Tagged: Seth Rogen

Box Office Democracy: Sausage Party

It’s a shame there’s no outlet in our current media landscape for R-rated sketches written by high profile talent. There’s Funny or Die and its ilk, I suppose, but I can’t imagine the money there is anything like it is for a feature-length film. I’m pretty sure there’s a good eight-minute sketch to be made out of Sausage Party that would be, if not quite to my taste, generally enjoyable but instead it’s this endless rehash of the same five or six jokes that seems to drag on forever and ever but only takes 90 minutes.

Maybe I’m becoming too old and stodgy to enjoy comedy anymore, but I just don’t think the idea of a hot dog and a bun having sex is funny enough to be the anchor for an entire movie. This is the joke of this movie. Not the only joke, there’s a literal douche who is also a figurative douche and the whole thing with food being alive and not knowing it’s going to be eaten, but the hot dog bun sex thing is the big one— we start with it, we end with it, it comes up amazingly often, and it isn’t really that funny. They try to spice it up in the second act by adding a lesbian taco, and let me tell you, what this movie didn’t need was a greater variety of speculative food intimacy (but it’s clearly what the producers thought it needed as the whole film concludes with a massive food orgy).

Sausage Party is, when it isn’t a hastily constructed vehicle for bad jokes, a takedown of religion. The food thinks they’re going to heaven when they’re selected by humans (called “The Gods”) because they have been tricked by a consortium of non-perishable food items that have seen the cycle play out for some time and invented the story to make the food less afraid of their impending horrible deaths. I would say that it’s the screenplay embodiment of the arrogant attitude about other people’s personal beliefs you get from taking one college-level philosophy class, but Ricky Gervais made that movie seven years ago and it was The Invention of Lying so Sausage Party isn’t even original in being a smarmy ball of quasi-intellectual tripe.

It’s hard to get too bothered by bad representation in a movie that feels as insubstantial as Sausage Party. If a few Jewish writers want the only Jewish character in their movie to be a nebbishy Woody Allen stereotype, I don’t have any specific problem with that as a Jewish man. I’m a little less confident that the right choice was to make an equally stereotypical Arab character and have that character be voiced by David Krumholtz. Having those two characters end up screwing each other senseless in the aforementioned giant food orgy plays in to some ugly stereotypes vis a vis masculinity with regards to both communities, but I doubt this is something that went through the head of literally anyone involved so it’s more a sin of ignorance than malice. I’m slightly less willing to be charitable about the decision to have Bill Hader play both a Native American stereotype and a Mexican one in the same movie, but every moment I spend thinking about that is one less moment I get to spend never thinking about Sausage Party again.

It’s possible I’m simply too old for Sausage Party. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was one of the funniest movies I had ever seen when I was 15 years old and I was an evangelist for it among my friends. Perhaps Sausage Party is sending the same ripples through teenagers today and I’m out of touch or simply heard enough swear words in my life that reciting them as rapidly and randomly as possible doesn’t make my laugh the way it did when I was younger, but I don’t believe it. I firmly believe Sausage Party is a bad and lazy movie, but there were enough laughs in my theater to give me this slight moment of pause.

Box Office Democracy: “The Interview”

The Interview is a movie doomed to collapse under the weight of all the external nonsense forced upon it. It is not a movie worth being called an act of war. It is not a movie worthy of being the standard bearer for free speech against real or imagined tyranny. It’s not a movie worth the total public embarrassment of Sony Pictures. It’s just a stupid comedy. I don’t even mean “stupid” pejoratively here, it is in the same grand tradition of stupid comedies that has brought us movies like There’s Something About Mary and Caddyshack. Both movies I like a great deal, neither of them worth an international incident.

When it’s on, The Interview is quite funny. The bit with Eminem that I saw all over Facebook this weekend is my favorite so it’s a shame that that’s in the first ten minutes of the film. Otherwise the film hits on more joke attempts than it misses. Seth Rogen and James Franco have an undeniable comedic chemistry and it’s just fun to watch them bounce of each other. Randall Park is outstanding playing Kim Jong-Un, as is his Veep co-star Timothy Simons in a terribly small part. It’s also important to recognize Diana Bang who is fantastically funny as the leading lady in this film, a part that often doesn’t get a ton of space under the Apatow-Rogen film umbrella but Bang is electric and hopefully gets to do bigger and better things in comedy going forward.

