Saturday, May 4, 2024

Cereal Watch: Unfrosted (2024)

Watched:  05/03/2024
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jerry Seinfeld

It's almost impossible to discuss this movie or not get a soft clucking of tongues for watching Unfrosted (2024) since director Jerry Seinfeld made some ill-advised comments about "woke" and "comedy" this week.  I won't get into it all here, but, yeah, billionaire comedians who haven't had to pitch anything since the 1980's probably shouldn't be weighing in.

I also am not bothering to read reviews.  There's just too much room for too many factors to color opinions on Seinfeld instead of the movie itself.

But Fridays are for goofy movies at our house, and we'd planned on Unfrosted on its release for a week or so.  

Straight up:  this movie probably would have killed 30 years ago.  In 2024 it seems more like an oddball curiosity with some genuinely funny bits, and some things that don't work super well.  It's mostly a movie making references to the pop-culture ephemera a 70-year-old like Seinfeld still remembers, which someone pushing 50 like myself grew up in the wake of, and which I don't think Millennials and The Youths will have enough point of reference.  

Y'all, cereal companies haven't really run ads aimed at kids in 20 years.  And given the medley of weird shit kids eat now, the market for Pop Tarts could easily be people my age and I'd never know.  (Let's hear it for the generation that grew up entirely on processed foods!)

Do Kennedy jokes make sense to anyone under 40?  Does the space race and Cuban missile crisis work?  Do they know who Jack Lalanne is?  I kinda doubt it.  But for us olds, I'll argue, if you can get on the wavelength this movie is working on, it's not exactly great, but it's got it's moments and its got a vibe.  And you can kind of see some of the absurdism that fueled Seinfeld back in the day in how it incorporates references and people reacting badly.  

I genuinely thought this stuff was funny.  But as I sit here writing up the movie, I also think what this is would have made more sense in the window when we were also seeing a gonzo version of The Brady Bunch made and Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast was remixing our favorite Alex Toth creation.

In theory, this is a movie about the creation of the Pop Tart, but is untethered to reality as we know it, and seems more like the passing thoughts a twelve year old might have spending too much time looking at cereal boxes and building a mythology in his head.  How can Kellogg's AND Post exist in Battle Creek. Michigan?!!!

And so it is that Post and Kellogg's are the two heavies in the cereal market, and are locked in an arms race to come up with the next big thing.  Thus, they wind up competing to make what is essentially the Pop Tart.  And things get out of control.

Seinfeld plays Bob Cabana, an exec at Kellogg's, Jim Gaffigan - the scion of the Kellogg's fortune and current President, and Amy Schumer the heir to the Post fortune.  A managed Melissa McCarthy is the mad scientist needed to make Kellogg's Next Big Thing.  But it's a world where Thurl Ravenscroft (Hugh Grant!) is moonlighting at Tony the Tiger but wishes to do legitimate theater when he isn't in the tiger suit.  Snap, Crackle and Pop want a better deal.  President Kennedy (Bill Burr!) gets involved when Kellogg's corners the sugar market.  

Honestly, you will not *believe* how many name actors are in this goofy movie about Pop Tarts.  And what they agreed to do.  I mean, I know Seinfeld is huge, but I think he also let them come play, and it pays off.  So it's a weird mix of "is that Hugh Grant playing Tony the Tiger?" to recognizing Sarah Cooper vaguely and then saying "ohhh yeaaahhhh...."  And two kids who are @#$%ing hilarious.

The movie is like 92% references, nods and gags that require some existing knowledge.  There's a ton of sight gags.  It helps, for example, to have seen The Right Stuff (they are not going to explain the joke to you).  Or it helps if you find Sea Monkeys and Chef Boyardee inherently funny - which was kind of where our sense of humor was at back in the day as folks Seinfeld's age made entertainment for Gen X.  And it's really the mixing of all this stuff together into one package that is where the movie will sink or swim for you.  

Review headlines and star ratings have told me:  this is not where we are in 2024.

There's one huge very topical, modern joke toward the film's end, and I won't spoil it.  There's sugar cartels, a milk mafia...  it is very silly.  The whole movie is wildly silly without ever getting into buffoonery, I guess.    But I think "Full Cereal Honors" should be a thing, yet I doubt enough people will watch the movie for it to take off.

Look, all comedy is very YMMV.  But in a world where I feel like comedies can't seem to help themselves and the trend is "funny/ sad" or relying on shock value to get a laugh, that kind of thing was never Seinfeld.  "Why do you care?  Why would you take this seriously?  Let's make fun of it." was always more his take, and he treats all topics from breakfast pastries to the human condition with the same "you know what's weird about THAT?" perspective.  

From the credits sequence, it does seem like a lot of the movie got left on the cutting room floor for whatever reason.  So, yeah, you kind of get to see some bonus stuff during the credits.  But the runtime is good.  I don't think this movie running 200 minutes was going to win anyone over.

So, it's also a 90 minute movie you can duck out of if it isn't working for you.  Jerry doesn't care.  He got his money.

By the way, unrelated to this movie, about two months ago I bought a box of Pop-Tarts for the first time in years.  Y'all, Pop-Tarts fucking rock.  I'm now a full-blown addict.

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