Producers: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten and Beau Bauman  Director: Jerry Seinfeld   Screenplay: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Andy Robin and Barry Marder   Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Melissa McCarthy, Jim Gaffigan, Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, Amy Schumer, Peter Dinklage, Christian Slater, Bill Burr, Dan Levy, James Marsden, Jack McBrayer, Thomas Lennon, Bobby Moynihan, Adrian Martinez, Sarah Cooper, Mikey Day, Kyle Mooney, Drew Tarver, Tony Hale, Felix Solis, Maria Bakalova, Dean Norris, Kyle Dunnigan, Sebastian Maniscalco, Beck Bennett, Cedric the Entertainer, Fred Armisen, John Slattery, Jon Hamm, Aparna Nancherla, Andy Daly, Sarah Burns, Eleanor Sweeney, Bailey Sheetz, Rachael Harris and Isaac Bae   Distributor: Netflix

Grade: F

Question: What do you call a ninety-minute comedy that consists of nothing but a succession of groaners?  Answer: “Unfrosted.”

The Jerry Seinfeld opus—he directed, co-wrote and stars in it—is the latest in the recent series of movies about the invention of some product, like Air Jordans or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.  Theoretically it deals with the 1963 introduction of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, though its flirtations with history are few and fleeting.  But it does share some qualities with the subject: it’s flat, flavorless and nutrition-free (in this case, comedically), replete with lazy period references that might pique some viewers’ nostalgia buttons.

Seinfeld plays Bob Cabana, a Kellogg’s executive who, in a bookending device, tells the story to a runaway kid (Isaac Bae) at a diner.  In 1963, his company and its great Battle Creek, Michigan cereal rival Post were competing to invent a new kind of toaster-ready breakfast product that would contain a gooey fruit filling in a pastry shell and have a long shelf life.  On learning that Post, owned by Marjorie Post (Amy Schumer) was ahead in the race—as a result of spying on Kellogg’s—he prodded his boss Edsel (Jim Gaffigan) into going into emergency mode.

That means assembling a team of supposedly savvy innovators.  They include Cabana’s former partner at the firm, Donna Stankowski (Melissa McCarthy), who moved on to NASA; ice cream mogul Tom Carvel (Adrian Martinez); Chef Boy Ardee (Bobby Moynihan); premier huckster Harold von Braunhut (Thomas Lennon); bike impresario Steve Schwinn (Jack McBrayer); physical fitness icon Jack LaLanne (James Marsden); and IBM’s UNIVAC computer.  Among other things their work results in an animated ravioli and a toaster explosion that carries off one of them, leading to a purportedly funny but jaw-droppingly awful funeral service presided over by the Quaker Oats Man (Andy Daly) with the help of Rice Krispies spokes-figures Snap (Kyle Mooney), Crackle (Mikey Day) and Pop (Drew Tarver) and other cereal mascots, most notably Tony the Tiger (Hugh Grant).

Grant’s playing Thurl Ravenscroft, the actor/voiceover artist, here presented as a preening Shakespearean wannabe; incensed over being unappreciated, he leads the various mascots in a strike against Kellogg’s that ultimately results in an assault on the company headquarters that comes across as a tinny joke about the January 6 insurrection.  It’s not just tasteless but badly staged, and even Grant, revisiting the egotistical thespian persona he did so well in “Paddington 2,” can make the subplot work.

But there’s more spurious hilarity here, in the form of a thuggish milk union headed by Harry Friendly (Peter Dinklage, at the menacing worst) that employs a sinister milkman (Christian Slater, relying on his trademark creepy smile), and a sugar cartel overseen by a chieftain nicknamed El Sucre (Felix Solis) in a parody of drug dealing that yields nary a chuckle.  Both bits are also as tasteless as the mascot riot, are is the introduction of John Kennedy (Bill Burr) and Nikita Khrushchev (Dean Norris) as politicians dragged into the Kellogg’s-Post battle.  The scenes involving both end with a sniggering sexual element that’s—just guessed it—tasteless in the extreme.  There are also excruciating inserts portraying Walter Cronkite (Kyle Dunnigan, who does a much better Johnny Carson) as a bumbling, oversexed dimwit.

It’s hard to imagine anybody thinking this sub-Borscht Belt material to be worthy of their time (watching the last-act dithering over the product’s name, you might be reminded of Pauline Kael’s remark after watching the original version of “Heaven’s Gate”—she said that she had no trouble determining what to cut, but when she tried to think of what to keep, her mind went blank).  Yet somehow Seinfeld managed to attract not only all those mentioned above—but others, like Cedric the Entertainer (as an awards show MC), and Jon Hamm and Richard Slattery (as PR guys) and Fred Armisen, to show up for cameos.  (Larry David is conspicuous by his absence; perhaps his Spidey sense was tingling.)  There are a few participants who survive the catastrophe—Eleanor Sweeney and Bailey Sheetz, as a couple of dumpster-diving kids, and Sarah Burns who, as Mrs. Schwinn, projects the incredulity at the funeral shenanigans that we, as viewers, also must feel.  The rest, including Max Greenfield as Marjorie’s put-upon lackey, engage in the sort of desperate mugging that indicates they knew the task was hopeless.  Meanwhile Seinfeld struts through the movie with his usual air of benign befuddlement, seemingly unaware of what he’s wrought.

“Unfrosted” has the phony technical gloss of a TV sitcom, thanks to Clayton Hartley’s garish production design and Susan Matheson’s equally bright costumes, the glare captured in William Pope’s cinematography.  Christophe Peck’s predictably perky score grates, while Evan Henke’s lazy editing mirrors Seinfeld’s poorly-paced direction.

What’s lacking in the technical department is what the material sorely needs: an old-fashioned laugh-track.  Not that it would have helped, but at least it would have indicated that the movie was supposed to be funny.