The entire movie is dragged down to mediocre by a poor second act. After the first round of North Korean hijinks, the movie grinds to a halt as the characters slowly get in to their positions or the finale. This leads to a seemingly endless number of scenes of conversations that move the plot along at a glacial pace while not being particularly funny. It’s inexcusable. Add this to the frequent book-report-esque need to put in North Korea facts and statistics and there’s a lot of drag pulling down what might have been a better movie set in a fictional country.

I appreciate that Rogen, along with his directing partner Evan Goldberg, are continuing to be ambitious with their visuals. It would be very easy (and probably profoundly more profitable) for them to continue making Superbad knockoffs until they all died when their houses collapsed from carrying too much money, but much like This is the End there’s a lot going on here. Sure, they’re taking advantage of the fact that no one has any idea if North Korea looks like the outskirts of Vancouver but there are some real sets here and an honest-to-goodness war at the end. When you compare it to the costless dreck that you get from Adam Sandler or the Twilight movies and it’s just so nice to see people take a simple guaranteed paycheck and make a movie that’s actually interesting to look at on a screen. This sounds like an incredibly backhanded compliment but it’s becoming less and less common.

Dennis O’Neil: The Big Christmas Movie

So here we are again, doing our annual dance with me on one side of the time gap and you on the other. For me, Christmas, 2014, is yet to occur – heck, I haven’t even seen Christmas eve yet – and you’re reading this on Christmas morning, at the earliest. Maybe you’ve gotten the big feast and the accompanying burps out of the way and you’re in the family room with the relatives watching the game (there’s always a game) or sulking in your room because you didn’t get the loot you were hoping for and you did get something you won’t take out of the box… Cripes, you haven’t worn spats in years. Or maybe you’re alone in a motel room wondering what skewed the universe.

What you probably arent doing is sitting in a theater watching one of the holiday offerings titled The Interview, starring those laughmeisters James Franco and Seth Rogen. By now, you know the story: someone did a monstermother of a computer hack on the Sony cyber equipment, saw the film, threatened unspecified acts of terror if it gets shown, anywhere, anytime.

It all seems to make cinema’s new best friends, the superheroes, as obsolete as Santa’s sleigh. It’s likely that you’ve seen a superhero flick or two, if you watch movies at all, because there are a lot of them out there. And there are a lot more to come – 30 in various stages of production for release over the next five years.

They’re kind of quaint. A villain menaces the common good, the hero responds, has problems, and then does some major league supering and the malefactor is vanquished and tranquility is restored, at least until the sequel. That, or some iteration of that, is usually the plot. Not always: for example, The Dark Knight was an exception. But usually.

Visible menace. Understandable problem. And victory by application of superior force. Satisfying entertainment because it absorbs us without straining our mental resources and pushes some emotional buttons. And the super feats are fun to watch. Good way to hide from your personal woes for an afternoon. I’ve seen most of these movies and I’ll see more and I’ll probably be satisfied when I do.

But with each passing year, they have less and less relation to real life, even metaphorically.. Who knows what’s in Kim Jung Un’s mind? Whatever it is, he isn’t trumpeting it in the media. Who knows who’s even a member of ISIS? Who could have guessed that persons unknown would attack the U.S. economy through an amusement owned by a Japanese corporation? The lines are rapidly blurring and the modern brand of treachery can’t be overcome by punches. Or bombs.

I wish our noble politicians would learn that, or at least be aware that there might be something to learn.

Meanwhile, we have the superheroes and, by golly, they are entertaining and at the end of the day, that’s all they have to be.

I wish you light and warmth.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Since Denny submitted this column, Sony Pictures has changed their mind and allowed showings in some 200 theaters – possibly one near you. It’s also rentable and purchaseable through You Tube and other online streaming services. For the record, we will note that the major theater chains which refused to show The Interview continue to hold to that position.)