Unlike most anthology films, Stars in Shorts is composed of pre-existing short films that weren't originally intended to be viewed together. As a result, there's no consistent theme to the seven segments other than "starring famous people," hence the wink-wink title. Five of the seven directors have never made a feature film, with one of the regrettable exceptions being Neil LaBute, whose tired men-are-dogs-and-bitches-be-crazy worldview makes the dramas Sexting and After-School Special (which he wrote but did not direct) just as unpleasant as any of his full-length dramas. But at least they're short, less than 10 minutes each; the sci-fi Prodigal and musical comedy Not Your Time both clock in at 25 minutes, and neither earn their running time in spite of their higher budgets and/or cameos by Hollywood insiders. (Your enjoyment of Not Your Time might be proportional to your familiarity with Joe Roth and Stuart Cornfeld.) Sequencing is crucial to any anthology, and Stars in Shorts wisely opens with two of the strongest films, the comedy The Procession and the neo-kitchen-sink drama Steve, and it ends with the touching Friend Request Pending, in which Judi Dench out-acts all the stars of the previous six. And best of all, she's not speaking LaBute's words. Now we eagerly await the sequel, Stars in Spanx.
Dench is a standout among the Stars.
Runs Fri., Sept. 28-Thurs., Oct. 4 at Varsity. Not rated. 113 minutes.