Director: Jerry Seinfeld Screenwriter: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Andy Robin, Barry Marder Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Melissa McCarthy, Jim Gaffigan, Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, Amy Schumer Distributor: Netflix Running Time: 93 min. MPAA: PG-13

Jerry Seinfeld once wrote a comedy book called “Is This Anything,” the title referring to the question that comedians ask when trying out new material. The key to Seinfeld’s comedy, however, comes in bits and pieces, with the cliche “What’s the deal with…” opener to jokes. I’ve heard his breakfast cereal bits and they’re fairly funny in small doses. However, with a heavier portion in Unfrosted, the gag fails to hold itself together for 90 minutes. Is this anything? No, but I doubt anybody in this all-star ensemble told the director otherwise.

On paper, a film like this could work if it had the guts to be satirical of the breakfast war between Kellogg’s and Post. It could have been a refreshing break from the corporate love-letter movies we got last year with films like Air and Flamin’ Hot. Sadly, Seinfeld’s fondness for the sugary morning treats has made this film play with an exaggerated camp that is more commercial than comedy. Seinfeld cavorts within this whimsical revision of history as Kellogg’s employee Bob Cabana, trying to come up with the next big innovation in breakfast amid the 1960s. His world is one where the cereal mascots are both real people (as with the feuding Snap, Crackle, and Pop) and actors (as with Hugh Grant playing the fur-suited Tony the Tiger). This leads to an onslaught of gags about cereals of the 20th century that will probably please the Baby Boomers more for the referencing than anything else, making the whole film feel like an extended Super Bowl commercial.

Innovation becomes the name of the game as Kellogg’s and Post scheme in their race toward the creation of the Pop Tart. And it’s a long one slathered with exaggeration and missteps, including an inexplicable Milk Mafia. Kellogg’s find themselves scurrying to match wits with Post, as the company’s conniving CEO, Marjorie Post (Amy Schumer), uses deceptive tactics and forms a forbidden romance with Kellogg’s oblivious CEO, Edsel Kellogg III (Jim Gaffigan). This leads to an array of simplistic gags about failed breakfast experiments, ranging from believable developments like jelly in a sardine tin to tiresome gimmicks like a Russian cereal called Vodlka-Os. Wow, Russians are eating a cereal called Volka-Os. The mind boggles over which sketch comedy show dumpster this dud of a joke was fished out of.

Further complicating the progress is Kellogg’s hiring an ensemble team of developers that even the script admits doesn’t make sense. It’s an excuse to cast more comedian friends to fulfill the nostalgic wishes of Bobby Moynihan playing Chef Boy Ardee, James Marsden playing Jack LaLanne, and Thomas Lennon as Harold von Braunhut (creator of the Sea Monkey Kits). It would be fine if the film found funny stuff to do with these personalities, but it barely scrapes the surface of what is to be parodied. There were four writers on this and all they could come up with to goof on Harold von Braunhut was to play up that he might have been a Nazi? This whole film wastes great talent getting all dressed up for the absurdity with no good jokes to accompany their campy setting. Even including Melissa McCarthy as a food scientist feels more or less like an excuse to balk at NASA without a hint of hilarity.

The film has an extra layer of disgust in how much it caters to Seinfeld’s fetishization of cereal and nostalgia. While his adoration for the old-fashioned breakfast treats will probably hit a chord with his aged audience, what’s the point when you get over all the citations and quirks? Why should we root for Bob’s quest for the almighty Pop Tart? His business was already successful and won numerous awards. The ultimate dream for Bob, the one thing he aspires to achieve by the end of the picture, is to own some sod on his property. That’s it. That’s the hero’s journey for this film. A rich guy gets to buy grass. In case you’re wondering, there is not a hint of satire within this framing. It’s just a rich executive offering passive commentary on the silliness of the 1960s and breakfast treats.

Unfrosted is a big, mushy pile of cold cereal that has congealed into a tiresome comedy. The film can best be summed up in the sequence where Jerry and his friends have a montage of eating Kellogg’s cereals in a decadent cafeteria. It reminded me of Seinfeld’s joke about the punchline of cooking shows; “Well, here’s the food I made. You can’t have any. Goodbye.” Jerry is a long way from those knowing days of comedy, where the love of breakfast pastries has drowned out any decent gags to be had with a stacked cast and cartoonish setting.

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