Leslie Mann on why Shorts works for kids

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Jul 4, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT

Robert Rodriguez has been promoting positive family messages since his Spy Kids movie series, in which he depicted a family as the most important mission of all. In his upcoming family fantasy Shorts, the Austin, Texas, filmmaker shows why adults should honor the purity of their children.

In the film, kids discover a magic rock that grants wishes, but adults get their hands on it and misuse the power. In addition to an ensemble of half-pint actors, the movie also co-stars such adults as William H. Macy, James Spader, Kat Dennings and Leslie Mann, who plays "Mom" Thompson.

"When it gets into the hands of adults, it all goes to s--t because they wish for money and the wrong things," Mann said in a group interview today in Santa Monica, Calif., where she was promoting the comedy Funny People. "I guess that's the message."

Mann's character wishes to be closer to her husband and becomes literally joined to him when she makes an errant wish. The special effects process wore on her co-star, Jon Cryer, who plays her husband. "He had a bad back and complained a lot the whole time we were strapped together," Mann said. "That's all I remember. He had a lot of back pain or something."

The film definitely focuses on the children, because Rodriguez did not even give Mann's character a first name. "I don't even have a name in the movie. I just am Mom Thompson. Just Mom, but it's good. "

After appearing in such R-rated comedies as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, Mann was happy to make one for her younger kid. Earlier, she made a movie for her older daughter. "It's a kids' movie for Iris," she said. "17 Again, the Zac Efron movie, was for Maude. This is for Iris. It's cute. It's a really cute movie."

Shorts opens Aug. 21.