Storks Movie Review

 

storks-posterWritten by Nelson Cumming

Storks is one of the films that is scattershot (throwing things at the walls and seeing what sticks) but works. It has enough humor and heart to make it likable. This is a departure from the normal material of adult raunch comedies from director Nicholas Stoller but it never has a “first-time director” feel to it which is a plus. He juggles the material not so smoothly but gets the job done nonetheless

The film is all about storks who are birds who delivered babies to aspiring parents and it is run like a manufacturing business- you know, the kind of thing you believe as a kid where babies come from. Well that used to be the case until there was a stork that was over passionate about the baby and accidently broke the tracking device that contained the address to the baby’s family

18 years later the business model has completely changed and the factory no longer makes and delivers babies but they deliver all sorts of items that is run like a Fed-ex factory. Junior (Andy Samberg) is a carrier ambitious bird, climbing the corporate ladder and is about to take over the factory from his smug and arrogant boss (Kelsey Grammer). The baby is now a teenager called Tulip who is the only human and is a little clumsy. The boss makes a deal with Junior: Fire Tulip and gets promoted to “boossssss”

The problem is that Tulip accidently starts up the baby making part of the factory and a letter comes from a kid called Nate who longs for a baby brother who has “lots of ninja skills” because his parents are too busy with their home business to take care of him. So the story then becomes Junior and Tulip trying to deliver the baby to Max

Storks is funny in odd and weird ways

To describe how the filmmakers try to make Storks funny would take awhile because there isn’t a cohesive direction in the comedy but it strangely works here. There are adult comedy elements but there are no sexual jokes. There are business jokes that any adult could relate to, yet there are gags that were so overly childish that I couldn’t believe I laughed at. There are several gags with wolves and let’s just say “their methods of transportation” that had me laughing.

This is a film where the comedy is both rooted in reality and fantasy and darts in, out and around the two. You have to be willing to go from understanding the logic the movie creates to completely suspending disbelief to capture the movie’s zaniness. If you need a little consistency and logic in the humor then this is probably not for you.

Despite these lack of consistent brand of humor Storks is witty enough with good charact development between Tulip and Junior. This is a decently fun movie where a lot of things work in the unclear direction ***3/4

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The Secret Life of Pets Review

Genre: Animated adventure/comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Runtime: 87 minutes
Main Cast: Louis C.K.
Eric Stonestreet
Kevin Hart
Jenny Slate
Production Company: Illumination Entertainment
Written by: Brian Lynch
Cinco Paul
Ken Daurio
Directed by: Chris Renaud
Yarrow Cheney

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Written by Nelson Cumming

If there’s a time the makers of Minions should be appealing to kids, now would be that time. The Secret Lives of Pets is a movie that achieves the sole purpose of keeping the kids occupied for two hours while the adults smile because the kids are happy. I think The Secret live of Pets is fine. Just fine.

The story follows a dog called Max (Louis CK) who loves his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) until she gets a new dog called Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Through a complex series of events, they get lost in New York City. Both Max and Duke try to find their way home and the neighboring animals including Gidgit (Jeny Slate) who’s Max’s love interest.

A tired premise.

Does the premise sound too familiar? A tad formulaic? Well, the movie is just that at its core. However, it is covered with surgery, surgery sweetness that makes the pill easier to swallow.

This movie almost exactly reminds me of watching Angry Birds. They both have vibrant and colorful animation and the story flows in a nice linear fashion. Both movies also have likable characters but both movies lack something animation itself cannot fix: substance and meaning. What both have in common is they both were entertaining enough to watch that made me feel ok by the end.

Comedically speaking, The Secret Lives of Pets has nothing that you can take away from unless you have never owned a dog. There are so many dog gags that it gets too repetitive. From Max instinctually surrendering by rolling on his back to dogs chewing shoes and finally to dogs getting distracted by a ball. This is the level of humor that permeates this movie. While that is not bad, it doesn’t offer anything new to the doggy bowl.

The movie borrows from many animal movies over the decades through its premise of animals going through the low life of the streets while comically bumbling their way through to reach their ultimate goal. Unfortunately, The Secret Lives of Pets does not add anything new in that department either.

The animation and cinematography are top notch.

