(In theaters, August 2009) Robert Rodriguez’s own brand of low-budget high-creativity filmmaking is always fun, even when it’s aimed squarely at kids: His movies move fast, take chances, show new faces and aren’t afraid to let things slide almost to the brink of anarchy before bringing them back in. So it is that Shorts may be a middle-of-the-pack effort when it comes to his films-for-kids (above Shark Boy and Lava Girl, below the first two Spy Kids, roughly equal to Spy Kids 3D) and yet it warrant quite a bit of interest –especially once it will be available in a DVD edition with filmmaker’s commentary. But in theatres, it still plays pretty well, with a fragmented storyline in five sections that are presented discontinuously: some running gags and set-ups are understood only in retrospect, and the shuffled presentation adds to the wild energy of the story. The story is generally about a wishing rock that delivers on its promises, but it’s really an excuse for Rodriguez to riff on a few concepts (wishes going wrong, giant robots running amuck, small aliens helping out too much), create a bunch of pretty good kid characters and goof off for a while. The manic energy of the film makes it hard to lose interest, and the kids are surprisingly non-annoying. What Shorts lacks is higher artistic ambition and an overall lack of polish, but that’s not much of a problem considering what it does well. But then again, it’s not as if I need to be convinced of Rodriguez’s brilliance.