REVIEW: Sausage Party

Image: Columbia Pictures

Image: Columbia Pictures

Chris Luckett

There hasn’t been as obscenely ribald an animated comedy as Sausage Party to hit theatres since South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which is fitting. As South Park’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have demonstrated first hand for nearly two decades, the easiest way to get people to accept subversive intelligence and bold truths is to bury them under obscenities, innuendoes, and fart jokes.

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REVIEW: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Photo: Universal Pictures

Photo: Universal Pictures

Chris Luckett

Neighbors was a rare comedy, at once eliciting uproarious belly laughs with slapstick and farce, while also making an unexpectedly nuanced and mature statement about the male ego and insecurities about aging.

Of course, where studio heads are concerned, the most important thing is that it was profitable, meaning a sequel was immediately greenlit. Moreover, laughs are easier to elicit than insight is to encourage, so the odds were good that the second Neighbors would spend all its energy repeating a bunch of the same jokes while not bothering with the intelligence that helped the original be more than just funny.

In fairness to Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, it actually does have something to say, just like the original, and this time it even-handedly turns the focus around to look at the female ego and societal double-standards. In fairness against it, though, it relies way too much on trying to repeat every superficially successful thing about Neighbors. Continue reading

REVIEW: Kung Fu Panda 3

Artwork: DreamWorks Animation

Artwork: DreamWorks Animation

Chris Luckett

Most movie trilogies follow the best-to-worst pattern of 1-3-2, where the third movie corrects for the overreaches and underestimations of the first sequel but still doesn’t top the original. Of course, while everything from American Pie to X-Men follows this rule, there are less common trilogy patterns, too, like that demonstrated by the Return of the Jedi effect.

First sequels are commonly worse than the original, but when the few that somehow manage to equal their originators are almost always followed by a third entry that just can’t quite match the first two. Iron Man 3, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Mockingjay, Part 1, and Insidious, Chapter 3 have all had this issue in recent years.

The question now is, after the boldly refreshing Kung Fu Panda and the unexpectedly powerful Kung Fu Panda 2, is the third adventure of the prophetic panda Po destined for the same fate? Continue reading

REVIEW: Neighbors

Photo: Universal Pictures

Photo: Universal Pictures

Chris Luckett

Frat movies don’t generally get much respect, often because they’re more concerned with bacchanalia than believability. Even the best ones, like National Lampoon’s Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, or Old School, ultimately turn into competitions against rival frats or wars with crusty deans.

Neighbors, the new movie from director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek), cleverly avoids falling into frat traps by not — despite its outward appearances — actually being a frat movie. It’s about something much deeper than that.

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REVIEW: This is the End

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Chris Luckett

What has always made the best movies from the Judd Apatow factory different from other comedies is heart. The 40-Year-Old VirginSuperbad, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall were all raunchy and vulgar, but beneath the R-rated jokes were characters dealing with real emotions in realistic ways.

When the emotions in an Apatow movie feel forced, it leads to Knocked Up’s rom-com plot between Katharine Heigl and Seth Rogen or the scattershot Pineapple Express, which seemed to forget it was even a comedy by the second half. This is the End – which isn’t an actual Apatow movie but does employ all of his usual actors, writers, and producers – showed incredible promise from the clever trailers, but sadly is much more akin to the latter movies than the former. Continue reading