© 2024 WUGA | University of Georgia
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What 'Pop Culture Happy Hour' thinks of Jerry Seinfeld's Pop-Tart movie 'Unfrosted'

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

There have been a variety of what you might call product biopics recently - movies about things like Air Jordans, the BlackBerry, the Beanie Baby and now Pop Tarts - well, kind of. The new Netflix movie, "Unfrosted," tells a fanciful, indeed completely made-up version of the breakfast food's origin story.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "UNFROSTED")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Week after week, bowl after bowl, Post and Kellogg's fought tooth and tongue to win. But a spoon was about to get bent when a hot, sweet rectangle popped on the scene.

KELLY: Yes. It stars Jerry Seinfeld, who also co-wrote and directed as an exec at Kellogg named Bob Cabana. He catches wind that Post is developing a shelf-stable, fruit-filled pastry and rushes to do the same. And while he successfully launches the Pop-Tart, the movie is less successful, according to NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts, Linda Holmes, Aisha Harris and Stephen Thompson. They got together to talk about why they thought it was so bad.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Whoo (ph) boy. You know the saying, like, this could have been an email?

AISHA HARRIS, BYLINE: Mmm hmm. Yes, yes.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Yeah.

THOMPSON: This really feels like a three- to five-minute bit - right? - where you have these same people kind of telling the funniest jokes in this movie. So the runtime of this film is a shade over 90 minutes. The closing credits, where the screen comes up to black, start at the 87-minute mark, and that's after a musical number. And, boy, you feel every one of those 87 minutes.

HOLMES: Yeah, agreed.

THOMPSON: It just feels like one gag stretched to a movie.

HARRIS: Yeah.

HOLMES: The one thing that I think it does well in some cases, which is very silly jokes - there are a handful of places in this film where I think the very silly jokes work really well. There's a funeral later in this film. I did think that was funny. I did think the little bits in that made me giggle. I mean, not made me giggle - made me think about giggling.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: Let's not overstate things here (laughter).

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "UNFROSTED")

HUGH GRANT: (As Thurl Ravenscroft) Steve was grrrr-eat (ph).

MELISSA MCCARTHY: (As Donna Stankowski) He'd like that.

JERRY SEINFELD: (As Bob Cabana) Yeah.

ANDY DALY: (As Isaiah Lamb) He lived his life like he built his bicycles - with little regard for safety. And when a man gives the last full serving suggestion of himself, only then is he truly deserving...

HOLMES: I did think that was funny. And I would think that that was a good skit if I saw it on, like, "Saturday Night Live." I'd be like, yeah, that's pretty funny. They make some good use of the cereal mascots.

Aisha, when I first told you that I had seen, like, the first 20 minutes of this movie, and it was not as unwatchable as I thought it was going to be - which is how I felt 20 minutes into it - I've clearly sensed that it was as unwatchable as you expected it to be. Tell me what you thought about "Unfosted."

HARRIS: (Laughter) I'd seen the horizon and seen that it plunged into the dark.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: I want to take you back, actually, to December 2023, Orlando, Fla., a giant football stadium. There's a person in a full-body Pop-Tart costume with a smiley face plastered on the front of it standing on top of a gigantic, quote-unquote, "toaster." It's not actually a toaster, but it looks like a toaster. It's huge.

They're holding a sign that reads, dreams really do come true, and then they are proceeded to be lowered into the toaster while Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" blasts over the speakers. An announcer yells, we'll always love you strawberry. We can't wait to eat you. And out of the toaster pops a giant, actual Pop-Tart that's, like, the shape of a giant sheet cake that the Kansas State football team proceeds to eat.

Now, this was at the Pop-Tarts Bowl. I'm not saying that this Pop-Tart sacrifice in Orlando, Fla., on a football stadium was more entertaining than "Unfrosted," but I'm not not saying that, either (laughter).

HOLMES: Oh, no, it - I would agree with that. Especially, like, on average because it was so short.

