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One could argue that the late-summer release schedule is playing tricks on audiences thanks to the opening weekend face-off of the Grindhouse duo (Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino). Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds gives us more of what we’ve come to expect from him, but Shorts finds Rodriguez in family-friendly mode. And while he has proven to be a master of low-budget mayhem in a one-man-band kind of way, he really seems to cut loose when he caters to kids.

Shorts joins his Spy Kids franchise and The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl as projects devoted to walking hand-in-hand with his wild inner-child, but it also attempts to mix in the fractured narrative schematic he usually reserves for his more adult fare.

There’s even a moral of sorts, aimed squarely at adults, in this tale about a wishing rock from outer space that everyone covets and then grossly misuses.

Shorts quaintly resolves each segmented adventure and the whole story without demonizing anyone; the value system in effect points out wrong choices and the correction of those choices over labeling or punishing “the bad.” Like the best of Rodriguez’s work, a barely contained frenzy exists in his execution, but the marriage of his two divergent sensibilities doesn’t create a cohesive vision capable of fully engaging either a child-like imagination or an adult alternative perspective. Grade: C-