Childish wishes, marketers' dream

Robert Rodriguez channels his inner 11-year-old with "Shorts," a childish but fun wish-fulfillment fantasy for kids that's equal parts boogers, big messages and product placement.

It's a connected collection of "shorts" -- short films about kids (and adults) who encounter a magical wishing rock deep in the heart of Texas. It mocks America's Crackberry (and iPhone, etc.) epidemic in a kid-friendly farce about being careful what you wish.

In Black Falls, everybody works on the Black Box, an all-in-one phone gadget. Not that this makes Cobalt Black (James Spader) happy. He's paranoid about losing market share, which is why competing marketers Mrs. (Leslie Mann) and Mr. (Jon Cryer) Thompson are constantly on their Black Boxes, miscommunicating. They barely notice that son Toby "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) is friendless, the object of bullying by Black's hellish daughter, Helvetica (Jolie Vanier, this year's pre-teen Christina Ricci).

That changes when the little rainbow rock falls into his life. As Toe and other kids cope with having their wishes come true (and blunder with every wish), telephones pop out of their heads, pterodactyls pluck them from one danger and into another, braces pop off teeth and arms are broken.

The movie skips back and forth through tales with their own titles -- "Big, Bad Booger" is one that sticks. William H. Macy stars in it.

Along the way, parents learn to be a team, a megalomaniac learns that ruling the world isn't a worthy goal and kids learn to wish only for the important things in life -- world peace, an end to global warming and "a limitless supply of candy bars."

Toe wishes for aliens to be his "friends" and to vanquish bullies ("Say 'allo to my leetle friends," he says, quoting an R-rated movie he shouldn't have seen). Mostly, the kids' oaths are of the "Holy peanut butter cups!" variety -- cursing that doubles as advertising.

It's cute, and it skews young enough that you won't have to worry about the plugs for this car or that video game company. Thankfully, kids aren't on the market for anything at IKEA.

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