Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews Unfrosted

Josh Reviews Unfrosted

Jerry Seinfeld produced, directed, co-wrote (along with Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, and Andy Robin), and stars in Unfrosted, a very silly movie telling an insane, very much NOT a true story of the creation of the Pop Tart.

I’m a huge Jerry Seinfeld fan, so I was of course interested in this new project.  Mr. Seinfeld hasn’t had the greatest success in the movie world (2007’s Bee Movie was OK; I enjoyed watching it but I’ve never been moved to want to see it again), but I loved the idea of a movie about the invention of the Pop Tart.  It fits right in with Mr. Seinfeld’s breakfast cereal obsession (a funny running joke on Seinfeld that was clearly based on Mr. Seinfeld’s real life habits).

Unfrosted if a very enjoyable, very silly movie.  I had a delightful time watching it.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here.  This isn’t a reinvention of the form the way the Seinfeld TV show was.  The comedy here isn’t subversive or edgy.  It’s just extremely silly.  That tone worked for me!  I didn’t find this film fall-on-the-floor hilarious, but I did laugh a lot, and I was smiling quite consistently all the way through.

Wisely, Mr. Seinfeld kept the film short — at 91 minutes, it’s one of the shortest films I’ve seen in years.  The film zips along nicely and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The film is set in a pleasingly retro-futuristic 1960’s setting, one designed the emulate the era of the Space Race.  The look of 1960’s NASA ticks a lot of pleasure-centers in my brain.  I enjoyed the film’s vibrant colors.

Mr. Seinfeld himself is, as always, an enjoyable comedic lead.  He’s curbed some of the acidic cynicism that you see in a lot of his media appearances these days (which I do usually find very funny!) and presents himself as a genial goofball (much closer to how his character was on the Seinfeld show for much of its run).  In the film, Seinfeld plays Bob Cabana, a good-natured employee at Kellogg’s.  They’re at the top of the cereal game, but now they find themselves in a bitter battle with rival cereal company Post to invent a breakfast pastry.

Mr. Seinfeld has surrounded himself with an extraordinary comedic ensemble.  It’s a counterintuitive truth that often when you see a movie with a star-studded ensemble cast, the movie isn’t very good.  Sometimes that star-power can overwhelm a film, but Unfrosted is smartly structured more like a series of comedic sketches, so it works for these great comedians to pop in and out of the film, being involved in a funny bit and then moving on.

Just take a gander at this cast.  Let’s start with Melissa McCarthy as Stan (Donna Stankowski), a breakfast inventor who briefly left Kellogg’s to work for NASA.  Ms. McCarthy is a potent comedic weapon when used well, as she is here.  She’s zany, but not so zany that she takes control of the move.  Her comedic timing works terrific when bouncing off of Mr. Seinfeld as the straight man.  The third member of their triumvirate is Jim Gaffigan as Bob and Stan’s boss, Edsel Kellogg III.  Mr. Gaffigan is so much fun here; he plays the character with a killer comedic dryness that only periodically — and always hilariously — is punctured by roiling emotion beneath (such as his fear of being overtaken by the Post company or his possibly buried romantic feelings for Marjorie Post).  Speaking of Marjorie, she’s played by Amy Schumer, who is also just terrific in the role.  Marjorie is sort of the villain, but the film — ably assisted by Ms. Schumer’s jovial performance — makes her so much fun to watch that I was never rooting against her.  As with most of the characters in this movie, Marjorie is basically a cartoon — she reminded me of Mom, the villainous matriarch of the MOM corporation in Futurama, especially when Marjorie was smacking around her lackie Rick Ludwin, played by Max Greenfield (Veronica Mars, New Girl) with grinning lapdog perfection.

Hugh Grant is a delight — possibly my favorite supporting character in the film — as the surly Thurl Ravenscroft (that’s a great name), who fancies himself a thespian but who is stuck inside a Tony the Tiger costume as a lead mascot for Kellogg’s.  Christian Slater is very funny as a menacing Milkman who wants to stop the creation of the Pop Tart by any means necessary (and I loved Peter Dinklage’s brief appearance as his boss, the head of the milk crime syndicate).  Bob and Stan assemble a team of “Taste Pilots” to help create the Pop Tart that includes: Adrian Martinez (Stumptown, Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Tom Carvel (the film makes several great jokes about Carvel’s gravelly voice that will land with anyone like me who grew up watching his crazy Carvel ice cream commercials); Bobby Moynihan (SNL) as Chef Boy Ardee; James Marsden (X-Men, Superman Returns, Jury Duty) as fitness guru Jack LaLanne; Jack McBrayer (30 Rock, Star Trek: Lower Decks) as bicycle-inventor Steve Schwinn; and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!, The Odd Couple reboot with Matthew Perry, and he was Joey’s “hand twin” on Friends) as Harold von Braunhut, a spoof on Wernher von Braun, who was involved in the Apollo program.

The film also features: Bill Burr, Fred Armisen, Tony Hale (Buster on Arrested Development, Gary on Veep), Dean Norris (Hank on Breaking Bad), Andy Daly (Review, Silicon Valley, Veep), Patrick Warburton (Puddy on Seinfeld), Cedric the Entertainer, Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek), Mikey Day, Kyle Mooney, Drew Tarver, Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Kyle Dunnigan, Sebastian Maniscalco, and many others.  And I haven’t even mentioned Jon Hamm and John Slattery, who reunite for my favorite scene in the film!

Not everything in the film works.  There are some jokes that flop.  There’s a weird subplot about a pop tart crossed with a sea monkey that turns into a sentient creature that I didn’t get at all — I found it painful whenever they cut back to that story.  But overall the film’s silliness carried me along pleasantly.

As I said at the top, there’s nothing groundbreaking or particularly brilliant about this film.  It’s not trying to be groundbreaking or brilliant!  It’s trying to tell a very silly story about an event that would only really have import in the heart of a ten year old kid, and in that it succeeds.  Mr. Seinfeld has managed to hold on to that feeling of both child-like wonder and also child-like silliness.  That’s the key to the central joke of this film — they’re treating the invention of a breakfast pastry like it was the race to land a man on the moon.  Some might roll their eyes at this, but I found it delightfully enjoyable.

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