Unfrosted Review

Jerry Seinfeld’s directorial debut is a retro comedy that looks like it was more fun to make than it is to watch.

Unfrosted review

PLOT: Michigan, 1963. Kellogg’s and Post, sworn cereal rivals, race to create a pastry that will change the face of breakfast. A tale of ambition, betrayal, sugar, and menacing milkmen, UNFROSTED stars Jerry Seinfeld in his directorial debut.

REVIEW: It took nine years after the series finale of Seinfeld for Jerry Seinfeld‘s big screen debut, Bee Movie. That surreal, animated adventure was a spot-on continuation of the stand-up comedian’s brand of observational humor told within the context of a strangely specific world. Unfrosted, which reunited Seinfeld with his team of writers from Bee Movie, is another glimpse into a surreal world that allows him to explore his distinct type of comedy with an all-star cast of talent playing real and fictional characters. Boasting glossy, retro visuals and capitalizing on Seinfeld’s well-known love of breakfast, Unfrosted looks like it was fun to make. I only wish it was as much fun to watch. A safe and strange comedy, Unfrosted made me chuckle a little bit but never rose to the level of comedy it aims to emulate.

Unfrosted is a flashback story about the invention of Kellogg’s breakfast pastry, the Pop-Tart, told by Bob Cabana (Jerry Seinfeld) to a young boy in a diner. In the story, Cabana is a bigwig working for Edsel Kellogg III (Jim Gaffigan) as the company has a stranglehold on the market ahead of rival Post. When Margorie Post (Amy Schumer) reveals she has a product that could destroy Kellogs, Bob Cabana enlists the help of his former coworker Donna “Stan” Stankowksi (Melissa McCarthy), who now works for NASA. Together, Cabana and Stankowski build a dream team of talent, including Chef Boyardee (Bobby Moynihan), Sea Monkeys creator Harold Von Braunhut (Thomas Lennon), bike designer Thomas Schwinn (Jack McBrayer), and fitness guru Jack LaLane (James Marsden). Echoing the Space Race between America and Russia, Unfrosted looks at the ups and downs in the battle of breakfast titans. This includes forays to Russia, run-ins with evil milkmen led by Mike Diamond (Christian Slater), and a bevy of mascots out for vengeance.

For all it sets out to be, Unfrosted should have been an epic comedy masterpiece along the lines of the work of Mel Brooks. With comedic actors like Max Greenfield, Bill Burr, Sarah Cooper, Fred Armisen, and Cedric the Entertainer working with acclaimed actors like Peter Dinklage, Hugh Grant, and Jon Hamm, this movie has one of the most star-studded casts in recent memory. The cameos alone make this worth watching, with a key scene towards the end almost good enough to make the whole movie worth checking out. But, there are so many characters stuffed into this movie that it begins to feel like a parade of everyone that Jerry Seinfeld was able to entice to visit the set and don a funny costume. It is clear that Seinfeld’s connections in Hollywood allowed for Unfrosted to become a celebrity playground, but it is one that was more fun to make than the finished movie is to watch.

Unfrosted review

While Seinfeld dipped into adult subject matter, Unfrosted is barely a PG-13 endeavor. With very mild profanity and a couple of double entendres, most of this film is fine for general audiences. A lot of the period-specific jokes will fly over the heads of younger viewers, but there is nothing inappropriate in the story. Maybe the safe and wholesomeness of Jerry Seinfeld’s approach to this story prevents it from being funnier. Seinfeld has never been the strongest actor, but he does a decent job as the main character here. Seinfeld allows his co-stars to do the heaviest lifting, with Melissa McCarthy a bit more subdued than usual. At the same time, Jim Gaffigan boasts an over-the-top persona as the fictional Kellogg’s CEO. The combination of historical figures with fictional ones makes for an odd combination, especially with the mascot characters all being played as real people rather than marketing creations. Hugh Grant, who has become one of the funniest actors working, is one of the movie’s bright spots.

As a director, Seinfeld does a competent job with the bright palette of the movie that feels reminiscent of Jay Roach’s work on the Austin Powers franchise. Seinfeld never tries to make the movie look realistic but nails the cartoon-like atmosphere of the story. The screenplay, written by Seinfeld and Bee Movie scribes Spike Feresten, Andy Robin, and Barry Marder, packs in puns and reverent jokes about the 1960s and political figures from that era. Surprisingly, the movie also has a substantial reference to the January 6th insurrection that I did not expect in a movie like this. Jerry Seinfeld has not been shy about politics but never as overtly as he addresses it here. It is not subtle; for some, it may come across in poor taste. I found it to be one of the funnier sections of the movie, and it made me want to see more timely and relevant jokes from Seinfeld instead.

For all the talent involved, including an original song from Meghan Trainor and Jimmy Fallon, Unfrosted is an overly safe and forgettable movie. The credit sequence boasts some bloopers, which adds to my theory of how much fun the cast and crew had making the movie. Netflix clearly shelled out a lot of their seemingly endless cash supply to afford Seinfeld’s dream cast. I do not see how any major studio would have paid to make this movie, which feels like a throwback to an era when projects like this were commonplace. Jerry Seinfeld will likely not make another feature film as Unfrosted was his passion project. Unfrosted ends up like actual Pop-Tarts as a novelty you can enjoy when you remember they exist but never something you will actively seek.

Unfrosted

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Source: JoBlo.com

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.