Sunday, June 23, 2024

Unfrosted tells a lovable origin story of the Pop Tart wars

The unhealthy diets and tummy aches of the Civil War-era led a drive to culinary innovation, and by baking water and graham flour, Dr. James Caleb Jackson of New York was able to create the first breakfast cereal, Granula. 

From there, a Seventh Day Adventist in Battle Creek, Michigan named John Harvey Kellogg set about making “ready-to-eat cereals widely available at grocery stores.” Kellogg called his formula Granola. Creative, eh? By 1902 there were 40 cereal manufacturers in Battle Creek, including Grape-Nuts, Grape-Nut Flakes, Shredded Wheat, and Toasted Corn Flakes.

For more on cereal history, I highly recommend The Great American Cereal Book and also T.C. Boyle’s The Road to Wellville from 1993, which I somehow haven’t read yet.

The evolution of breakfast was on my mind when I watched Jerry Seinfeld’s new movie Untoasted - an Austin Powers-like, star-studded, rapid-fire, candy-colored comedy on Netflix. Jerry plays a Mad Man-like exec at Kellogg's in 1963 in, yes, Battle Creek who is doing battle indeed with Amy Schumer's Post to be the first to land on a pastry that will take kids' minds off always eating nothing but cereal for breakfast. Which company will get what we've come to know as Pop Tarts into the hands of the most kids?

The cast of characters is not only an endless stream of stars, but Jerry equips them with really funny material. Melissa McCarthy and Jim Gaffigan shine on the Kellogg's team, as does Hugh Grant as an extremely strange Shakespearean Tony the Tiger, Christian Slater as the head of the evil milkmen syndicate, Bill Burr as a sexually debauched President Kennedy, Mikey Day as the leader of the Snap Crackle and Pops, Kyle Dunnigan as Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson, and John Slattery and Jon Hamm as ad men.

The movie doesn't get great reviews and, while it is a lot of eye candy to handle, I really like it and think it's the kind of thing - because its bowl is so overflowing with jokes - that might actually be good to watch a few times.

4.5 out of 5 stars

BONUS: When I recorded Avalanche on Fubo, I didn't really know what I was going to get. I thought it might be a high-school movie along the lines of Porky's or Hot Dog: The Movie. But instead it's a melodramatic disaster flick from 1978. Bad as it is, I couldn't take my eyes off it because it's a Roger Corman production, which means just off-kilter and weird enough - and bad enough - to be good. Mia Farrow attends her ex-husband Rock Hudson's ski-resort opening. Robert Forster tries to warn them that the resort is in an environmentally unstable location. They get into a three-way relationship and the whole thing is a big mess. The movie, filmed in Colorado, cost a ton to create and bombed at the box office. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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