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“Sausage Party:” offensive, filthy and hilarious

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Upon walking out of the theater, there was a strange feeling my mind had. It was almost like my eyes swelled up to the size of Beaker’s from The Muppets. There is no other movie I can think of that left me feeling amazed and shocked at the same time. In many ways, reviewing “Sausage Party” is hard because this is truly a movie that must be seen to be believed. It’s unapologetic, its stereotypical, its dirty to the max, its a cesspool of swears and innuendos, its insane but I enjoyed every minute of it.

The basic gist is that food in a grocery store comes to life every day with the hope of being picked. You see, each product believes that when they are chosen, they are taken to a heaven of their own to enjoy. Right off the bat, you can tell exactly what kind of movie this is. Much like with “South Park” or “The Simpsons Movie,” its a cartoony and dumb concept that holds a sharp and clever commentary. And even if this is an idea that has been done before in dumb (“Foodfight”) and smart places (“The Brave Little Toaster.”)

“Sausage Party” becomes more of a view on religion and beliefs without taking a brutal beating to it. Much like with Monty Python, the comedy on the subject matter is handled well by taking satirical jabs as opposed to stepping out and making mean ramblings. One such example is a Jewish bagel arguing with a Muslim lavash about how different they are. But not by what kind of product they appear as, they argue about different beliefs and the common misconceptions with their religious customs. As the lavash dreams how he wishes to be bathed by 100 bottles of virgin oil, the bagel disagrees with the “pure nature” he proclaims. A little predicable but the delivery makes it worth the laughs.

Seth Rogan plays the lead named Frank, a sausage who gets lost from his cart during a accident. While seeking to be back on the shelf, Frank starts to question not only his purpose, but also the value of why food exists. Even if we know what happens to food, the joke is funnier when we see his reaction to the terrible truth and wonder just how he will coupe with it. As always, Rogan is a lot of fun bring a manic energy while knowing when to be charming and likable.

Kristen Wigg is surprisingly funny voicing Frank’s girlfriend Brenda, a hot dog bun who wishes for…she’s a hot dog bun. What do you think is on her mind? Perhaps interesting is how Wigg’s character is used for a counterpoint as Brenda feels the humans (or “Gods” as they are referred to) are not ones to mess with still having faith in the food’s belief system. Even more startling is Wigg’s raunchy style of comedy is let loose to some welcome and hilarious lines. Coming of off “Ghostbusters,” I felt this movie suited her better to allow more breathing room for her shtick. Her character is more than a one note walking “hot dog in bun” joke. Brenda starts to question if the value of life should truly be questioned while also wondering if morale code should be worth sticking to.

Speaking of which, the best way to describe the movie and its comedy is very much if “The Brave Little Toaster” was directed by John Waters. Just when you think the opportunity to joke about sentient groceries are wearing thin, another joke lurks around the corner unexpectedly. There are moments in “Sausage Party” where on paper is sounds dumb, but then you see the clever side of it once it gets executed. This is notable in a scene when one of the sauasges (Micheal Cera) has an encounter with a druggie who goes on a “bad trip.” Every joke seeks a good opportunity into what kind of life this addict has along with the kind of things that would happen on a drug high. It hits bullseye without missing a single beat.

The only problems I have with “Sausage Party” are surprisingly minor. In this universe, people can’t see the food walk and talk unless are drugged up. This leads to a curious question of how the products look in the eyes of a human being in reality as opposed to the reality of food. This is evident in a gag when two baby carrots try to run and it shows a shot of them running. It then cuts to a shot of the lady seeing two carrots rolling off the counter showing “reality’s perspective.” There were points when I did question what would certain moments look like from reality’s point of view as food runs across floors or mingle with each other. There is one other nitpick and it’s aimed at the final joke in the movie. Instead of ending on a high note, it breaks the fourth wall in a way so bizarre that I questioned if it was ever needed. Even a friend of mine agreed that the scene preceding it would have just been fine to end on. After a climatic and jaw-dropping moment, they try to sneak in one more jab that could have been easily cut out seeing how little it effects the story.

But for what’s worth, “Sausage Party” is worth the recommendation. There are moments that I still can help but snicker over they appear in a movie like this. I enjoyed the jokes, the characters and theological stuff as well. Its that one summer surprise that packs tons of laughs and plenty of creative effort. Now as expected, children are not the target audience for this movie. In fact, I do question if parents will be that dumbfounded to take them to see it despite the marketing clearly saying its R-rated. For those curious fools who think a tyke will sit through it, I wouldn’t even attempt it. I predict that it will be a movie that will keep kids far away from the refrigerator as possible as adults laugh over the absurd nature this movie brings.

