Sausage Party

August 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: voices of Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Nick Kroll
Directed by: Greg Tiernan (debut) and Conrad Vernon (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Seth Rogen (“Neighbors 2”), Evan Goldberg (“This is the End”), Kyle Hunter (“The Night Before”) Ariel Shaffir (“The Night Before”)

Ever since the arrival of “Toy Story” two decades ago, computer animated films have routinely included jokes that were arguably just meant for the inevitable adults in the audience. Essentially this is to keep parents entertained while the kids enjoyed whatever Pixar or DreamWorks pumped out, occasionally catching a joke lobbed over the heads of the children in the audience—nothing outright offensive ever makes the cut, but something slightly naughty isn’t off the table.

Perhaps sensing an opening in the market, Sony and frequent collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg set out to fill the void (heh!) and have whipped out (giggle!) an animated movie that adults with a hankering for something filthy they could come to (chortle!) in “Sausage Party,” a movie you definitely shouldn’t take your kids to. Or do, what do I care?

As the inhabitants of a grocery store, various foodstuffs, led by a hot dog named Frank (Seth Rogen) and his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), await their being chosen by the gods (read: humans) to being taken to The Great Beyond (a.k.a. outside the store) to live in paradise. With July 4th rapidly approaching, now is the prime time for hot dogs and buns to make it to eternal salvation. Frank’s faith is rattled, however, when a bottle of honey mustard (Danny McBride) is returned to the store with tales of horror from The Great Beyond. It’s not paradise, it’s a hell where food gets eaten by the gods. Frank and Brenda, along with some Palestinian flat bread (David Krumholtz) and a Jewish bagel (Edward Norton), set out to enlighten the food in the supermarket that the afterlife isn’t like the tales they’ve been told.

While undeniably laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, “Sausage Party” is never quite as funny or quite as edgy as it thinks it is. Viewers could be excused for thinking the film would feature wall-to-wall food sex, thanks to the marketing, but that stuff is saved for after the climax (ha!). What we get instead is vulgar language coming from the mouths of anthropomorphic food and, most unexpectedly, a commentary on the societal dangers of both blind faith and militant atheism—which is a little jarring if you thought you were just coming to watch a movie where a hot dog fucks a bun, you know?

That aside, even at just around 90 minutes, “Sausage Party” starts to drag thanks to a limp (resigned chuckle!) second act that finally gives way to all out weirdness and brutality in a subplot featuring Michael Cera’s Barry, a deformed hot dog who finds out firsthand what happens in The Great Beyond. It’s during a sequence involving a burnout human, a ragtag bunch of junk foods, and the hallucinogenic power of bath salts that the film really turns into the naughty version of a Pixar film promised all along. This sensibility informs the rest of the movie, thankfully, turning the third act into a gleefully demented battle before petering out into some weird stoner shit. That a movie exists where animated grocery items curse, have sex, and engage in racial stereotyping (from a major studio!) is amazing, frankly. With a little more stamina leading up to the climax (heh—wait, used that one) “Sausage Party” could have been legendary.

Shrek Forever After

May 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz
Directed by: Mike Mitchell (“Sky High”)
Written by: Josh Klausner (“Date Night”) and Darren Lemke (“Lost”)

“Shrek Forever After” is being labeled as “The Final Chapter” of a 9-year-long fairytale franchise and well it should be. It’s a sequel that’s squeezing out what little magic is left in it’s ogre-sized tank. It might be superior to the slaphappy third installment in 2007, but there’s still not enough originality to make it a truly happily-ever-after.

In “Forever After,” DreamWorks Animation and screenwriters Josh Klausner (“Date Night”) and Darren Lemke (“Lost”) toss a little of Frank Capra’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” into the mix as a more mature Shrek returns to a Shrek-less version of Far Far Away.

With the everyday repetition of his family life (changing baby ogre diapers isn’t as adventurous as he thought it would be), Shrek doesn’t feel like the same nasty ogre that once instilled fear into everyone. Instead of running for the hills when Shrek is near, the villagers now look upon him as a celebrity.

In an attempt to revisit his glory days, Shrek signs a pact with the villainous Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who has held a grudge with the lovable ogre since he ruined him chance to take over the kingdom years ago. All Shrek wants is one more day where he can feel like the ogre he used to be. Rumple, however, has other ideas.

Transporting into an alternative universe where he was never born, the Shrek realizes that a lot has changed in Far Far Away. Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is now a strapping warrior leading an underground ogre resistance; Donkey (Eddie Murphy) pulls a carriage for some evil, whip-whapping witches; and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has packed on a few pounds and become a lazy house cat.

To break the spell and return to his regular life, Shrek must get Fiona to fall in love with him all over again and share in “True Love’s Kiss.” Isn’t breaking a spell with a kiss as listless as a storybook tale can go these days?

As in the last two “Shrek” movies, it’s Banderas’ Puss in Boots who steals most of the scenes. Even though there’s not much swordplay in this last film, the now pudgy feline with the Spanish accent is able to match the energy of the new characters, including an army of personable ogres (Craig Robinson and Jane Lynch give funny performances). Cameos by the Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon) are also enjoyable. One of the best parts of the movie is when Gingy gives his best impression of a gladiator chopping down fierce animal cookies in a coliseum.

Despite some character highlights, “Shrek Forever After” doesn’t reach the level of the first two installments. It may be the darkest of the series, but it’s light on charm and all around cleverness.

Monsters vs. Aliens

March 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie
Directed by: Rob Letterman (“Shark Tale”) and Conrad Vernon (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Maya Forbes (“The Rocker”), Wallace Wolodarsky (“The Rocker”), Rob Letterman (“Shark Tale”), Jonathan Aibel (“Kung Fu Panda”), Glenn Berger (“Kung Fu Panda”) 

As 3-D technology becomes more and more visually satisfying with each retina it deceives, screenwriters are still kicking up dust trying to keep up.

I’m not talking about gimmicky offerings like the “Hannah Montana” concert movie or “My Bloody Valentine in 3-D,” which were a waste of perfectly good pairs of custom shades. Instead, it’s the animated family film that has been getting majorly digitized over the last couple of years. The latest of the bunch, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” is reasonably elaborate but falls under the same rating system all 3-D films should be judged. Ask yourself this: If you take away the 3-D graphics, can the movie carry itself on its own?

While “MvA” doesn’t fail as terribly as other recent 3-D animations like “Chicken Little” or “Fly Me to the Moon,” there’s quite a bit lacking in original ideas and overall story to make it anywhere close to out of this world. Think of this as a less-interesting version of what Guillermo del Toro was probably dreaming of when he was in pre-K.

In “MvA,” human existence as we know it is threatened by a ruthless alien named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), who plans to take over the globe with countless clones. To defeat Gallaxhar, the U.S. government recruits a band of monsters they have imprisoned over the years and sends them out as Earth’s last hope. The group is led by Susan AKA Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon), the newest of the monster clan who is transformed from a mild-mannered bride-to-be to a woman the size of a skyscraper.

Coming along for the epic battle: Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), the Missing Link (Will Arnett), and last but definitely not least B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a one-eyed shapeless mass of blue goop who, along with the voice work of Stephen Colbert as the U.S. President, keep the laughs from dying out altogether.

Taking classic films like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” “The Blob,” “Frankenstein,” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” and churning them out for kids who thought Pixar’s “Monster’s Inc.” was scary, “MvA” is harmless fantasy sci-fi with a few attention-grabbing graphics wasted on some joyless (excluding B.O.B.) characters.