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.

The Night Before

November 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie
Directed by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)
Written by: Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness”) and Kyle Hunter (debut) & Ariel Shaffir (debut) and Evan Goldberg (“Superbad”)

As Christmas rolls around every year, three buddies – Isaac (Seth Rogen) Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Chris (Anthony Mackie) – convene to hit up different traditional Christmas things around New York City, like the Rockefeller Center tree, FAO Schwartz, et cetera. It’s a tradition they started 15 years ago to cheer up Ethan after the tragic loss of his parents to a car accident, but as they’ve grown older and acquired careers and families of their own, they mutually agree to shut the celebration down after one last drug-fueled blowout culminating in a mythical Jay Gatsby-level party known as The Nutcracka Ball.

Look, it’s not as if “The Night Before” is without laughs, but they are all centered on Rogen’s character, tripping balls throughout the night on a box of drugs given to him by his wife (Jillian Bell) as one last hurrah before their daughter is born. Gordon-Levitt’s Ethan is saddled with the maudlin story of a lonely man-child and a half-cooked relationship backstory with former long-term girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan), and Anthony Mackie’s Chris – apparently a star NFL player! – spends the majority of the runtime doing things no person of his caliber of fame could or would do, like walking around NYC almost unnoticed and buying weed from a small-time drug dealer. Its Mackie’s story that draws into relief the biggest problem with the film: it just doesn’t go as far off the deep end into insanity as it should. Flashes of absurdity, like the ultimate resolution of Michael Shannon’s creepy pot merchant or the welcome, weird narration from Tracy Morgan, are nice touches that pepper a rushed, unfocused narrative.

Director Jonathan Levine, who expertly weaved comedy and drama together with Gordon-Levitt and Rogen in 2011’s excellent “50/50,” seems intent on turning in a mash-up of that film and “Pineapple Express,” and the result is about as messy and scattershot as you would expect from that description. Hilarious hallucinogenic freak outs are butted up against would-be poignant scenes of a young man dealing with his parents’ untimely death, only to be followed by another hilarious and inadvertent conversation about dick pics. But with the clashes of tone, a narrative that makes too little sense and has too few laughs to bail it out, “The Night Before” arrives under the tree as a big box of not enough of what anyone wants.