Unfrosted wastes a promising premise and cast on the dated comedy of Jerry Seinfeld

Unfrosted wastes a promising premise and cast on the dated comedy of Jerry Seinfeld
  • PublishedMay 6, 2024

Jerry Seinfeld has become the internet’s new anti-woke warrior during the press tour for his new movie Unfrosted: The Pop-Tart Story — a parody of the recent influx of random product bio-pics (looking at you, Hot Cheetos movie).

In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Seinfeld blamed the lack of quality television comedy on the “extreme left” and their “PC crap”. Ironic, considering that almost all of the comedy in Unfrosted comes in the form of softball, toothless jokes about cereal and the 60s.

Unfrosted purports to tell the origin story of the Pop-Tart, and the fierce moon-landing-race style competition between two cereal companies — Kellogg’s and Post.

That’s the first thing to note: If you’re not hip with the names and lore of many, many American brands then you either need to brush up on your Keebler Elves and Chef Boyardee or accept a good chunk of jokes are gonna rush right over your Aussie head.

Seinfeld not only wrote and directed Unfrosted, but he also stars in the film as Bob Cabana, a 1960s ideas man that works at the right hand of Edsel Kellogg III (Jim Gaffigan,) the hapless heir and boss to the Kellogg’s cereal empire.

Across the road — just within comically-big-binocular-peeping-distance — is Marjorie Post (Amy Schumer), the real-life Post Baroness that we have to thank for Mar-a-lago. She’s flanked by her assistant/punching bag Rick Ludwin (Max Greenfield, pulling in some excellent slapstick).

A smiling man in a tuxedo sits in front of a blond woman in a red dress.
Despite being higher on the call list, Amy Schumer adds much less to Unfrosted than Max Greenfield’s sycophant assistant.(Suppled: Netflix)

The Kellogg crew are comfortable in their place on top, until they get wind that their enemies are working on a pastry that will revolutionise the breakfast industry. And so the breakfast space race begins, literally: Bob’s first stop is to pick up former Kellogg’s revolutionary Donna Stankowski (Melissa McCarthy), who’s stuffing twinkies into tubes for NASA astronauts (cue obligatory joke about the moon landing being fake).

From here it’s a whirlwind run of loosely connected, lightning-fast scenes that are more concerned with high-profile cameos than creating a coherent story or any character substance.

One second our protagonists are introducing a team of “experts” to help them crack the Pop-Tart code — and in quick succession we meet James Marsden, Jack McBrayer, Thomas Lennon, Bobby Moynihan and Adrian Martinez as various reality-adjacent US industrial luminaries.

A man at podium smiles at the camera in front of five more men behind a long table.
Kelloggs’ crack team are a mere fraction of the characters that bloat Jerry Seinfeld’s directorial debut.(Supplide: Netflix)

Next we’re jetting off to Puerto Rico to meet with sugar baron El Sucre (Felix Solis) and his puppeteer Tony Hale (I think the character gets a name, but the cameo is so quick it’s hard to register).

Then we’re in Russia with Marj and Rick to convince mumble-mouthed Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev (Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris) and his assistant/translator (Maria Bakalova) to sell them Red sugar. He’ll do it, but only if Marj sleeps with him (yawn/eyeroll).

There are several B,C and D stories that float disconnectedly around the Pop-Tart race. The best of which is a surreal subplot involving Thomas Lennon’s maybe-Nazi sea monkey inventor and Bobby Moynihan’s cartoonishly Italian Chef Boyardee creating and eventually raising a sentient ravioli.

These short scenes and the few others like it — including some tough-talking, dumpster-diving children that deliver their dialogue infinitely better than Seinfeld — are so wonderfully absurd, it’s deflating that the rest of the film is happy doing a woeful Airplane! imitation.

Which brings us to this movie’s January 6th parody. It all starts with Bob blowing off Tony the Tiger actor Thurl Ravenscroft (Hugh Grant, playing the pompous-actor-stuck-in-a-demeaning-role bit that he did MUCH better in Paddington 2).

Ravenscroft eventually gets so fed up with the disrespect that he rallies all the other cereal mascots to march on the Kellogg’s headquarters.

A man in a tiger costume holds a bag of cereal on a stick.
Hugh Grant’s character would definitely be the type to crowdsource for his legal bills post-Kelloggs riot. (Supplied: Netflix)

Before you say, “Seems like a long stretch to connect that to Jan 6”, this riot just happens to occur on the day that an FDA official (Fred Armisen) is coming by to “certify” Pop-Tarts into production. Ravenscroft at one point literally says “We have to stop the certification!” while dressed in a Tony the Tiger version of the horned ‘Qanon Shamen’, who became one of the lasting images of the US insurrection.

We’re treated to a multi-minute scene where colourful mascots scale the Kellogg building in a similar way Trump supporters scurried up the walls of Capitol Hill (despite there being stairs round the corner).

Is this the edgy, un-PC comedy that Seinfeld says the extreme left is trying to keep down? Cause the Always Sunny gang did a smarter and funnier Jan 6 parody all the way back in 2021.

Not only is the Jan 6 stuff clumsily executed, it’s also wildly disconnected from a film where the worst case scenario is getting farted on by a cow.

Between the laundry list of celeb cameos (seriously, I haven’t even mentioned half of them) and the era-specific original soundtrack, it’s safe to say Netflix probably spent a big chunk of change on this movie.

One can only imagine what could have been achieved if Unfrosted were in the hands of any modern comedy makers — like The Lonely Island boys, who have had ample success delivering meta-textual, cameo-laden satire and surreal, silly, developed characters.

But alas, the guy that wasn’t even the funniest part of his own sitcom is in charge, which means we get multiple jokes about former US President Taft (who died in 1930) and a full five-minute Mad Men parody (which finished almost a decade ago).

Unfrosted, on paper, is such a fun and needed concept in an era where it seems every product needs an origin story (still talking about you, Hot Cheetos film, WHY were you at the Oscars??).

But after watching, I’m left to dream of the unique, fresh bowl of fruit-flavoured loops we could have chowed down on. In Seinfeld’s hands all we’re left with is an overstuffed bowl of stale cornflakes.


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