“Unfrosted” review: A breakfast pastry origin story | WORLD
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MOVIE | Foul language in funny but faux Pop-Tarts comedy leaves a bad taste in the mouth

John P. Johnson/Netflix

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Rated PG-13

What’s sweet, comes in two-packs, and fills toasters? Pop-Tarts! Netflix’s Unfrosted is a fictional brand-origin story that spoofs an actual 1963 race between cereal makers Kellogg’s and Post to create a pastry that would become a morning-meal staple.

In Unfrosted, Kellogg’s food developer Bob Cabana (Jerry Seinfeld, who directed and co-wrote the film) stumbles upon two kids eating “goo” in a dumpster. Inspired to produce “some kind of jellyish structure thing, transportable, possibly heatable,” Bob enlists executive Edsel Kellogg III (Jim Gaffigan) and scientist Donna Stankowski (Melissa McCarthy) to help him revolutionize breakfast. Among their collaborators are a quaintly garbed Quaker Oats spokesman mocked for “mixing religion and cereal,” fitness guru and frequent flexer Jack Lalanne, and a Univac computer with a seeming attitude. Marjorie Post (Amy Schumer) supervises Post’s pastry prototype production. Amid the madness, the rivals seek audiences with John F. Kennedy, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, and sugar cartel kingpin El Sucre.

The film’s first half-hour contains a steady stream of hilarious one-liners and absurdities, but this mockumentary fails to deliver on its early promise. As the film goes on, the few expletives become many, and the humor veers away from clever nonsense toward warmed-over political jabs and cringey scenes. For example, in a recurring bit, TV news anchor Walter Cronkite talks suggestively about his personal life during commercial breaks. It was funny enough to hear the dignified journalist deadpan lines such as, “Now for major news from the breakfast world.”

Seinfeld looks characteristically self-conscious on screen, but Gaffigan, who turned in a solid performance as Smee in last year’s Peter Pan & Wendy, proves again that he’s a first-rate actor, not just a stand-up comic. His perfect deliveries and facial expressions make this movie. Unfrosted also has many cameos, the most notable of which is Hugh Grant playing Thurl Ravenscroft, the Shakespearean-trained Tony the Tiger mascot. When he and the other cereal mascots fear losing their jobs, Thurl leads them in a Jan. 6–like incursion at Kellogg’s headquarters. Some cameos add little to the film, but they’re not off-putting like the misuses of God’s name.

“These things are the greatest two rectangles since the Ten Commandments,” Bob chortles about Pop-Tarts. Well, if Seinfeld had heeded the third commandment on God’s pair of stone rectangles, more viewers might have made Unfrosted a staple of their film collection.

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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