Sausage Party

Director: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Supermarket foodstuffs come to life and take on a mind of their own in this saucy animated comedy.

The  cheerfully offensive stoner humour is stuffed with racial and religious stereotypes indulging in an orgy of sex, booze and drugs. It’s an acquired taste and bound to offend many, but once it gets cooking on gas it offers some bite-sized satisfaction.

Each evening the products sing to celebrate the day they’ll be picked from the shelves and taken out to ‘the great beyond’ by the gods of the aisles, the customers.

However when a hot dog sausage and his bun discover their real purpose in life, they struggle to convince their friends of the truth.

They’re also being chased by the Douche, a feminine hygiene product who wants revenge for the thwarting of his plan to reach the afterlife.

Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, James Franco and Michael Cera provide the voices with Salma Hayek plays a tacos looking to spice up her life.

Defiantly and unapologetically rude from the off, this is an adult treat and definitely not one for the kids.




Maggie’s Plan

Director: Rebecca Miller (2016) BBFC cert. 15

The best laid plans of Greta Gerwig go awry in this New York comedy of manners.

As Maggie she is forever interfering in the lives of others and must learn restraint in order to find her own happiness.

She’s a sensible shoe wearing singleton who is ready to have a kid but lacks a boyfriend. Her scheme to inseminate herself via a sperm donor is interrupted by the appearance of John, a hunky academic.

This doesn’t endear Maggie to his wife Georgette and their kids. Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore enjoy themselves as the feckless, self pitying, dishonest man child and his ferociously poised Danish wife.

The script gives John the anthropologist a forensic examination and finds the behaviour of this modern man severely wanting. But it also has the heart to allow the him at least a small measure of self respect.

Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph offer Maggie an alternative view of life as home truth dispensing best friends and Travis Fimmel is sweet as a lyrical pickle entrepreneur.

As a director Miller is in love with the city and it’s full of therapy, hipster beards, wooly hats, street entertainers, health food, ice skating and outdoor markets, but keeps its quirky mannerisms to a thankful minimum.

And her script obeys the rules of a romcom while functioning as a commentary on our atomised society, one which is indifferent to reducing conception to a mechanical process involving a syringe and a smart phone app.

Maggie’s Plan plays as an updated version of Jane Austen’s Emma filtered through Woody Allen, and is an honest, sharp and very funny look at modern life.




The Angry Birds Movie

Director: Clay Kaytis & Fergal Reilly (2016)

After a history of plundering plays, books, games and toys for inspiration, Hollywood has gone the whole hog and made a film based on a smartphone app.

And though The Lego Movie (2014) is a great example of how unpromising material can inspire awesome cinema, this animated effort featuring birds fighting pigs is a bird-brained bore.

It’s bright, colourful, busy and noisy but far less fun than the game ever was.

Scenes eke out their jokes with violent slapstick for the little ones and sneering sarcasm for the teens. Plus there’s snot, wee, a multitude of wriggling bums and a bizarre singing cowboy sequence.

Jason Sudeikis voices the charmless Red, a lonely bird who gets angry when his feathers are ruffled.

He lives in a colony of cute flightless birds on a tropical island.

After a disastrous attempt at delivering a birthday cake, Red is sent to anger management class.

Because kids always find therapy jokes funny.

One day a steampunk pirate ship arrives with a crew of green pigs offering the trotter of friendship.

Red is given the bird by his compatriots when he questions the pigs motives.

He is proved right when the pigs kidnap the islander’s precious unhatched eggs. The swines.

So Red must come up with a plan and save the eggs’ bacon, without making a pigs ear of it and before their goose is cooked.

The soft boiled script relies heavily on crashing action and a scrambled mix of rap, rock and disco to capture the pointless freneticism of playing the game, but the tone is aggressive point scoring rather than giddy silliness.

And it all feels underdeveloped, presumably a consequence of trying to rush the movie into cinemas before everyone moves onto the next must-have gaming app. Oh dear.

Josh Gad and Danny McBride voice Chuck and Bomb. The former has super speed and the latter explodes.

Maya Rudolph irritates as Matilda the hippy psychologist and Sean Penn growls as a menacing over sized bird involved in a weird romantic subplot.

These pigging awful birds can flock off.


Director: Judd Apatow (2015)

This comedy about a young woman on the path to redemption feels like a series of sketches strung together by a threadbare plot.

Amy Schumer writes and stars and though she and co-star Bill Hader are engaging, their charm and talent can’t overcome the limitations of the script or the dead hand of director Apatow.

It is indulgent in length, grossly sentimental, fawning to celebrities, loosely improvisational and insufficient scenes to are brought to a strong close. Too often too many characters are allowed to waffle.

Drunk and promiscuous journalist Amy Townsend (Schumer) has a varied if unfulfilling sex life and is merrily chasing promotion at work at edgy magazine S’nuff.

Her colleagues are irritating idiots and her boss Dianna is played by an alarmingly accented Tilda Swinton. The hard-faced career woman is contrasted with Amy’s sister Kim (Brie Larson). She’s a warm, soft role model of stable maternity.

A happy homeless man offers a warning as to how Amy’s life may develop if she doesn’t change her wanton ways. She enables him in the worst possible way.

Dianna sends Amy off to interview Dr. Aaron Conners (Hader). He’s a knee surgeon famous for saving the careers of sportspeople I’ve mostly never heard of.

Before she realises it she’s falling in love, rejecting her former life of drugs and fun and embracing sobriety and monogamy.

Amy pulls a reverse Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) from Grease (1978). She migrates from independent woman to a person subservient to the needs of her un-inspirational boyfriend. But he’s a doctor, so that’s alright.

Even Grease’s Danny Zucco (John Travolta) recognises he has to compromise his behaviour to win the heart of Sandy. But Aaron is oblivious of the potential to change and so Amy must bend to meet his needs. The leader of the T’Birds is far more progressive than anyone on show here.

By the end Amy is publicly humiliating herself to prove her worth in a way that would have made her earlier, more attractive persona shudder.

Embracing family and domesticity is presented as the pinnacle of female endeavour. Her career success is dependent on the reflected glory of her beau.

The story is in thrall to the sexual politics of the ’50’s, the 1850’s. Even Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre pub. 1847) would blush to write a female so eager to be defined by a man for happiness and fulfilment.

There’s a funeral, a baby shower, an invasive medical procedure and several dates. It’s not the least embarrassed to lift from Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979).

Featuring far too much basketball, someone called LeBron James features prominently as an emotional mentor to Aaron. Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, Matthew Broderick and err, former Tennis champ Chris Evert all appear.

Amy gives a 16 year old – a legal minor – alcohol, assaults him and then attempts to have sex with him. Good luck switching the genders and getting away with that scene.

All of these failings could be overlooked if the film was rip-roaringly funny and entertaining – but it rarely musters a chuckle. The funniest scene is the first one – and Schumer isn’t in it.