Shorts (2009) 
Blu-ray Sci-Fi-Fantasy
Written by Noah Fleming   
Thursday, 19 November 2009

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Robert Rodriguez, the creator of the hit saga, “Spy Kids,” returns to his roots with “Shorts.”  Unfortunately, the film is a bust.  The trailers indicate that it had promise, but in the end the film fails to teach anything or keep audiences interested from beginning to end.  The film topped out at $20 million at the box office, which is hardly anything compared to the amount spent on the production of the film.

“Shorts” is structured somewhat like “Vantage Point.”  The movie begins with narration by the lead kid character.  When he reaches a certain point he rewinds to a different perspective and part of the story, hence “shorts.”  The film is comprised of a half dozen short films that are all supposed to fit together in the end.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t reason to do this.  It could have been done all in sequence.  It was only done this was in order to try and tell the story as a typical child would tell it.

“Shorts” is the story of the town of Black Box during an undisclosed time, however we must assume that it is the future.  Black owns the town and it is where he houses his employees that make the Black Box, a spin on gadgets like the iPhone.  The Black Box can do anything, literally.  That aside, the lead male child finds a wishing rock that eventually assists in causing destruction.  Each short in the film has the wishing rock belonging to a different member of the community.  No one is smart enough to use the rock properly.  Gluttony and greed cause children and adults to wishing for meaningless and self-purposing items.  In the end the children and adults battle each other for possession of the wishing rock.

The film becomes tedious over time and doesn’t have any real direction.  Despite a great cast, the film’s story flops.

Warner provides a VC-1 1080p transfer with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Overall, the video transfer is underwhelming.  The image is inconsistent.  Major artifacting and damage issues are thankfully absent.  However, colors are not as bold as they should be for this type of film.  The cheap CG effects don’t hold up well in the 1080p format.  Black levels are decent, but again inconsistent.  Contrast levels are sometimes overheated.  There are banding issues in the bright daytime sky.  Edges are crisp, but the image does have some noise reduction.  Details are decent, but suffer from the noise reduction.  The image appears flat overall.  Textures are not extraordinary, but still resolved.  It seems that this video transfer suffers from a lack of attention.

The Blu-ray comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track that is thankfully better than the video transfer.  Rear speaker activity comes alive about a third of the way through the film.  Once the wishing rock starts performing its deeds the track is filled with cheesy sound effects galore.  The LFE channel is fairly subdued for all the monster sequences.  Dynamics are expansive.  Frequency response is not particularly even, but still above average.  Sound effect placement is decent, however it is spotty when it comes to decaying.  It seems as if the sounds were plopped into place without regard to how the scene changes or moves.  Panning is decent.  Dialogue is clean and clear.  This track is primarily limited by the original production sound and post-production editing.  However, some of the pitfalls of this track could have been fixed with a better master transfer.

“Shorts” does not come with an expansive bonus materials package.  “The Magic of Shorts” contains visual effect information with Rodriguez.  “Shorts Show and Tell” introduces us to the cast of the film and their wishes.  “Film School: Short Shorts” is a trademark Rodriguez feature that helps young filmmakers with their projects.  “10 Minute Cooking School” has some footage of Chocolate Chip Volcano Cookies cooking.  The disc is enabled with BD-Live functionality.  The package also contains a second disc that functions as both a standard DVD and a Digital Copy.

“Shorts” is not anywhere near Rodriguez’s standard set by “Spy Kids.”  However, kids may still enjoy the film.  Adults will find it useless.  The video transfer is only slightly above average while the audio track is probably this film will ever sound.
Studio Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG
Starring Leslie Mann, Jon Cryer, Kat Dennings, Jimmy Bennett, Jake Short, Trevor Gagnon, Jolie Vanier, William H. Macy, James Spader
Director Robert Rodriguez
Film Release Year 2009
Release Year 2009
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080p (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Running Time 1 hr. 29 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 • English Dolby Digital 5.1 • French Dolby Digital 5.1 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • French • Spanish
Special Features “The Magic of Shorts”; “Shorts Show and Tell”; “10 Minute Film School: Short Shorts”; “10 Minute Cooking School: Chocolate Chip Volcano Cookies”; BD-Live; Standard DVD; Digital Copy
Forum Link
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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