What is so good about The Secret Lives of Pets is the colorful, vibrant animation and the sweeping cinematography that gives the movie it’s positive energy. There are landscape shots of New York city that are both beautiful and overwhelming. There are also shots where the movie sweeps up, down and around New York like we are looking through the eyes of a swooping bird that was pleasing to the eyes.

The overall sound is good to listen to.

Illumination Entertainment has hired the right people to do the voice overs for their roles. Kevin Hart sounds great playing Snowball the bunny. I thought Jenny Slate had the perfect voice to accompany Gidget the little white dog. Slate also voiced the antagonistic mayor in Zootopia, though she is much more fitting for the role here. The sound of all the voice acting was unusually crystal clear which is good.

The Secret Life of Pets also has a musical selection that fits with the movie’s tone. Bright, happy and adventurous are the words to describe not only the music or the movie but the elements that Illumination constantly strive for in their filmmaking. They succeed at hitting those goals but they can only get you so far.

The Verdict

There is nothing wrong with The Secret Lives of Pets, it’s just now with the standards of quality filmmaking and storytelling that people are used to in animation the movie feels like a “less than” movie. The movie is good for the weekend but Illumination Entertainment is sticking to their comfort zones, which you cannot do for long before the animation world passes by. Maybe Sing will make me change my mind for the company later this year. I hope it does. ***

P.S. Shoutout to Dana Carvey who is the Pops in the movie. He is finally recovering from the movie The Master of Disaster and Jack and Crack. He spent years away from the limelight to focus on his family. It’s about time he made a successful comeback 🙂

Sausage Party Review

Genre: Animated Comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: MA
Length: 88 minutes
Main Cast: Seth Rogen
Kristen Wiig
Jonah Hill
Production Company: Annapurna Pictures, Point Grey Pictures
Written by: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Story by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jonah Hill
Directed by: Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan

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Written By Nelson Cumming

Love it or hate it, Sausage Party is a movie that you will remember. It is a type of movie I have never seen this year. It is an r-rated, rude, crude animation comedy. It has the iconic actors that are a part of the new wave of R-rated comedies such as Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. With such talent signing up for this movie I was highly anticipating it for weeks. The multi-million dollar question for movies as innovative and promising as this is: Does it live up to its hype?

Yes, but…

That would be the short conclusion to my review of Sausage Party.

The plot revolves around personified foods at a supermarket who are eager to be bought by people as they believe that “The Great Beyond” (which is outside the supermarket) will lead them to a better life Frank (Seth Rogan), a sausage, finds out the fate of “The Great Beyond” is not as lush as it seems for the perishable foods and they must stop humans from consuming them.

Really Long Highs, Followed by Really long Lows

When Sausage Party is funny, it is damn funny. When it isn’t funny, it is a little flat in the room. When it wasn’t funny it wasn’t a crowd killer like Zoolander 2 was, but I felt the audience wanting to laugh because the first ten minutes was so good. There was a period where no one laughed for 20 minutes, but at the same time, I felt that no one turned against the movie. Despite the fact the movie is only 88 minutes long, they didn’t have enough tight comedic material to warrant 88 minutes.

Nothing is Sacred

With Sausage Party, they dared to go to the worst places for humour and I loved it. They had fun with religion (A personified Lebanese bread hoped there would be 72 extra virgin olive oils at The Great Beyond) they did a lot of gags about pot (If Seth Rogan is in it, what do you expect?) and there are a lot of sex jokes.

The great part about a lot of the gags that hit in Sausage Party is that they are smartly written in a way that works for both observant and unobservant audience members. The depictions of food torture were highly graphic but easily watchable and humorous. A lot of the best humor works on multiple different levels and is innovative.

The Swearing and Swearing Leaves a Lot Less Caring

The second and last major problem with Sausage Party is there are a lot of f-bombs (and three c-bombs) used in a tiresome manner. Initially, it was surprising because they were swearing in enthusiastic ways. Eventually when they kept doing it, it became tiresome.

I predicted it was on the Wikipedia list for the most uses of the f- word in a film. You need to say it 150 or more to qualify. That’s how many I predicted. The only other time that thought crossed my mind in a movie was in Dirty Grandpa and sure enough, it sad the f-word 160 times. It’s also right alongside Dirty Grandpa. Click here if you don’t believe me

My Conclusion

Sausage Party is outrageously funny enough to overcome its demerits. You can say it’s orgies of fun but the climax is fucked up ***1/2