Grown Ups 2

Sausage Party

Do you smoke weed? Seth Rogen clearly does. How else could he concoct a story like Sausage Party? I’ll bet he was toking up one day, and after one especially gnarly bong rip, he got the munchies. As he stared down at his bag of chips, perhaps he thought – what if they were alive? Thus Sausage Party was born. And in case the R rating didn’t clue you in, let me caution any parents out there: this animated flick is NOT for children.

Shopwell’s Grocery Store is filled to the brim with food items, from hot dog buns to lemonade. Well, imagine that all of these items are alive. Sausage Party gives distinct personalities to common food items, with the grocery store serving as its own little world. Each food item, from the snacks to the meat, desires to be chosen by a human shopper, taken to what is known as “the great beyond” – the world outside of the store. Some esteemed actors lent their voices to the project, from Edward Norton (Birdman) to Salma Hayek (Grown Ups 2), but the movie stars Seth Rogen (The Night Before) and Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters), as Frank the hot dog and his sweetie pie Brenda the bun. Frank and Brenda long to travel to The Great Beyond and are overjoyed when they are finally tossed in a shopping cart just before red, white, and blue day (Independence Day).

Frank’s joy is short-lived when he finally discovers the truth about The Great Beyond. Honey Mustard (Danny McBride, Rock the Kasbah) made it there, only to be returned to the grocery store, where he warns his food brethren. He tells them that The Great Beyond is hell, and they will all be murdered. Of course this is true, as we boil, burn, fry, steam, cut, and (at the very least) chew our food! The whole plot was silly, but I got a kick out of it. Frank is the only one persuaded by Honey Mustard’s tales of horror, and he is determined to get the proof he needs to convince the others. He sets out on a quest to find Firewater (Bill Hader, Trainwreck), a wise old bottle of liquor who can verify Honey Mustard’s claims. Frank must traverse the grocery store while steering clear of Douche (Nick Kroll, The League), the supermarket bully who blames Frank for not making it to The Great Beyond.

Sausage Party was a fun movie, and what you see is what you get. I was surprised at the modest but sizeable matinée crowd in my theater. I judged everyone as either a stoner or a person with an immature sense of humor – but we all had a good time, that’s for sure. The dialogue was funny and raunchy, and I think Rogen delivered. The last five minutes will make you blush, so if I haven’t stressed this enough: don’t take your kids! This movie is meant for a specific audience, and I think you know who you are. So spark up and enjoy! Grade: B.


As summer draws to a close, we move away from the popcorn fare that has flooded theaters for the past three months.  I enjoy such movies, but I welcome those that have a little more “meat on the bone.”  Boasting an acclaimed cast and frighteningly realistic plot, Prisoners was such a movie.  Hugh Jackman proves his versatility as a leading man, whether it’s showcasing his vocal ability (Les Miserables) or pushing his body to its physical limits (The Wolverine).  In Prisoners, he gives an emotionally wrought performance as a father amid a devastating tragedy.

The movie begins in a small Pennsylvania community on Thanksgiving.  Keller Dover (Jackman) and his wife Grace (Mario Bello, Grown Ups 2) are joining good friends Franklin (Terrence Howard, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis, Won’t Back Down) for dinner, along with each couples’ two children.  Anna and Joy are 6 and 7, while Ralph and Eliza are in high school.  Thanksgiving is a time when families strengthen the ties that bind, and director Denis Villeneuve struck the perfect familial tone to contrast sharply with what follows.  The four kids go for a brief walk in the neighborhood, where the younger pair happens upon a strange RV.  They climb on it briefly, before their older siblings shoo them away.  An eerie sense of foreboding washes over the viewer here, foreshadowing the crux of the storyline.

After returning home, Anna asks if she and Joy can walk back to her house.  As the lazy day unfolds, Keller notices that Anna and Joy haven’t returned.  Initially the girls’ families are calm and composed, but as the girls remain unaccounted for, a feeling of dreadful panic swells within them.  They frantically search the neighborhood after Ralph mentions the strange camper they’d seen earlier.  When the RV is found in a wooded area hours later, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch) responds to the call.  Loki finds Alex Jones (Paul Dano, Looper), a teenaged boy with some cognitive deficits.  Alex seems psychologically disturbed, but there’s no real proof that he did anything wrong, which leads to his ultimate release.

Keller’s grief and frustration are ratcheted up to an overwhelming level, and he abducts Alex, holding him prisoner to question him on the girls’ whereabouts.  Don’t worry – I haven’t revealed anything that wasn’t in the trailer.  The movie follows Keller’s desperate actions and Detective Loki’s investigation.  Alex is a viable suspect, but it also seems that Keller could be mistaken.  And if he’s wrong, has his quest to find the monster that took his child turned him into a monster himself?

Prisoners was successful in crafting a disturbing, somber tone that never felt too heavy.  Thrillers like this often run the risk of really bringing you down; but I never felt that way.  The notable cast features an impressive total of four Academy Award nominees and one Golden Globe nominee, and their collective talent shone through.  Jackman, Bello, Howard and Davis gave four unique performances, and I found the distinct coping mechanism of each family interesting and well portrayed.  Although Keller had his perceived culprit in tow, Villeneuve shaped a suspenseful narrative that kept viewers wondering throughout.  If I have a criticism, it’s that the details became briefly muddled.  Red herrings can be an effective tool if used properly, or they can feel insincere if the audience thinks the filmmaker is playing “gotcha” by casting false suspicion on a particular character.  Overall though, I thought the movie was very suspenseful and expertly acted, making it well worth the price of admission.  Grade: B+


This review first appeared at Poptimal and was reprinted with permission.