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  • Nate Adams

'Unfrosted' review: Jerry Senfield's Pop Tart origin story is stale

Courtesy of Netflix


Jerry Senfield’s directorial debut “Unfrosted'' follows a recent trend of taking brands-be it, Tetris, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Air Jordans, or BlackBerrys-and giving them the big-screen treatment. Now it’s the delicious and scrumptious Pop Tarts that are the subject of “Unfrosted,” a satirical riff on the pastry’s origin which plays like an extended Saturday Night Live sketch that runs out of gas within the first twenty minutes. Senfield’s fingerprints are all over the Netflix vehicle (who has used his street cred and enlisted an A-list ensemble to elevate the sour material), who, in addition to directing, has co-wrote, produced, and written this flavorless comedy. If only he’d considered using the viral Pop Tarts bowl mascot to enliven the proceedings.


“Unfrosted” loosely chronicles the 1963 “space race” among breakfast cereal titans Post and Kellogg who Michganders may remember held court in Battle Creek, or the “cereal capital of the world.” Senfield plays Bob Cabana, the Kellogg exec tasked with beating Post to market who, at the time, were concoating their own innovative breakfast pastry similar to what would become the Pop Tart. The battle between the two breakfast behemoths, at least in the movie, gets so intense that John F. Kennedy (Bill Burr) and Nikita Khruschev (Dean Norris) have to get involved. 


In trying to be “The Right Stuff” by way of “Naked Gun,” the film never quite works the way Seinfeld, and his army of three screenwriters, envision. “Unfrosted” has a bizarre, almost heightened sense of awareness and never folds the origin of the world’s most formidable breakfast snack into a cohesive, engaging tale. Instead, we’re treated to an entourage of recognizable faces, among them Amy Schumer playing sleezy CEO Majorie Post; Hugh Grant’s Thurl Ravenscroft, a classically trained actor who doubles as Tony The Tiger (oh how the mighty have fallen); Christian Slater’s Mike Diamond, a local milkmen who starts, but never finishes, an uprising against the cereal companies for creating a food that could threaten his job security. 


Others include, James Marsden playing Lack Lalanne, Melissa McCarthy’s Donna Stankowski, Bob’s second-in-command and NASA engineer who used her delicate skills to develop Pop Tarts; there’s Jim Gaffigan’s Edsel Kellogg III, and even Bobby Moynihan steps into the sandbox as Chef Boy Ardee, one of the “taste pilots,” because, why not? There are other cameos sprinkled throughout the movie (and one sentient, CGI Ravioli) that only exist to distract audiences from the toaster fire that’s happening behind them. 


It’s as though nobody understands, nor do they want to, the joke and at its best, “Unfrosted” channels elements of the Weird Al Yankovic inspired “Weird” that came out last year. Except that movie understood the tone and cadence of the comedic timing and delivery. Here, one of the ill-fated concepts Seinfeld conjures involves mascots Snap, Crackle, Pop, the Quaker Oats guy, and the Corn Flakes chicken, storming Kellogg headquarters like the January 6th riots (Tony the Tiger is given the appearance of the Qanon shaman).


There are several groan inducing tidbits adjacent to that one (most of them involving Schumer), but the reality is Seinfeld packs too much onto the screen in the hopes that something could stick. He’s got so much business happening that “Unfrosted” gets distracted with airless side-quests (the aforementioned inclusion of those “taste pilots” comes to mind) and eventually forgets the story it’s trying to convey. The first time director never reels in the chaotic, hyper-frenzied energy and unintentionally turns his movie into a horrible variety sketch show. Some jokes are amusing, including a nod to a popular television show that took place in the sixties, but for a story that, in the right hands, might have championed American innovation and documented the Pop Tarts origin in a humorous light, you can’t help but feel “Unfrosted” goes well beyond its expiration date.


Grade: D+


UNFROSTED streams on Netflix Friday, May 3rd.


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