in a series of nonlinear episodes or shorts. Think of this as “Pulp Fiction” for tots.
There’s a hint of 1960s Saturday matinee charm to “Shorts.” It’s a clearly low budget—Rodriguez famously made his first movie for $7000 and then wrote a book about filmmaking on a shoe string budget—but despite looking like it cost a $1.25 to make, it has a hip action adventure feel that kids should be drawn to. This isn’t slick Disney style kid’s entertainment—I doubt that any of Walt’s movies would feature a character named The Booger Monster—it’s a little more down and dirty than that, a little more like the way kids really think and act.
Coupled with the movie’s anarchic spirit are the usual messages for kids about the dangers of bullying, the advantages of teamwork and saving the environment. Also prominent is the less seen (on screen at least) lesson about not eating boogers.
“Shorts” is an entertaining blast from an inventive filmmaker who seems to understand what kids want to see on screen. I’m not sure that parents will have much interest in the film, but 10 and 11 year olds will likely enjoy.