Unfrosted (2024)

Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, Fred Armisen and Melissa McCarthy star in “Unfrosted” on Netflix.

Tart ‘Unfrosted’ fails to generate enough pop

Far be it from me to accuse Jerry Seinfeld of being a cereal killer, but his “Unfrosted” abounds with so many bowls of soggy evidence, how can one think otherwise? If that sounds like a milk-letting, so be it. I gotta call ’em like I see ’em. And trust me, the carnage on display is tough to stomach.

Not only is it a spoon-fed attack on breakfast, it’s also a crime against comedy, abetted by an illustrious assemblage of “funny” people who don’t do themselves proud. Well, okay, Hugh Grant is one helluva Tony the Tiger, but the rest of the lot is far from sponge-worthy. As Seinfeld’s iconic TV incarnation would say, “That’s a shame.”

It’s also one more reason to curse COVID-19, for it was during the pandemic that Seinfeld and three of his buddies – Spike Feresten, Andy Robin and Barry Marder – had the bad sense to while away the many hours of home confinement by collaborating on writing “Unfrosted” via Zoom. That might explain why the result feels so structurally disconnected.

The film’s issues are many, but the most obvious – besides not being very funny – is that if you’re under 60, you’ll be baffled by the plethora of ancient pop-culture references dropped like Junior Mints in the OR. I get it, Seinfeld is a septuagenarian who came of age in the 1960s. So, it makes sense he cherishes his boyhood memories of Silly Putty, Walter Cronkite, Mercury astronauts, Saturday morning cartoons and the birth of Pop-Tarts. Yes, Pop-Tarts!

I agree. When I was a lad roughly the same age as Seinfeld, I savored them. There was nothing better than one of those rectangular monoliths of goodness fresh out of the toaster oozing flavored fillings encased in crispy brown pastry. But never once did I ponder how they came to fruition. Seinfeld and his pals did. And they somehow arrived at the erroneous conclusion that the chronology was worth a feature-length movie boasting a budget big enough to rival “Wonka” with its superb set designs (Clayton Hartley) and eye-catching technicolor costumes (Susan Matheson) appealingly captured by director of photography William Pope.

Except for a truly inspired third-act satire involving cereal mascots storming the Capitol, er, Kellogg’s headquarters, “Unfrosted” is much like the breakfast treat it celebrates: flat, full of holes and a bit flaky. In addition to the trips down memory lane, the Netflix offering also gets a kick out of referencing a half-dozen cinema classics, from “The Right Stuff” to “The Godfather.” Clever, but to borrow from another archetype, “Where’s the beef?”

Or, more specifically, where’s the consistency? The jokes are hit-and-miss, with the misses outnumbering the hits about 5 to 1. Credit the cast though for being all in on the zaniness. It’s a virtual who’s who of comedy stars hamming it up, many of them portraying real folks, most notably Jim Gaffigan as Kellogg’s CEO Edsel Kellogg III and Amy Schumer as Marjorie Merriweather Post, CEO of Kellogg’s crosstown rival, Post.

That town, of course, is Battle Creek, Michigan, a burg big enough for two breakfast giants. All the easier to keep tabs on each other through various forms of cereal espionage. And lest I forget the Costa Lactosa (my moniker, not theirs), a ruthless gang of white-clad milkmen run by Peter Dinklage’s Harry Friendly and his top lieutenant, Mike Diamond (Christian Slater).

We’re also subjected to unhumorous riffs on real-life 1960s TV icons: exercise guru Jack LaLanne (James Marsden); canned-pasta magnate Chef Boyardee (Bobby Moynihan); Tom Carvel (Adrian Martinez), he of the celebrated Cookie Puss ice cream cake; and Steve Schwinn (Jack McBrayer), inventor of the banana-seat bicycle. All of them are what the movie refers to as Kellogg’s “taste pilots,” a cheesy send-up of the original Mercury astronauts.

When we’re not being bombarded by the flurry of celebrity cameos, the onus is on Seinfeld and Melissa McCarthy as Kellogg’s chief innovators, Bob Cabana and Donna “Stan” Stankowski, as they race Post to plot a breakfast “revolution.” The pair have nice chemistry and are more than affable enough, but they struggle to wring humor from a combination of sight gags and terrible puns.

Grant, however, is a bona fide treasure as frustrated Shakespearean actor Thurl Ravenscroft, whose roles are so few that he’s forced to eke out a living from beneath an oppressively hot Tony the Tiger getup. He’s grrreat! He’s even better sporting Viking horns in a side-splitting send-up of the Jan. 6 “Shaman.” I’m still wiping away the tears of laughter.

His big scene is highly reminiscent of the days when “Seinfeld” lacerated actual news events like the O.J. trial. Why couldn’t the rest of the movie be that funny? Who knows? Like the Pop-Tart, “Unfrosted” reveals itself to be nothing but gelatinous toast.

Movie review


Rated: PG-13 for language and some suggestive content

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

Director: Jerry Seinfeld

Writers: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Andy Robin and Barry Marder

Runtime: 93 minutes

Where: On Netflix starting May 3

Grade: C

Leave a Reply