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Rental Corner: “Neighbors” dumb and basic

"Family vs. Frat" as Seth and Zac go head to head

“Family vs. Frat” as Seth and Zac go head to head

The premise of “Neighbors” may have been done before but it shows some promise. The idea of wacky neighbors moving in and turning the quiet life of John Belushi upside down at least brings opportunity for social commentary and ideas for jokes. Of course, I wish I was talking about that 1981 comedy and not the 2014 movie because even the new Seth Rogan and Zac Effron showed bigger opportunities for laughs but it seems stuck in its dumb environment and doesn’t do much clever. The 1981 John G. Avildsen uneven comedy at least had something building towards it with old vs. new, youth vs. senior and anti-socialism. The 2014 Neighbors is a far different movie with some similar cues even though it bears no connection to the Belushi comedy outside of similar themes and a slightly similar story. I’m not saying its clone or a remake. But when two different movies share the same name, it makes you wonder what is the better movie when both feel uneven.

Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne surprisingly work well as a couple that moved into a new neighborhood and have a sweet kid. Moving past their wild days, they try to settle down and focus on a quiet life raising their baby. The good thing so far is the chemistry between these two. They really sell you the idea they are a perfect couple considering the dialogue feels natural and they look cute together. Unfortunately, conflict comes in the form of a fraternity that moves next door and the two battle it off as the couple tries to tell them to keep the party down despite getting roped in to kick back and have a beer every time they try to convince them. Things go too far when they call the cops on the sorority unleashing a war between frat and family as the two try to find a way to get the college kids kicked out for good.

The concept itself shows promise but it goes way too easy for the stupid and dumb. This could have been a smart commentary about “coming of age” and at times it does get that vibe but a good bulk of the movie has Seth smoking a joint with college kids and pulling crazy stunts to get the Delta kids in trouble. The whole movie feels mostly filler as air bag traps are placed in Seth’s office space and in return damages the plumbing system creating a bigger advantage for the Delta group as well as a one-note genital joke that temporary saves their house. I guess the movie is trying to be a lay back and stupid comedy but it doesn’t feel much amounts to anything. Even half the time when Seth and Rose pull their pranks, I’m thinking half the time about what’s going on with the baby. There’s even one hilarious scene where the kid almost swallows a condom leading to a variety of jokes that are not mean spirited but at least work in the context of the movie. I kept wondering why not have more of that. You have an excuse to push the boundaries of comedy here. Instead, it takes a back seat to the ususal drug, poop and sex jokes.

On the plus, the performances are good. Again, Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne work good together. Zac Efron plays the leader of fraternity as he is determined to see their sorority made well known and I do find his character interesting but it feels too villainous. Off the bat, we side for the couple way too easily as his pranks go from harmless to borderline diabolical. In one scene, he twiddles the sorority bat like a cane as he examines the deeds of the past college members as his friend convinces him to move on and focus on reality. Something about this character almost feels like it could work for “A Clockwork Orange” parody like Zac is doing his take of Alex and all that matters is getting his name out there even when he is long gone and graduated. There’s something dark to this character that never made me sympathize him that much and that’s the problem. The couple are easy to feel bad for because they have an excuse; they have a baby!

Later in the year, Seth Rogan and James Franco made “The Interview” which in comparison I feel is the better movie because the satire was clear and its attack on media portrayal left no stone un-turned. “Neighbors” tries to be something akin to “Animal House” where its going for that college humor but there is a big difference. “Animal House” had characters you could relate to and in a way see in a normal fraternity. They were over-glorified but simple people that were underdogs but never gave up. I feel like they attempted the same thing here but it doesn’t come together for me. Most of the comedy is just the straight-up R-rated material you’ve seen before so its not breaking much ground and its source of satire is all over the place. Its is trying to say something about the youth today or getting a life vs. having one that is carefree. Aside from a few solid laughs and good performances, I only recommend this as a rental.

“The Interview” is politically funny yet is it that dangerous?

James Franco and Seth Rogan in one of the most highly talked about movies of the holiday season since Heaven's Gate

James Franco and Seth Rogan in one of the most highly talked about movies of the holiday season since Heaven’s Gate

Never has there been a film that has gotten so much talk then “The Interview.” The only movie I can think of that ever got so much buzz was Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate” in 1980. But while that movie get publicity over its disastrous screenings and production woes, “The Interview” is getting this for different reasons. Its a comedy that is attacking political material and string up a lot of trouble with its source of parody that being North Korea and its current dictator. There’s so much back-story that lead to the cancellation of its theatrical release on Christmas Day, that it could be turned into a novel. The short story is that Sony Pictures got pressure from many different fields. North Korea’s government being upset of the depiction of its ruler, a group of Internet hackers that cracked into Sony’s secret e-mails while leaking them upon the public in protest to stop showing the movie and even theater chains not booking “Interview” in fear of possible attacks. Well, now that is getting a limited run in theaters and recently released onto the Internet via streaming sites for all to see, just exactly how “controversial” is this film? Is the parody material really that shocking to the point it is an “act of war”? Personally, I think it depends on cinematic taste.

