Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Shorts Movie Poster Image
Funny, imaginative fantasy from Spy Kids director.
  • PG
  • 2009
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 42 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids will definitely remember the message of being careful what you wish for. They'll also pick up on the lessons about how a bully could end up actually being your friend, how greed is bad, and that "green is the new black."

Positive Messages

Teamwork and overcoming obstacles (usually in the form of the Black family) are key messages, as is the basic idea that you have to be careful what you wish for -- because you never know if you just might get it. There's also a strong message about family life. Many sibling and parent-child relationships are strengthened over the course of the adventure. Toby makes new friends and rediscovers old ones who all work together.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Toby works tirelessly to keep the rocks from falling into the wrong hands. He convinces others to do the same, even when it's against their self interest. Helvetica, although a somewhat negative role model, is a strong female character, and she ultimately redeems herself. Loogie's brothers are the voice of reason, trying to explain to Loogie that he should be wishing for world peace or the end of starvation instead of fortresses and candy bars. Toby's parents are also good role models, prioritizing their marriage and family above career goals.

Violence & Scariness

Cartoonish and fantastical violence includes a booger turning into a giant monster that chases a group of scared people; a person becoming a weaponized, Transformers-like being that wreaks havoc on a town; a kid's "wish" of rattlesnakes and crocodiles coming true (and then attacking him and his brothers); and the like. More realistic incidents include Helvetica's ongoing bullying of Toby, which usually consists of a daily trip, headfirst, into the nearest trash can; kids falling out of a tree; and kids falling out of a window and breaking both arms.

Sexy Stuff

Toby jokes that Helvetica picks on him because she actually likes him; they have a middle-school love/hate relationship. Toby's parents lament their loss of intimacy, and, after a rock literally binds them at the hip, they nearly kiss and eventually fix their relationship. Loogie misguidedly flirts with Toby's older sister, who's in a fight with her boyfriend (they eventually make up with a hug).


Fairly frequent use of colorful insults like "lunkhead," "hillbilly teeth," "Dr. Dumb Butt," as well as more traditional ones like "you suck," "freak," and "loser." Kids' nicknames can be mean-spirited, such as "Toe" for Toby, "Hell" for Helvetica, and "Nose" for a boy who eats his boogers.


The candy bar Nutrageous is shown many times as part of a running joke (a boy wishes he had an endless supply), and Skittles and IKEA are both mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Glimpses of adults drinking wine/champagne at a fancy costume party in one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this fantasy adventure from Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez is sure to appeal to kids and tweens. Expect some mild insults -- like "lunkhead" and "this sucks" -- and potty humor, mostly regarding a booger (one entire vignette is devoted to the topic). The violence is generally humorous and fantasy based; most is directly related to characters' wishes (people transforming into animals, the above-mentioned booger becoming a giant menace, etc.). On a more serious note, the movie has several thought-provoking messages about bullying, family relationships, and technology.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byncst January 7, 2014

Fun, family movie night

We watched this as a family movie night and were delighted at how funny and creative it was! It was original and funny enough to keep my husband and I watching... Continue reading
Adult Written bykdl2967 January 29, 2021


The movie took so many different vantage points and rewound to previous situations that I am unsure how a child could comprehend what was going on.
Teen, 16 years old Written bymypointofveiw June 7, 2020

its fun

When we first saw this we liked the kids who would'nt stop having competion its funny I loved it but I do have concerns warning this includes spoilers

1 t... Continue reading
Kid, 7 years old November 17, 2019

Lots of transforming fun

Lots of different ways that people are changing, bullying, chase scenes, magic, and FUN.

What's the story?

Toby "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) lives in Black Hills, a one-industry town run by technology tycoon Carbon Black (James Spader). Every day, Toby is bullied by Black's daughter, Helvetica (Jolie Vanier), and her crew of middle-school toughs. But life as Toby knows it changes when he's hit with a colorful rock that magically grants wishes -- big (a fortress) or small (never-ending supply of candy bars). But he's not the only one in town with eyes on the rock, and, as the movie's title implies, this tall tale is told in five interrelated SHORTS.

Is it any good?

The "one-man film crew" that is Robert Rodriguez (writer, director, producer, co-editor, composer) returns to his love of kids' imagination in this loopy funfest. Partly inspired by Rodriguez's own five children, the boisterous adventure is perfectly attuned to its audience, who no doubt will spend the entire 89 minutes laughing in delight at a booger monster, a girl bully turning into a male-swatting wasp, an army of crocodiles, parents literally stuck together, a boyfriend told to grow up (he ends up a giant), and much, much more.

Rodriguez's homegrown special effects aren't anything to write George Lucas about, but kids will be too busy reveling in the slapstick antics to notice that the walking CGI crocodiles are kind of unsophisticated. Instead, audiences will focus on the goofy, tween-targeted action. Anchoring the ensemble are newcomer Vanier (a Christina Ricci lookalike) as the deliciously named Helvetica -- even her own pop calls her "Hell" -- and veteran Bennett (who stole an early scene in Star Trek as the young James T. Kirk). Their appealing characters are two of the many reasons kids will love this unpredictable, pleasantly zippy adventure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the kids (mis)use the power of the magical rock. Which characters used the rock for good, and which used it for selfish reasons? How did possessing the rock change the characters?

  • What's the movie's message about our modern-day obsession with technology and fancy gadgets (like the Black Box)? Do they help us or hurt us in communicating with others?

  • The relationship between a bully and the person she picks on is one of the movie's main themes. How is bullying portrayed? Do most bullies attack kids physically? What are other ways that bullies can attack?

Movie details

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