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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Edition No 907 

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SHORTS

SYNOPSIS:
Everyone in the suburb of Black Falls works for the demanding Mr Black (James Spader), whose Black Box is the ultimate communication and do-it-all gadget. When Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) finds a rainbow-coloured wishing rock, he discovers it grants wishes to anyone who holds it. The rock slips through different hands, including his older sister Stacey (Kat Dennings), the bullying Black siblings Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) and Cole (Devon Gearhart) and mischievous brothers Loogie (Trevor Gagnon), Lug (Rebel Rodriguez) and Laser (Leo Howard), dreams quickly become nightmares. When the rock finds its way into the hands of the adults including Toe's pressured executive parents (Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer) and germophobic genius Dr Noseworthy (William H. Macey), the fun really starts.

Review by Louise Keller:
Good clean fun is what Robert Rodriguez delivers in this energetic and inventive film about wishes and being connected. Targeted at the same kind of audience that lapped up Spy Kids, Rodriguez has structured his film in tantalising bite size pieces and tells the story in haphazard jigsaw fashion - like a series of shorts. A rainbow coloured wishing stone impacts on the small community of Black Falls, when it slips through the hands of many of its residents. The result is an amusing comedy peppered with slapstick as wishes are realised, and in turn the characters each realise to beware for what they wish.

The protagonist Toe, played by Jimmy Bennett (who you may remember as the young James Kirk in Star Trek) is a 11 year old nerd with imaginary friends, the result of his first wish, when wishing for friends as unique as himself. Enter aliens in miniature spaceships who are more useful than he could imagine. We get a snapshot of Toe's life - cleaning the braces on his teeth, getting bullied at school, coping with the taunts of his older sister Stacey (Kat Dennings) and avoiding the conflicts between his parents (Leslie Mann, Jon Cryer), busy executives trying to do 'whatever it takes' to market the ever-versatile black block whose functions are as diverse as being a phone, a toaster and a cheese grater. James Spader plays Mr Black, the boss from hell, whose daughter Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) is as big a pain as he is.

The characters are a diverse bunch whose wishes invariably turn the world upside down. There's a never-ending supply of chocolate bars, a fortress with snakes, jaw-snapping crocodiles, an invisible boy, another with overlong arms and a baby with a controlling mind. I like the imaginative sequence when a boogie becomes a giant pus-green monster in the lab of William H. Macey's germ-obsessed Dr Noseworthy and the costume ball in which Leslie Mann's Mom and Jon Cryer's Dad bring new meaning to the label Miss Communication. Special effects are seamlessly integrated into the narrative, although by the end, it feels a little like a series of skits. Rodriguez has concocted a youngster's satire on connectivity: how technology intended to bring us together, but in fact prises us apart. So true.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

SHORTS (PG)
(US, 2009)

CAST: Jimmy Bennett, James Spader, Kat Dennings, Trevor Gagnon, Jake Short, Rebel Rodriguez, Leslie Mann, Jon Cryer, William H. Macy

PRODUCER: Robert Rodriguez , Elizabeth Avellan

DIRECTOR: Robert Rodriguez

SCRIPT: Robert Rodriguez

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Rodriguez

EDITOR: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis

MUSIC: Robert Rodriguez, Carl Thiel, George Oldziey

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Steve Joyner

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Oct 1 (NSW), Sep 3 (TAS), Sep 17 (VIC/QLD), Sep 24 (WA/SA/ACT)







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