Bad Movies Done Right — Slow Children Playing

I’ve gotten a lot of flack from readers in the past for my cynical dismissing and more then occasional mocking of children’s movies.

I’ve been told that movies such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua are cute and harmless and should be appreciated for what they are — a momentary diversion made for children.

To that I say: Are we, as a nation, actively trying to make our children stupid? Showing them the putrid pieces of garbage that Hollywood continuously churns out is putting today’s youth on a one-way short bus to that stool they make you sit on in school while you wear the dunce cap.

Look at me for example — I watched Power Rangers as a kid and I constantly find myself pulling on push doors. Imagine what acts of random stupidity today’s toddlers will find themselves committing after a childhood spent watching Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. They’re going to misspell sequel, for one.

I can appreciate the need for movies designed for children.

Nothing steams my pot more then walking into a hyper-violent horror movie and seeing the temporarily innocent eyes of a child staring back at me. Parents who take their child to see rated R movies before the kids are ready to process that type of content will deserve it when their child eventually steals out of their wallet before unleashing a tsunami of swear words that would put a Turrets sufferer to shame.

I totally sympathize with parents’ plight. There just aren’t enough intelligent children’s movies being released on a yearly basis. With Pixar only making one movie a year, the rest of the calendar is more often then not filled with the kind of movies you wouldn’t show a terrorist child during torture.

I can also sympathize with filmmakers. Making movies isn’t exactly shooting wolves from a plane; it takes a lot of hard work and money.

With the risky nature of movie making, it’s all too all to tempting to release easy-to-market sludge like Aliens in the Attic.

If I had a choice between creating something intelligent and thought-provoking and releasing a series of toilet jokes that would be greeted with the approving “baaas” of the general public, I’d choose potty humor too. In fact, it’s a choice I make on a weekly basis with this column.

So what is the solution? How do we change our movie-going ways before our nation’s youth devolve into the hooting and chest-thumping primitives that are so easily mesmerized by the black, shiny obelisk that is G-Force?

How about handing them a book every now and then between crappy movies. It’s not a perfect solution, but maybe, just maybe, some good literature can counter-act the brain-melting side effects of modern children’s movies before its too late.

Bad Movie of the Week — Shorts

Shorts, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s latest children’s movie, is like Robert Altman’s Short Cuts for kids with ADD.

Ambitious in scope, it’s hard for me to say Rodriguez’s film is a bad movie — mainly due to the fact that I really, really like Robert Rodriguez.

I’m a fan of the man’s movies and, in general, I’m a fan of the man himself. He just seems like a cool guy and, to his credit, it honestly seems he tried to make what he thought would be a cool movie for kids.

And it could very well be. I haven’t talked to any children who’ve seen Shorts and, short (get it?) of hanging out in front of an elementary school playground and soliciting opinions, I’m not bound to find out what today’s youth think of the film anytime soon.

Shorts bills itself as a collection of vignettes about a town’s adventure with a mysterious wish-granting, rainbow colored rock. Told in non-chronological order (in a way that feels a bit too gimmicky at times), the film’s short stories hop through a collection of children as they find this magic rock and make wishes that, of course, cause nothing but mayhem and adventure.

The movie is really just an excuse for Robert Rodriguez to cut loose and showcase as much special effects-created giant crocodiles, booger monsters and alien invaders as he can in an 80+ minute movie.

There were a lot of pretty neat parts to the movie — especially the sub-plot dealing with James Spader as Steve Jobs-wannabe Carbon Black, the CEO of a company that invents and distributes a black box that can do everything from play music, make phone calls, toast bread and trim nose hairs.

It’s this desire to create the perfect all-in-one tool that drives Carbon Black to seek the magic rock himself in the hopes he can finally find the ultimate gadget.

Other recognizable cast members that make an appearance are Jon Cryer (forever Ducky), Leslie Mann, William H. Macy and Kat Dennings.

The real stars of the film, though, are the cast of children actors Rodriguez assembled for the movie — led by Jimmy Bennett.

Unlike most movies with a children-filled cast, Shorts doesn’t have an overabundance of annoying precocious child actors. The cast Rodriguez put together (of which, three are his sons) are all believable in their roles — never crossing that threshold of tolerance.

Plus you have a character named Helvetica Black! The former graphic designer in me approves.

The Blu-ray for Shorts looks amazing. While some of the more sloppy special effects don’t sizzle when presented in high-definition, the movie’s colorful palate works well with a crisp image. Special features in the package include, as usual on Robert Rodriguez’s films, a ten-minute cooking school and a ten-minute film school. Also include are a couple of short mini-documentaries about the film’s production and actors.

Seemingly designed to make kids cackle with enjoyment as they watch a pterodactyl poop on another child while simultaneously watching their parents shift uncomfortably in their seat at all the inappropriate humor, Shorts is not a children’s movie that attempts to be anything but one big dumb gross-out joke. It is a big one though.

Full of a ton of the special effects, neat camera tricks and all the zaniness one has come to expect from a Robert Rodriguez children’s movie, Shorts is a lot of fun — unfortunately most of that fun can only be enjoyed by the film’s very narrow target audience.

Unless you are an eight-year-old boy or have the maturity level of one, you are bound to be left a bit cold by Shorts. I’d be lying, though, if I said I wouldn’t have enjoyed the hell out of this movie as a kid.

Being a “glass-half-full” kind of guy at heart, I can see the positive in Robert Rodriguez’s constant need to make cheesy movies for kids. Tomorrow’s generation of young adults are bound to grow up with fond memories of Spy Kids and Shorts. Hopefully, this nostalgia will send them out in search of films like El Mariachi and Sin City.

After all, if there’s one thing Robert Rodriguez is good at delivering, it’s the promise that for every groan-worthy children’s movie, he has a bad-ass violent epic in the works.

Robert Saucedo may, in fact, have a man-crush on Robert Rodriguez. Visit him on the web at www.robsaucedo.com.

Feel free to check out Robert Rodriguez’s filmography on DVD and Blu-ray:



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