Story

Shorts is an American children’s fantasy movie, written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. The story is seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett), and revolves around the people living in the rich but troubled community of Black Falls. All the grown-ups in this community work for the tyrannical Mr Black (James Spader). He heads the immensely successful Black Box Unlimited Worldwide Industries Incorporated.

Toe Thompson describes how life in Black Falls is interrupted after the discovery of a magical rainbow-coloured wishing rock that falls from the sky. People soon learn that this stone enables whoever has it to achieve whatever they wish for. This has several unexpected consequences. Toe’s own daily encounters are soon transformed through his experiences with this rock. For example, it helps him to face school bullies such as Cole Black (Devon Gearhart) with a new confidence.

The title Shorts is derived from the movie’s structure. The movie has several rather dislocated and non-chronological sequences that show the experiences of the people in Black Falls who encounter the magic rock. Among those affected are Toe’s workaholic parents (Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer), his sister Stacey (Kat Denning), friends Loogie (Trevor Gagnon) and Nose (Jake Short), and Nose’s mad scientist father, Dr Noseworthy (William Macy).

Themes

Bullying

Violence

This movie contains lots of violence. For example:

  • A man yells and smashes a model pyramid with a hammer during a boardroom meeting.
  • Children yell menacingly, and chase and surround a boy.
  • One boy throws another into a garbage bin.
  • A group of boys chases and throws rocks at another boy.
  • A group of boys chases another boy through the school grounds.
  • A girl threatens a boy, calling him unkind names.
  • A boy and girl smash through a window while fighting. They break their arms.
  • A man yells at his son for picking his nose.
  • One boy knocks two others to the ground.
  • A girl punches a boy in the head.
  • Grown-ups try to choke each other.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five. For example:

  • Giant pterodactyls fly menacingly over groups of children, occasionally snatching them and taking them away
  • Numerous vicious crocodiles and hissing venomous snakes appear and disappear in one segment.
  • A teenage boy turns into a giant.
  • A man’s ears suddenly grow several times larger.
  • A man and a woman become one person with two heads and torsos.
  • A boy suddenly grows a telephone receiver out of his head.
  • A boy’s arms suddenly grow extremely long.
  • A man turns into a giant hotdog/sausage.
  • A man wears a scary, head-to-toe decontamination suit and mask, spraying gas around a house.
  • A boogie grows into a giant-sized and threatening monster.
  • A man turns into a giant, rampaging, lego-like monster.
  • A girl turns into a giant wasp.
  • A boy turns into a giant dung beetle.

From 5-8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • A girl scoops a pet fish out of its tank and puts it in her mouth (although she is stopped before eating it).
  • A giant boogie chases some children and smashes down a solid wooden door.
  • A giant pterodactyl circles and menaces a group of children.
  • A giant lego-like monster menaces community members.
  • A giant wasp and dung beetle fight with a giant lego-like monster.
  • There is a frightening storm with thunder and lightning.
  • Grown-ups and children are threatened by a magical hurricane-force wind.

From 8-13

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • A group of pre-teen boys repeatedly taunt and bully another boy.
  • A boy smashes his head and falls out of a tree after having a rock thrown at his head.
  • A girl is knocked off a motorcycle travelling at high speed.
  • Small alien creatures attack pre-teen boys.
  • Small alien creatures attack a giant lego-like monster.

Over 13

Most children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

This movie contains some sexual references. For example:

  • A pre-teen boy makes several mildly flirtatious comments to a 19-year old woman.
  • A character’s parents bend towards each other to kiss on two occasions, although neither scene shows the actual kiss.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

This movie contains some put-downs, name-calling and threatening language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Shorts is a sometimes confusing fantasy movie. Its storyline is fairly lightweight, with moments of comedy and lots of violence. Although the plot involves some elements that could be used to start meaningful conversations with children, many grown-ups will find little else to enjoy in this movie.

The movie’s main message is that greed will not bring happiness. But the many violent incidents might also send the message that violence is an acceptable way to deal with conflict.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • generosity rather than greed
  • self-sacrifice rather than self-centred thoughts and actions.

This movie could also give you the opportunity to discuss with your children issues such as how:

  • Greed can leave you feeling lonely and sad
  • Bullying is never acceptable.