Making the Grades
About all filmmaker Robert Rodriguez doesn’t seem to have done during the production of his latest family film was sew costumes and cater lunches. He may have been too busy in his roles as director, producer, writer, cinematographer, music composer, visual effects supervisor and film editor to worry about sandwiches.
He does, however, manage to find time to procure roles for three of his five children. Rocket and his brother Rebel star as schoolyard bullies who carry out the demands of the bossy and cruel Helvetica Black (Jolie Vanier). His son Rebel plays Lug, a young boy who uses the powers of a magical, rainbow-colored rock to conjure up an imposing rock fortress and a float of crocodiles.
But Lug isn’t the only kid to take advantage of the mysterious stone. When Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) finds the rock and discovers its abilities, he believes all his problems at home with his sister (Kat Dennings) and at school are over. The first item on his wish list is friends. Yet before long, the flotilla of tiny alien spaceships that appear to keep him company prove to be more troublesome than friendly.
Tossed around the neighborhood of Black Falls, the polished, multi-striped aggregate grants the innermost desires of other adults and kids as well. Unfortunately most of the residents don’t make particularly wise choices when it comes to having their hopes realized. Their adventures with the rock unfold in a series of non-sequential shorts that take place at school, at the office and in the homes of the unusual residents that inhabit the town.
While the storyline resembles the fanciful undertakings seen in Rodriguez’s early family-oriented films (Spy Kids 1, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over as well as The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D) where bullied children also live secret, powerful lives, parents may be less comfortable with this script’s amount of mimicable violence. Toe is stuffed into a garbage can headfirst even after trying to talk his way out of trouble with a gaggle of goons. On the way home, the boys pelt him with rocks and he falls from a tree after being knocked out. As a way to taunt Toe, a mean-spirited classmate swallows his pet fish, hits Toe in the head repeatedly and calls him names. Not only do students fall from the roof of the school after falling through an open window, there are also kids who intentionally break the windows of a house to gain access to the inside. Although most of these stunts are played for comedy, they, along with plenty of more fantastical depictions of a destructive robot, a defecating Pterodactyl and a living piece of nasal mucus may be too graphic and/or gross for younger viewers.
Jumping randomly from one mini story to the next like a cartoon on caffeine, this film about making your wishes come true may appeal most to audience members with very short attention spans.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Shorts.
How are families portrayed in this film? Which family would you rather live with, the Thompsons, the Noseworthys, the Blacks or Lug and his brothers?
Robert Rodriguez often features bullied children in his films. How can children and teens best deal with bullies? How can adults help intervene? What positive attempts does Toe make to reason with the bullies?