James Franco stars as a celebrity journalist named David Skylark that delivers interviews on famous celebrities ranging from gossip to all-out reveals. His right-hand partner and producer¬†Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogan) feels they should do more real news considering how low he thinks of his position delivering news about Rob Low being bald compared to harder stories like America at war. As luck may have it, Aaron manages to get an interview with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un, who also happens to be a fan of David’s show, in hopes of escalating their popularity from gossip to something more gripping. This also catches the attention of the CIA who try to convince them to assassinate the leader and you can see where some of the controversy lies.

Its not till we get to North Korea that David has second thoughts about killing Kim Jong-un after spending much time with him as its revealed Kim is more of a party animal that wants to be loved than one to rule with an iron fist. Its weird because the actor they chose to portray this version of Kim Jong-un almost resembles him. What makes it work is that we know its not the real thing and accept it as a mirror parody. If they got an actor that looked like him right down to face and stature, then the comedy would be lost. I understand why some would be upset by this portrayal as it paints a fearless leader into a big kid but I don’t think its focused too much to the point its trying to put him in a negative light.

Randall Park as Kim Jong-un who is played as a kid and less of a fearless leader. The main source of controversy from this performance and how its handled is what set off the anger.

Randall Park as Kim Jong-un who is played as a kid and less of a fearless leader. The main source of controversy from this performance and how its handled is what set off the anger.

I really think the movie is more of an attack on modern day media and how fake celebrities are. This is something Family Guy or South Park would do and its better fitting there as it lasts 30 minutes. Because this is a movie, there’s so much room for satire that we as viewers expect it as a driving force for the story. The first half sets up so well how much news is delivered when it comes to something serious compared to that of entertainment value that I feel its the bigger heart of the picture. So when David sits down with Kim Jong-un for the eventful interview, we ask if all of this is real news or just there for entertainment? I think that is far more clever than poking fun at a tyrant or our own government.

Of course, they do have Kim Jong-un do things like play basketball with Skylark or ride around in a tank to Katy Perry’s “Fireworks.” I’m more surprised to see that is not really the center here. They could have easily done something like The Great Dictator and have Kim Jong-un be this cartoony bad guy. Even at times, you don’t know if you should sympathize or see him for the fraud that he is depicted in the movie. Again, they could have easily done this 1980s stylized depiction where he’s cold and heartless but they at least give some breathing room to avoid that trap.

With that said and done, how else does the rest of the movie fair up? Well, as said before tastes will vary as this is a Seth Rogan/James Franco vehicle. So if your unfamiliar with “The Pineapple Express” or didn’t like that classic stoner comedy, there’s a good chance you might not like this one either. The jokes are the usual sex innuendos and stunts that one would expect from an R rated comedy that is trying to push the boundaries wither it be Rogan shoving a canister in his rectum to avoid troops or erection talks. Its the standard stuff one is to expect from a raunchy comedy like this so it didn’t surprise much. I can’t say I didn’t laugh as I did find most of it amusing but what what you see is very much what you are to expect.

Also, I think the first two-thirds are more stand-out than the final act. Not to nitpick too much, but the tone shifts to this overly-stylized, action set piece that feels straight out of a Rambo movie. Not to give too much away, but it really pushes the violence to the point its funny in how over the top it gets or gruesome in how bloody it gets. I won’t say its too much seeing how comedic it is portrayed but again, some viewers might be squint at the sight of fingers getting bitten off or soldiers getting shot in the head. ¬†There’s one death I especially found so over the top to the point I couldn’t stop laughing. I don’t think its that gory but again, tastes vary.

So, is “The Interview” really that bad of a movie to go at war over? Personally, I don’t think so. I actually watched this with my mother who also felt that it was pointless to be upset over a dumb comedy (which she surprisingly enjoyed). Even I myself feel its not mocking a leader but more mocking a media’s portrayal. I do give credit for its fierce take without making up a fake country and leader but it makes you wonder what would it have been like if they went that route. Would it have been too safe or is it better to take that risk? I didn’t make the movie but I can say this one is worth checking out just for those reasons I said before. I like the direction of the satire and even if the Seth Rogan/James Franco banter goes on a bit too long , it can be really funny when it is. While I don’t think its a “must-see” picture, I do think it is worth seeing just to understand where the controversy is coming from and again just how the satire is handled. See it for what it is and judge for yourself.