‘Unfrosted’ movie review: Jerry Seinfeld’s satire on Pop-Tarts is all frosting and no crust

Melissa McCarthy as Donna Stankowski, Jerry Seinfeld as Bob Cabana and Jim Gaffigan as Edsel Kellogg III in ‘Unfrosted: The Pop-Tart Story’
| Photo Credit: Netflix

It’s as if the 70-year-old Jerry Seinfeld wanted to remind us of the long-foregone sub-genre of satirical children’s film in his directorial debut, but somewhere during the writing, decided to just have some silly fun. Netflix’s Unfrosted, a wacky satire on the not-so-movie-worthy creation of Pop-Tarts, is the goofiest and most unhinged film of the year. Initially, everything on the surface about Unfrosted seems like some early 2000s film that exaggerates details to just the level of silliness that would make it appealing for a 13-year-old. But that image quickly gets shattered when you notice how every second joke has a suggestive layer underneath.

Set in 1963 in a fictionalised cereal neighbourhood in Battle Creek, Michigan, Unfrosted takes place in an America where what goes into the tummies of its children is more important than even a nuclear threat; the POTUS himself declares “commie breakfast” as a priority above a Russian ship carrying nuclear missiles. Ideas fashioned around this setting get as wacky as one can imagine: the In Memoriam section of the Bowl And Spoons (the Oscars of the breakfast world) pays tributes to Wilt Chamberflakes and Grandma’s Holes. There’s also a funeral that has breakfast cereal mascots pour cornflakes and milk onto the coffin as a tribute, with Rice Krispies mascots Snap, Crackle and Pop playing bagpipes.

Senfield lends himself the width to play around with such ideas by writing the story as one that is narrated to a curious child. This makes one wonder what risqué version of history he hides beneath all that, if this is a version moderated for a child. I mean, this is a film that has a horny John F Kennedy set a naughty meet with the Doublemint Twins and one that even squints eyes at Sea-Monkeys founder Harold von Braunhut’s neo-Nazi past.

Unfrosted (English)

Director: Jerry Seinfeld

Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Melissa McCarthy, Jim Gaffigan, Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, and Amy Schumer

Runtime: 93 minutes

Storyline: It’s 1963 and Kellogg’s executive Bob Cabana has to invent a revolutionary breakfast pastry before their rival cereal maker Post launches their own

Even the plot at the centre is a heavily-fictionalised twist on the history of Pop-Tarts, on how Kellogg’s figures out a revolutionary pastry before their rival cereal maker Post launches their all-new heatable fruit pastry. Edsel Kellogg III (Jim Gaffigan) entrusts this mission to Cabana, NASA scientist Donna Stankowski (Melissa McCarthy), and their misfit think tank that includes Braunhut (Thomas Lennon), fitness coach Jack LaLanne (James Marsden), softie founder Tom Carvel (Adrian Martinez), bicycle-modelling enthusiast Steve Schwinn (Jack McBrayer), and Chef Boyardee (Bobby Moynihan), personification of the pasta brand itself. Meanwhile, Post, headed by ‘Madamme Cereal’ Marjorie Post (Amy Schumer), is forced to find counter-action measures when Cabana and Stankowski buy all the sugar supply from Puerto Rican sugar mogul El Sucre.

The absurdity of it all — there’s also a Sea-monkey-pasta creature and a Mascots strike fronted by Tony the Tiger (Hugh Grant) — keeps your eyes peeled open. But Seinfeld’s shtick works only until you realise that this is merely quantity deceiving to be quality. Around the half-time mark when Peter Dinklage appears as an unhappy milk syndicate leader, you wish these brief cameos with blah one-liners pause for a bit and we get something more solid in the Kellogg’s vs. Post front. Unfortunately, the rest of the film also feels like a good joke repeated over and over to become just about tolerable.

Jerry Seinfeld as Bob Cabana, Adrian Martinez as Tom Carvel, Jack McBrayer as Steve Schwinn, Thomas Lennon as Harold Von Braunhut, Bobby Moynihan as Chef Boyardee and James Marsden as Jack LaLanne in ‘Unfrosted’

Jerry Seinfeld as Bob Cabana, Adrian Martinez as Tom Carvel, Jack McBrayer as Steve Schwinn, Thomas Lennon as Harold Von Braunhut, Bobby Moynihan as Chef Boyardee and James Marsden as Jack LaLanne in ‘Unfrosted’
| Photo Credit:
John P. Johnson/Netflix

Seinfeld’s observational comedy limits itself to brief sketches for these quirky secondary characters. The few attempts at slapstick disappoint as well, and the film doesn’t even make up for its witless comedy writing with good storytelling. At least Cabana’s team could have had something funny to say than just their accidental contributions to Kellogg’s mission or their silly shenanigans.

Unfrosted boasts impeccable production value, pristine special effects, a whopping 20-plus cameos by stars, ample insinuations to controversies, many meme-worthy moments, and yet, nothing substantial on paper to make them whole. At one point, Cabana and Edsel make a meta-comment about how adding frosting to their Pop-Tarts is a bad idea. Quite an irony for a film that feels like a big bite of some sugary frosting.

Unfrosted is currently streaming on Netflix

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