Opening 1 Oct 2009
In a series of five short episodes or “shorts,” not necessarily in chronological order, 11-year-old Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) tells the story of his miserable life as a child. Everyone in the perfect Pleasantville-type town (actually Austin, Texas), including his parents, work for Mr. Black (James Spader) at Black Box Unlimited Worldwide Industries Incorporated. Black’s children Cole and Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) command a group of bullies who regularly stuff Toe into a trash can. Mr. Black says, “It’s not bullying if you win.” Toe’s friend Nose Noseworthy lives with his paranoid father (William H. Macy), who is certain that germs are out to get them, and he avoids the real world altogether. One day, Toe is hit by a magic rainbow rock which enables him (and everyone else) to make wishes. This creates strange situations as some wishes backfire and produce, e.g., an idiot savant baby, a giant booger, and joined-at-the-hip parents. In the end the right people and the right wishes bring things around happily. There is even a moral to the story: be who you are and what you want to be, and you need no special aids such as a rock to be strong.
My first reaction to director Robert Rodriquez’ newest children’s film (after Spy Kids) was that it is full of clichés, e.g., parents with no time for their kids or people communicating solely by text messages. Naturally, a nerd has to have red hair and braces on his teeth, and everyone wishes for universal love. The music was always too loud. What child wants to sit through this? However, after time spent with children this age, I realized that much was true to life. For example, two siblings spend hours in a contest to outstare each other; Helvetica is temporarily paralyzed and eats with her feet; more power to her. Toe becomes outwardly more appealing as his self-confidence grows. It’s a pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon and might even provide various topics to discuss with your children. (Becky Tan)