HARRIS: Oh, well, yes, it's like a two-, 2 1/2-minute video. And, my God, that thing brought me way more pure joy than this movie ever could - even in the moments where I was like, oh, it's kind of cool to see this random character actor who I've loved in lots of other things. I was wondering, who is this for? - because I feel as though anyone under the age of 35 probably, like, doesn't know half of the jokes that are being told in here because it's set in the '60s, and it's like, a lot of, ha-ha, the '60s - Vietnam.

HOLMES: Hippies.

THOMPSON: Oh.

HOLMES: Granola.

HARRIS: I know.

THOMPSON: Yeah, oh, boy.

HARRIS: But then I'm like, well, who over the age of 35 is going to, like, find any of this entertaining? It's just like, we've eaten cereal, but do we care this much about cereal? No.

THOMPSON: I wanted to touch on one of the things that bothered me about this film. We've talked about how many people in this film are not only good comic performers, but good actors. Jerry Seinfeld is many things, but he is not a good actor. And to have him sort of playing the, like, comedic lead in this film - oh, I just found him so stiff.

HOLMES: Yeah. I am prepared to say, despite the fact that I know how many people will disagree - but I do think, since "Seinfeld" ended, there's a lot of kind of talking about Jerry Seinfeld that's like, what a great scholar of comedy. And I feel like I'm constantly being asked to admire how much Jerry Seinfeld thinks about comedy. But in the end, the result, to me, is just not there other than the fact that he made one very successful sitcom and certainly had a style, like, in the '90s.

THOMPSON: But was an enormously influential stand-up comedian.

HARRIS: Yeah, yeah.

HOLMES: Sure, of course. But I think, since then, I don't know that there's much else in the tank.

HARRIS: He's also entered into that sort of untouchable multimillionaire phase. Like, his whole thing in the last, like, 10-ish years has been "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee." And it's like, there is nothing here that screams to me like this is of-the-moment comedy - this is, like, edgy in any way. And, look, it seems like everyone in this movie seemed to have a fun time, but I don't know if anyone who actually watches this is going to enjoy themselves half as much as they seem to be.

HOLMES: Yeah. Well, and, you know, I will say - I think that if this movie had 90 minutes of silly jokes as good to me as the funeral sequence or a couple of the other things, I wouldn't expect it to necessarily be timely. I wouldn't necessarily expect it to be satire.

HARRIS: Yeah. I do find it interesting - he gave an interview, I think, with the Associated Press, and he was asked if this was at all sort of influenced by all of these movies - these product movies - you know, your "Air"s, your "BlackBerry"s - and he said no. And he was like, well, I didn't realize it was part of a trend. And I'm like, I actually think that it would have been better had this movie been actually trying to take cues from these last...

THOMPSON: Right.

HOLMES: Hundred percent.

HARRIS: Because that's kind of what I thought it was going to be - kind of like, you know, "Not Another Teen Movie"...

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: ...Or "Scary Movie." It's like - that kind of thing. And instead, it's just - like, the jokes are just so untargeted.

THOMPSON: I sort of felt like this was going to buy back some of the time I've spent watching movies like "Flamin' Hot" and "Air."

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: Where, like, ha-ha, we have finally reached a critical mass with this kind of product biopic where we're going to, like, puncture the formulas to the point where maybe people make fewer of them.

HOLMES: In my opinion, this entire movie should have been the labor dispute with the mascots.

HARRIS: Agree.

HOLMES: One, it had some of the best jokes. Two, it has Hugh Grant as Thurl Ravenscroft...

THOMPSON: Yep.

HOLMES: ...Which I...

HARRIS: He was fun.

HOLMES: ...Do think is very funny 'cause...

HARRIS: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Thurl Ravenscroft is a real guy. And that is funny to me. And three, because mascots are inherently funny - and you can show, like...

THOMPSON: Right.

HOLMES: ...Mascots running around, mascots falling down, mascots taking their heads off.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: If they make "Unfrosted II, War Of The Mascots" (ph), I am probably going to sit down and watch that whole thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTOPHE BECK'S "THEME FROM THE NETFLIX FILM "UNFROSTED"")

KELLY: That was Linda Holmes, Aisha Harris and Stephen Thompson of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTOPHE BECK'S "THEME FROM THE NETFLIX FILM "UNFROSTED"") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.
Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)