Australian Council on Children and the Media

Shorts

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Violence and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Shorts
  • a review of Shorts completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 September 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence and themes
Children 8 -13 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and violence
Children 14 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Shorts
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and comedic violence
Length 89 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Shorts is an American children’s fantasy film written and directed by Robert Rodriguez.  The story, seen through the eyes of eleven year-old Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett), revolves around the people living within the affluent but troubled community of Black Falls.  All of the adult members of this community work for the tyrannical and perhaps megalomaniacal Mr. Black (James Spader), who 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.  Residents soon learn that this stone enables those who possess it to achieve whatever they wish for, which leads to a number of unexpected consequences.  Toe’s own daily encounters are soon transformed through his experiences with this rock, helping him to face school bullies such as Cole Black (Devon Gearhart) with a new confidence. 

The title “Shorts” is derived from the film’s untypical structure, consisting of a number of somewhat dislocated and non-chronological sequences depicting the experiences of the various members of Black Falls who encounter the magical rock.  Among those affected by the stone 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).

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Bullying

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a great deal of violence in this movie including:

  • A man yells and smashes a model pyramid with a hammer during a board-room meeting.
  • A boy is frequently chased and surrounded by other children who yell menacingly.
  • A boy is thrown into a garbage bin by another boy.
  • A group of boys chases and throws rocks at another boy.
  • A group of boys chase another boy through the school grounds.
  • A girl threatens a boy, calling him derogatory names.
  • A boy and girl smash through a window while fighting and break their arms.
  • A man yells at his son for picking his nose.
  • Two boys are knocked to the ground by another boy.
  • A girl punches a boy in the head.
  • A reception room full of adults begin trying to choke one another.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including:

  • 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 becomes giant-sized;
  • 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 is depicted in potentially frightening head-to-toe decontamination suit and mask, spraying gas around a house;
  • A boogie grows into a giant-sized and threatening monster;
  • A man is transformed into a giant rampaging lego-like monster;
  • A girl is transformed into a giant wasp; and
  • A boy is transformed into a giant dung beetle.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • A girl scoops a pet fish out of its tank and puts it in her mouth (although is stopped before eating it);
  • Children are chased by a giant boogie, which smashes down a solid wooden door;
  • Children are circled and menaced by a giant pterodactyl;
  • Community members are menaced by giant lego-like monster;
  • A giant wasp and dung beetle fights with a giant lego-like monster;
  • There is a frightening storm with thunder and lightning; and
  • Adults and children are threatened by a magical hurricane-force wind.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • A pre-teen boy is repeatedly taunted and bullied by a group of boys his own age;
  • 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; and
  • Small alien creatures attack giant lego-like monster.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

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

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

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

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some derogatory and threatening language in this movie, including:

  • Freak;
  • Dork;
  • Metal mouth;
  • This sucks;
  • Loser;
  • Screw it up;
  • “Dr. Dumbboy”;
  • “You look stupid”;
  • “How would you like your braces up your nose?”
  • “I should break your arms”; and
  • “I wish you’d grow up”.

In a nutshell

Shorts is a sometimes confusing fantasy film containing a sparse storyline interwoven through moments of comedy and an abundance of violence. While the plot involves some elements that could be used to provoke meaningful conversations with children, many adults may find little other reward in this movie.

The main intended message from this movie is that greed will not bring happiness.  However, the large number of violent incidents may also relay an implicit sanction of violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Generosity, as opposed to greed; and
  • Altruism, rather than self-centred thoughts and actions.

 This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • the potential for greed to result in dissatisfaction and loneliness; and
  • the unacceptability of bullying.

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