Shorts is another of Robert Rodriguezs kids films. It operates with a slim premise kids find a magical stone that allows their wishes to come true. There are a great many films and stories that have been based around the granting of wishes and the unforeseen consequences of them coming true or what happens when the wisher gets what they wish for a little too literally. Shorts does nothing particularly innovative with the concept. The premise is largely a set-up to allow Robert Rodriguez to have fun as with many childrens films, the appeal is to the idea of fun and chaos unleashed, wreaking havoc upon the adult world and then everything being safely put back in the box and the status quo restored at the end. The film also ends with the cliched moral that humanity is too irresponsible to be able to handle powers such as these.
While on a script level Shorts is unremarkable, all the fun comes in Robert Rodriguezs on screen antics. The fun of the film is the same one that infects the first two Spy Kids films and to a lesser extent Sharkboy and Lavagirl and that is Robert Rodriguezs eye for the appealingly absurd. Be it images of two kids (Campbell Westmoreland and Zoe Webb) engaged in a staring competition that continues throughout most of the film; Jolie Vanier demonstrating the capacity to eat with her feet after being waylaid with broken arms; Trevor Gagnon spouting a telephone out of his head after malapropistically wishing for telephone-esis; a talking baby that is the most intelligent person in the film (voiced by Rodriguezs wife Elizabeth Avellan); the sight of Trevor Gagnon and his brothers being pursued by crocodiles that have wished that they could walk bipedally (this is a film where it is perfectly acceptable for a kid to offer up the excuse that a crocodile ate his homework and it not be out of place); a monster that is a giant booger come to life, which Jake Short drives away by picking his nose and threatening to eat its kin; and a collection of mischievous miniature UFOs that befriend Jimmy Bennett, which have clearly been modelled on the UFOs in Batteries Not Included (1987).
Shorts is a fun film. It is not groundbreaking childrens entertainment, or even a work where Robert Rodriguez seems to be trying to set the world alight. However, the visual gags are fun. Rodriguez ropes in cameos from well-known faces including William H. Macy, James Spader, Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer. The children all play capably, with the film largely being stolen by a stony-faced Jolie Vanier who could almost be a clone sister of Christina Ricci around the period of the The Addams Family (1991) and sequel.
Robert Rodriguezs other films of genre interest are the vampire/getaway thriller From Dusk Till Dawn (1996); the witty teen body snatchers film The Faculty (1998); the juvenile spy adventure Spy Kids (2001) and sequels Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003) and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2011); the graphic novel adaptation/film noir pastiche Sin City (2005) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014); the childrens film The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005); the zombie film Planet Terror (2007), half of the Quentin Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse (2007); and Machete Kills (2013), a sequel to his earlier Mexican-themed action film that frequently enters into science-fiction territory. Rodriguez has also produced From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangmans Daughter (2000) and Predators (2010), as well as developed the tv series From Dusk Till Dawn (2014 ).