“Sausage Party”

I know people don’t like Seth Rogen as a comedian, but have you paid attention to his writing in “Pineapple Express,” “Superbad,” “This is the End,” and most recently, “Sausage Party?” The man is a genius.

“Sausage Party” is an R-rated 3D-animated comedy that focuses on food. Much like “Toy Story,” the inanimate objects come to life when humans aren’t around (food in this case).

Hot dog Frank (Seth Rogen) and his friends Carl (Jonah Hill) and Barry (Michael Cera) are excited to pair with a package of buns, which includes Brenda (Kristen Wiig). However, they realize that their so-called “Gods” want to cook and eat them, so they must find a way to warn the rest of the food in the grocery store.

“Sausage Party” opens with a brilliantly vulgar musical number, featuring foods singing about the gods choosing them to go to heaven. I realized “Sausage Party” was more of a satire than advertised at this point, and I was totally fine with that. The movie satirizes religion, politics, and relationships as told through the foods.

Sour kraut wants to exterminate the juice (sound familiar?), the hot dogs want to fuck, fuck, and fuck while the buns want to talk and cuddle, and a bagel (Edward Norton) and a lavash (David Krumboltz) have cultural differences. The satirical points are the highlights of “Sausage Party.”

We also see in great horror what cooking food looks like through their points of view. Potatoes are skinned and boiled, lettuce is ripped in half, cheese is shredded on top of a plate of chips before microwaved, and we even see a used condom traumatized from its use. These scenes are darkly funny, but surprisingly nightmarish to watch.

The cast of “Sausage Party” excels with their voice acting. Cera is perfect as a socially awkward hot dog who seizes the day, Norton does a great Woody Allen impression through his bagel and delivers some of the sharpest lines, and Nick Kroll steals every scene as an antagonistic douche.

We also get wonderful moments from a liquor bottle (Bill Hader), a sexy taco (Selma Hayek), and a bath salt-addicted human (James Franco). They’re great, but Wiig is the standout, thanks to her awkward line deliveries and random moments of singing.

“Sausage Party” drags in the middle since foul-mouthed food gets old after a while, but thankfully it picks up steam in the last 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes are too good to spoil, but it’s the craziest and foulest climax I’ve seen in any cartoon. But who said animated movies can’t be foul?

“Sausage Party” isn’t for everyone, but for Rogen fans, food lovers, and people who love a good R-rated comedy, you won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A-

 

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

Comedy sequels aren’t usually my jam since they try to recapture their predecessor’s magic, *coughs* “The Hangover Part II” *coughs*. But “Neighbors 2” doesn’t have that problem. In fact, it holds its own and improves upon the first “Neighbors.”

Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are now expecting their second child, buy a new house, and sell their home they’ve had since the first movie. They’re stressed when they realize that they’re not only under a 30-day inspection trial, but that a sorority moves next door, led by the charismatic freshman Shelby (Chloe Moretz). And if you saw “Neighbors,” you know where this is going.

“Neighbors 2” begins slightly rough with a sex gag strongly reminiscent of its predecessor’s opening scene, and a couple of tasteless vomit and poop gags. Once Shelby is introduced and we’re reunited with Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), “Neighbors 2” takes off.

Mac and Kelly have the same shtick as they did in “Neighbors,” being the young couple who thinks they’re cool and hip. Surprisingly, we spend a lot more time with Teddy, who’s trying to find value and self-worth. Sounds melodramatic, but the situations he’s in are too hilarious and charming to miss.

Shelby and her sorority sisters have a positive message in the movie regarding sorority politics, and their motive as a party-privileged sorority is believable. It also leads to jokes about what is and isn’t sexist without getting too mean or insensitive.

“Neighbors 2” repeats a lot of the same jokes from its predecessor; however, there are some they manage to carry on without getting repetitive. I was the only one laughing at a scene where Mac’s boss evacuates the office to avoid another airbag incident (see “Neighbors”).

Tone-wise, “Neighbors 2” doesn’t come off uncertain like the first one. I liked “Neighbors 1,” but it bugged me how it wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a dramatic comedy or a slapstick one. “Neighbors 2” is more confident and is what the first one wanted to be: a slapstick comedy with human elements.

Grade: B+

“The Night Before”

The Night Before
[Left to Right] Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and Seth Rogen karaoke Run DMC.
When you have Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie high off their asses each encountering a vision of Christmas past, present, and future, it’s an R-rated wonderful life!

“The Night Before” stars the three actors as lifelong friends – Ethan, Isaac, and Chris. The trio have a Christmas Eve tradition of debauchery to keep Ethan cheerful (he lost his parents on Christmas Eve), but that’s coming to an end due to Chris’s rising fame and Isaac’s growing family. What better way to go down with a bang than crash a Gatsby-style Christmas party?

I know the plot sounds formulaic,but there’s a breath of fresh air brought into this worn out formula, due to the cast. Gordon-Levitt is a lovable hot mess who only celebrates Christmas his way, Rogen goes from straight man to drugged-out lunatic and goes on the craziest vision quest, and Mackie is torn between his ego and friends.

The three of them each learn something after a series of misadventures involving drunken Santa Clauses, frequent encounters with an eccentric pot dealer (a wonderful Michael Shannon), and a hipster girl who aspires to be a real-life Grinch (Ilana Glazer).

These encounters also add some brief emotional depth as the Grinch self-righteously lectures Chris on his selfish behavior and Shannon’s Mr. Greene helps the friends grow up through his magical weed.

Director Jonathan Levine previously directed Gordon-Levitt and Rogen in the highly underrated “50/50” and he once again brings the best comedic talents from both actors whilst restraining them. His direction also adds a mildly surreal and artistic flare with golden lighting present throughout.

It’s very hard to find a decent holiday movie these days, let alone a decent R-rated one that doesn’t get caught up in a mean-spirited tone, but “The Night Before” manages to balance vulgar humor well with a heartfelt holiday message.

Grade: A-