Unfrosted review — The (Fake) History of Pop Tarts

Directed by Jerry Seinfeld | Written by Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Andy Robin, and Barry Marder | 93 min | ▲▲▲△△ | Netflix

Jerry Seinfeld, the one-time king of television comedy about nothing, has directed a feature film about breakfast pastry. That’s not nothing, but it’s not much. It’s also the secret to this movie’s success, its stakes couldn’t be lower — it just becomes an exercise in silliness, which, if you can ride along with it makes for a pretty good time.

You’re going to have to put out of your mind some of the dumb shit Seinfeld has been saying lately. He’s always been a not-so-secret misanthrope, which adds some bite to his comedy, but generally pretty good at hiding his political leanings. However, his comments that “the extreme left and PC crap” has ruined that holy American profession of making people laugh reminds me of Grandpa Simpson’s Old Man Yelling At Cloud. Maybe stick to the breakfast cereal obsessions and less the observations of why comedy sucks now?

So, the movie: It’s kind of a satire of the product biography, a weird genre we’ve been seeing a lot of lately — for instance here, here, and here. By wildly fictionalizing the actual history, Unfrosted actually has the most in common with Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, which is entirely to its credit.

Seinfeld plays Bob Cabana, a big flake at Kellogg’s Cereal in the early 1960s, back when the Big Red K dominated the American cereal market from the town of Battle Creek, Michigan, with main competitors Post Cereal just across the street. His boss, Edsel Kellogg (Jim Gaffigan) couldn’t be happier with the way things are going, though Thurl Ravenscroft, the actor who plays Tony The Tiger (then a man in a mascot outfit, not a cartoon) isn’t feeling the love from management. (He’s played by Hugh Grant, providing another toffee-nosed grump to his growing collection of them.)

The key issue is the development of shelf-stable breakfast pastry — Marjorie Post (Amy Schumer) is already working on it, and if Post wins, it’ll revolutionize the industry and crush Kellogg’s. All of a sudden the movie’s a riff on The Right Stuff, with the space race in a toaster. Bob’s going to need help, so hires an old pal, Donna Stankowski (Melissa McCarthy, getting the lion’s share of great lines) who’s been feeding actual astronauts at NASA, back to Kellogg’s to work on the recipe, along with other prominent American icons and Taste Pilots (who know nothing about breakfast foods) like bicycle designer Steve Schwinn (Jack McBrayer), fitness guru Jack Lalanne (James Marsden), and, of course, Chef Boyardee (Bobby Moynihan).

What quickly becomes apparent is Seinfeld’s passion for 1960s American trash culture, and his willingness to get ridiculous with it. Not all the gags the movie lets fly stick, but the ratio is reasonably high.

Helping in his efforts to tell the tale is a murderers row of comedic talent, mostly from Saturday Night Live and other TV comedy, in small but key roles — including, but not limited to, Sasheer Zamata, Beck Bennett, Cedric The Entertainer, Patrick Warburton, Bill Burr, Mikey Day, Kyle Mooney, and as Big Milk — the dairy gangsters not thrilled about the cereal giant’s plan to move away from cereal — Christian Slater and Peter Dinklage.

I’ll not spoil the biggest cameo, which almost had me choking on its wholegrain goodness it’s so unexpectedly funny — it’s a scene that singularly justifies the watch.

So, while the rest of the movie is nowhere near a classic, and it goes bit stale through the middle, Unfrosted manages to be a bit of a guilty pleasure, a lot like the pastry it celebrates. Jerry might be losing the plot, but as a comedy director he’s got some snap, crackle, and pop.

About the author

flawintheiris

Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.

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