August 18, 2016
Sausage Party (***) R
In a year full of more cinematic disappointments than you can shake a stick at, it comes as a real surprise to me that one of my most enjoyable movie going experiences of the summer comes as a result of an adult themed, animated cartoon called Sausage Party. In years gone by a film like this probably wouldn’t have registered as strongly as it did for me but considering the vast wasteland that cinema has become these days it’s not a surprise that a film featuring walking and talking grocery store items left with me with such a great feeling after exiting the theater.
The film is the brainchild of Seth Rogen. Rogen is an affable enough presence on screen and also in interviews promoting his projects but his last several films have really left me wondering if his creative well had run dry. I would say that with Sausage Party the answer is no. Sure the film is of the adult variety but, contrary to what’s been said about it in the press, it’s far from the non-stop raunch fest that you might believe it to be. The more over the top antics are reserved for the beginning and ending of the film and, be warned, they earn the film its distinction of being an animated adult comedy.
The premise of Sausage Party, as mentioned previously, revolves around the secret life of grocery items, taking us into their world as the assorted foods and such come to life after a typical grocery store closes its doors for the day.
There are various hot dogs, hot dog buns, taco shells, cans of beans, donuts and what have you, voiced by such actors as Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Salam Hayek, Edward Norton and many other well-known actors. It sounds like an infantile premise to be sure and one whose main purpose is to hang upon gross out gags. The biggest surprise, however, is how Rogen and company manage to sneak in existential debates about such things as the meaning of life, among other things, in the midst of a cartoon priding itself on its raunch factor.
Sausage Party contains many inspired moments and I will admit that not every joke is a winner. Still, one must give credit to a film attempting to get at some of the bigger universal truths while remaining true to its sophomoric humor roots. It works and is one of the better times I’ve had at the movies this summer.
Indignation (** ½) R
Poor Phillip Roth. His track record as a well-regarded giant of the literary world, from both a commercial and critical standpoint, may be virtually unassailable but when it comes to film adaptations of his works, well, that’s a whole other subject unto itself. Since the late 1960s, filmmakers have tried time and again to adapt Roth’s essential works for the big screen with mixed and sometimes even disastrous results. Several examples that are ripe for discussion would be the ill-fated film versions of such celebrated novels as The Human Stain, Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint. Need I say more?
So here we are in the year 2016 and before the calendar year is through we’ll have not one but two adaptations (American Pastoral is on the way later this year) to sink our teeth into with the current film, Indignation, being exhibit A. The question that begs to be answered is whether Indignation ends that long streak of failed Roth adaptations and, if pressed, I would have to say that the answer is no. Still, it’s one of the better attempts at bringing a Roth novel to the screen and is certainly worth a look even if it is a mixed bag.
The setting for the film is 1951, as the specter of the Korean War looms large in the background for all of the characters in the film. Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) is an academically gifted Jewish boy from a working class background who enrolls at a college in a small conservative town in Ohio in order to avoid the draft.
Sarah Gadon & Logan Lerman in Indignation
While there he chances to fall for one of his classmates, Olivia (Sarah Gadon), who has battled mental instability in the past. Marcus overlooks this potential problem and dives into a love affair with gusto while also butting heads with the dean of the college (the celebrated playwright Tracey Letts, in a very good turn). The debate between Marcus and the dean over organized religion is one of the highlights of the film.
Part of the problem with the current Roth adaptation is that Indignation has the look and feel of a TV movie. Written and directed by James Schamus, former writing partner of award-winning filmmaker Ang Lee, who makes his directing debut here, the film contains great stretches of dialogue. Unfortunately the film also lacks a certain sense of stylishness that would separate it from television fare found on a pay cable channel. If one doesn’t go to the movies expecting to see something with a certain sense of definable style then perhaps this is the Phillip Roth film for which you have been waiting. The rest of us will have to hold out for awhile, I suppose.
Sausage Party is playing in Hickory and all around this area. Indignation is playing at a/perture Cinema in Winston-Salem.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at email@example.com.