Unfrosted (2024)

Unfrosted Review


Initial release: May 3, 2024
Director: Jerry Seinfeld
Budget: $70 million
Distributed by: Netflix
Music by: Christophe Beck
Production companies: Columbus 81 Productions; Skyview Entertainment; Good One Productions

The first movie directed by Jerry Seinfeld (who also stars in it) is “Unfrosted” and serves as an agreeably flaked-out piece of surrealist vaudeville. In 1963, the movie is a comedy about the creation of Pop Tarts. It sounds like part of a new wave of mass-market product biopics films like “Flamin’ Hot” (about spicy Cheetos), “Blackberry” (on invention of smart phone), and what I call the Citizen Kane in this genre, “The Founder”, featuring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, who took over and franchised McDonald’s to change the world. They all belong to our time when consumer products have not only assumed independent lives; they have become part of us.

“Unfrosted,” however, is not like those other films. While it is grounded in fact, the entire film is simply a put-down, a wackazoid tall tale, a farce that uses breakfast wars as jumping off point for nostalgic high camp.

I never really understood Pop-Tarts when I was growing up in the late ’60s and ’70s. My family would buy them and once in awhile I would pop one into the toaster hoping for it to be delicious dessert. Such was power of advertising that I always thought it must have been my fault that I didn’t love Pop-Tarts. On the other hand, Twinkies were junky but delicious. And even dry cereal tasted pretty good if you were in the mood whether it was Rice Krispies with their delicate crunch or Sugar Frosted Flakes with its sweet-milk-bath ecstasy… But none could ever compare to how they tasted when toasted… in fact they tasted poor when left untoasted (although many people did eat them this way). Then there was something comforting about biting into one as hot fruit filling had tang of sweetness, but the rectangular pastry was still like cardboard pie crust. It is not horrible; however, it’s not as if taking a bite out of it exhilarated you. The Pop-Tart was prefab and kind of boring; it was a “product of the future” that somehow stayed in the past like astronaut food.

I am mentioning this because there is such derisiveness to “Unfrosted’s” origin story of the Pop-Tart that we cannot really tell what Jerry and his team of screenwriter-producers (Seinfeld himself, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, and Andy Robin) actually feel about the product itself. Is there something wrong with making fun of something that wasn’t very good in the first place? Maybe. But then why make such a misanthropic satire about it if Pop-Tarts do strike some chord of Proustian reverence in Jerry’s memory—his madeleine stuffed with fake-fruit chemicals?

I suspect the answer is that Seinfeld knows that Pop-Tart was a bit monotonous leftover-’50s mash-up, but he still has a basic attachment to it. On another plane of existence, Jerry could have enjoyed “Unfrosted,” just get into its groove and spend these 93 minutes light and nutty. At some level, Jerry must’ve been attracted by the quaint capitalist energy of the film’s essential (true) story, two American cereal companies, Kellogg’s and Post, were based out of Battle Creek, Michigan—a town with a population of some 50 thousand—and they were fighting like European fiefdoms in the last decade of 14th century.

However, this movie has been narrated from Kellogg’s point-of-view. Seinfeld plays Bob Cabana who is the head of development for his company (based loosely on William Post), while Jim Gaffigan takes on Edsel Kellogg III who serves as the latter’s company president and however he is just an empty suit blowhard since all his fortunes come from inheritance. Their competitors are another dynasty run by descendants (Marjorie Post played by Amy Schumer), losers through one generation after another. They are Pepsi to Kellogg’s Coke or Burger King to McDonald’s or Avis to Hertz. In Battle Creek, which presents the Cereal Bowl Awards—an Oscar-like event for boxed breakfast food—Kellogg wins every category that includes “Easiest to Open Wax Bag.” They are at their topmost levels. However, Post will soon launch something that will put them under major threats: a pastry product lifted from research conducted by their own competition.

If “Unfrosted” was really like “Blackberry,” there would be a real resonance within it. But Seinfeld makes it feel like an episodized series of stand-up comedy stunts. You know right away how insanely out of step the film is going to be when Bob finds two children climbing into Post dumpsters and eating the discarded cans of fruit filling. “It’s garbage!” says Bob. “Is it?” asks Cathy (Eleanor Sweeney). “Or is it some hot fruit lightning the Man doesn’t want you to have?” What ten-year-old girl in 1963 would say, ‘the Man’? But that’s how the film is funny. It’s a period piece like Mad meets a second-half-of-the-show Saturday Night Live sketch.

There are a few casually insane things that happen, such as: To create a pastry product that can beat Post’s, Kellogg’s puts Bob together with his old partner, Stan (Melissa McCarthy), who works at NASA, and they build an all-star team composed of inventors that resembles an ideal version of 60s advertising; Jack LaLanne as an exercise guru whose hyperactive mannerisms makes him seem almost too good for this world and make one think about a LaLanne biopic starring him; Steve Schwinn, a bicycle visionary played by Jack McBrayer; Tom Carvel (Adrian Martinez), ice cream entrepreneur; Chef Boyardee (Bobby Moynihan); Harold von Braunhut (Thomas Lennon) –a Wernher von Braun type mastermind who keeps making thinly veiled references to his Nazi past IBM UNIVAC computer spitting out punch-cards, which always read the room.

The movie frames itself as a thriller in its completely kitsch style, competitive with the race to the moon shot or the Manhattan Project over who could create the Pop-Tart. We find out that Bob would meet El Sucre, a South American sugar lord (played by Felix Solis), and that his fellow milkmen are actually Mob guys (led by Peter Dinklage) who will kidnap and kill since if successful, the Pop-Tart would put an end to their business providing America’s morning cereal with milk. The three of them go into a meeting at JFK’s office where he is played by Bill Burr as probably the grumpiest JFK ever depicted in any film. He agrees to deal with the milk union even as he gets set for a meeting with Doublemint Twins. They even made jokes about calling one cereal Jackie O’s (even though it was years before Jackie became Jackie O). Jon Hamm comes up as Don Draper from “Mad Men,” suggesting that the Kellogg’s pastry product be named Jelle Jolie; which is some name out of film noir dreams.

“Unfrosted” is filled with Atomic Age artifacts like Sea-Monkeys, Bazooka bubblegum, X-Ray specs, G.I. Joe, The Slinky, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Wax lips, and Silly Putty. However this does not just pertain to kids’ stuff only. Walter Cronkite (Kyle Dunnigan) is portrayed off camera as nothing short of an alcoholic madman. Hugh Grant leads Kellogg mascots on strike while voicing Tony the Tiger in his haughty British accent since they all failed a screen test.”

The acting is cartoon lite: casually broad sketch-comedy mugging, which is why Jerry fits right in because he’s great when he plays himself but not really much of an actor. Most of the jokes are LOL jokes rather than guffaw-worthy ones. But I must admit that I laughed a little bit at how insane the Pop-Tart name selection in this movie is.The genius name that Bob and his team have come up with is…the Trat-Pop. Silly Putty, being played with by Walter Cronkite, would just as easily fix the problem. “Unfrosted” can be taken to be a quintessential comedian’s movie in its own way. It does not actually believe in anything but rather has a very defiant attitude towards everything. However it goes well with peanuts.

Watch Unfrosted For Free On Gomovies.

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