Unfrosted: Jerry Seinfeld Shines in Another Absurd Surrealist Comedy

Unfrosted: Jerry Seinfeld Shines in Another Absurd Surrealist Comedy

©Photo by John P. Johnson / Netflix – © 2024 Netflix, Inc.

Jerry Seinfeld has repeatedly proved to be one thing over the course of his decades-long career in Hollywood: a comedic innovator who pays manic tribute to his generation’s pop culture. Starting with his hit eponymous, semi-autobiographical 1990s sitcom, the Emmy-winning actor has soared in cultivating absurd surrealist content within the comedy space. His latest effort, the new comedy movie Unfrosted, is broadly based in reality, which is used as the jumping-off point for continuous high-camp situations, much like his groundbreaking NBC television series.

Unfrosted is an exaggerated parody that thrives on over-the-top tropes to chronicle the creation of Kellogg’s famous toaster pastry, Pop-Tarts, in the early 1960s. Seinfeld, who made his feature film directorial debut on the project, took great liberties to make the pastry’s product development more highly entertaining through extravagant, overwrought means.

Seinfeld, who also co-penned the script for Unfrosted, followed in the footsteps of other recent mass-market product and corporate biopics, including Flamin’ Hot, Tetris and Blackberry, as well. The actor worked well with his longtime scribing partner Spike Feresten, as with as their writing collaborators on the 2007 animated comedy, Bee Movie, Andy Rubin and Barry Marder, on developing Unfrosted. Their comedic setups heightened the ridiculousness of their latest film’s story.

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©Photo by John P. Johnson / Netflix – © 2024 Netflix, Inc.

Unfrosted is set in Battle Creek, Michigan in the early 1960s, as Kellogg’s and Post, America’s leading breakfast cereal companies, embark on a race to expand their product lines to include shelf stable pastries. Kellogg’s employee Bob Cabana (Seinfeld in his first leading role in a live-action feature film), who’s loosely based on William Post, is tasked by his boss Edsel Kellogg III (Jim Gaffigan) to create the new product.

Edsel is determine to create such a product after Bob witnesses a couple of children – Cathy and Butchie (Eleanor Sweeney and Bailey Sheetz) – diving into the dumpsters near Post’s building. The young duo reveals that they’ve discovered that Kellogg’s competitor have made advances on their versions of the pastries, whose remnants they’ve been throwing into the garbage and the kids have been tasting.

Bob is tasked in helping stop Post’s launch of their new product, which is led by the ruthless Marjorie Post (Amy Schumer) and her assistant Rick Ludwin (Max Greenfield), who she often ridicules. So Bob recruits his former colleague, Donna “Stan” Stankowski (Melissa McCarthy), who’s now working as a food scientist at NASA.

Unfrosted 3

©Photo by John P. Johnson / Netflix – © 2024 Netflix, Inc.

One of the duo’s first orders of business after reuniting is hiring a team of taste pilots, which includes historical and invented leaders, in an effort to gain publicity in the product race. Those figures include exercise guru Jack LaLanne (James Marsden); bicycle visionary Steve Schwinn (Jack McBrayer); ice-cream entrepreneur Tom Carvel (Adrian Martinez); Chef Boyardee (Bobby Moynihan); and X-ray specs inventor Harold von Braunhut (Thomas Lennon). However, the new team’s initial efforts are largely considered to be failures.

At the same time, Bob, Stan and Edsel must also contend with another source of stress: labor unrest among Kellogg’s disgruntled cereal mascot employees. Those mascots are led by Shakespearean actor Thurl Ravenscroft (Hugh Grant), who’s loosely based on the voice actor of the same name. Known as Tony the Tiger, he encourages such mascots as Rice Krispie’s Snap, Crackle and Pop (Kyle Mooney, Mikey Day and Drew Tarver) to rebel against Kellogg’s for holding them back from realizing their career potential.

Bob’s determination to lead Kellogg’s also leads him to draw the ire of his local milk syndicate, which is run by Friendly Farms. Headed by Harry Friendly (Peter Dinklage), the syndicate targets the Kellogg’s employee with the help of his neighborhood milkman, Mike Diamond (Christian Slater). The group feels that Kellogg’s pursuit of launching a toaster-pastry should be stopped, so that families across America will continue eating cereal with milk for breakfast.

Despite the numerous conflicts, sources of tension and missteps along the way, Bob, Stan and Edsel remain determined to achieving their goal – securing the lead over Post, their largest competitor, in the ’60s second most heated race: to be the most successful breakfast company in America.

Seinfeld and his co-scribes thrived in creating the absurd surrealism they infused the quirky nature of the movie’s ensemble characters, who were all fighting for their due respect in their business endeavors. Unfortunately, as a result, Unfrosted‘s overall story feels disjointed and underdeveloped at times.

With so many high-profile cameos infused into its short 93-minute runtime, the film feels more like a sketch comedy show that’s quickly stitching its skits together than a cohesive feature. With several Saturday Night Live alum appearing in supporting roles, including Bobby Moynihan, Mikey Day, Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett and Fred Armisen, Unfrosted quickly turned into a who’s who the late-night variety show.

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©Photo by John P. Johnson / Netflix – © 2024 Netflix, Inc.

With the movie’s focus on its plotline quickly fading along the way, its writers seemed to have given up fully expanding the story. As a result, the comedy’s most exciting element was its introduction of surprise celebrity cameos in quick succession.

Despite the sharp decrease in plot development, Seinfeld was still able to draw performances from his co-stars that are filled with genius comic timing. With several standout performances from the ensemble cast, including the always reliable McCarthy, goofy Greenfield and charming Marsden, the supporting actors to Seinfeld’s protagonist added a grounded nature to the film’s otherwise over-the-top nature.

While the look of Pop-Tarts were considered by some to be square and simple by some when they were first introduced in stores, Unfrosted‘s overall visual aesthetic was one of its higher quality elements. Cinematographer William Pope captured the vibrancy of production designer Clayton Hartley’s work, notably the posh offices and sleek labs in the Kellogg’s and Post offices. Costume designer Susan Matheson also added a vibrancy to the movie with outfits that reflect the characters’ personalities and ambitions, including elegant dresses for Marjorie and colorful, quirky pantsuits for Stan.

Despite its underdeveloped story and overpopulation of supporting characters and cameos, Unfrosted still humorously embraces Gen X mass-market products. Overall, the absurd surrealist comedy works for loosely chronicling the reality of Kellogg’s invention of its famous toaster pastry, while also being an exaggerated parody that thrives on over-the-top tropes. The film is the quintessential corporate biopic that can bring families together, much like Pop-Tarts.

Unfrosted is now streaming on Netflix.

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Here’s the trailer of the film.


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