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Films I Neglected to Review: Even I Canít Think Of A Wacky Headline This Time
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short reviews of "Abortion: Stories Women Tell," "Phantom Boy" and "Sausage Party."

Playing theatrically in a few cities before its upcoming bow on HBO, "Abortion: Stories Women Tell" is a documentary that examines the controversial topic through personal anecdotes over political rhetoric. Centered around an Illinois abortion clinic that has become a place for women from Missouri to go to escape their own state's increasingly draconian laws designed to make it as difficult as possible to obtain a safe and legal procedure, the film shares with us the stories of the people who run the clinic, the pro-lifer people who are equally adamant in their desire to stop all abortions and the women who either have or are about to have them for for a variety of reasons. These stories are certainly affecting and even though it is pretty clear that director Tracy Droz Tragos is on the pro-choice side of the argument, she plays fair in the way she lets opponents present their arguments without trying to make them look like monsters - if they or their arguments look bad, it is entirely of their own doing. The only problem is that she presents so many stories by so many different women that it is difficult to fully engage with all of them at a certain point - there are times when it feels as if the film is a cut-down version of a much longer miniseries. Nevertheless, "Abortion: Stories Women Tell" is a worthwhile and watchable effort that tries, and mostly succeeds, at taking a hot-button topic and putting human faces on it.

In the charming new French animated film "Phantom Boy," an elusive criminal, known only as The Man With the Broken Face, is determined to seize control of New York's power supply and therefore control the city. There is a cop named Alex who is determined to bring him down but, alas, he is injured while in pursuit and lands in the hospital. There, he meets a young boy named Leo under extraordinary circumstances - the kid, who is undergoing extended treatments for cancer, has the power to leave his body like a, well, like a phantom, and float around the city. After he shows Alex how to do the trick, the two team up to use their powers to stop Broken Face before all is lost. Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, whose previous collaboration was the delightful "A Cat in Paris," the film may not be completely successful in terms of its basic story - since our heroes are going about as ghosts, there is no real sense of danger or urgency in their pursuit of Broken Face - but it has a lot of other neat stuff going for it that helps to pick up the slack. The noir-inspired look of the film is always fun to look at, the running gag involving the villain's attempts to explain exactly what happened to his face is kind of funny and I liked how the film didn't try to sugarcoat Leo's disease and the strain that it puts on his entire family. Fans of offbeat animation will no doubt embrace it and if you have been looking for a film that will allow you to begin exposing your children to the delights of foreign-language cinema, this would make a excellent first start.

On the other hand, parents, you should probably not under any circumstances take the kids to see the insanely raunchy and decidedly R-rated animated epic "Sausage Party" - not because of the jaw-dropping amount of foul language and tasteless jokes crammed into a 90-minute running time but because it isn't that good. Oh sure, it is certainly ambitious - who would have ever dreamed of seeing a film that simultaneously served as a smutty spoof of the vast majority of the Pixar canon, a religious satire about the eternal conflict between those who choose to have faith in a higher power and those who demand proof and a meditation on the Palestine-Israeli conflict? - but what might have made for a potent 20-minute short just grows somewhat monotonous at 90. The concept is that in a ordinary-seeming supermarket, the various foodstuffs believe that when the gods (i.e. us) select them, they are taken to the Great Beyond where all is bliss. This sounds great to horny sausage Frank (Seth Rogen), who wants to get all up in would-be girlfriend/bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) but when a jar of incorrectly purchased honey mustard is returned to the story with a horrifying tale of what really happens once they leave the store, he isn't so sure. After a mishap strands him and Betty in the store, they set off on a journey back to their section that finds Frank discovering that everything he has been taught has been a lie, Betty being pursued by an amorous lesbian taco (Salma Hayek), the two joining up with a bagel (Edward Norton doing a not-bad Woody Allen impression) and lavash (David Krumholtz) who constantly bicker over who is encroaching on who's shelf space and the four of them being pursued by, well, a giant douche (Nick Krohl).

There are some funny moments scattered throughout "Sausage Party" - ranging from moments of genuine wit (such as when a character begins a speech with "Friends, Ramen. . . ") and moments of such over-the-top crudity that you don't laugh at them so much as the idea that someone would have thought them up in the first place - but the movie as a whole is kind of slipshod. The religious commentary is an interesting addition in theory but it is kind of simple-minded in execution, demonstrating none of the sincere thought along these lines that turned up in the previous Rogen raunchfest "This is the End." Far too often, though, it is content to coast on obvious jokes (why yes, there is a teabagging gag), spoofs of racial, sexual and cultural stereotypes that are delivered in a way that makes it seem as if they are being celebrated rather than criticized, silly pop culture references (ranging from an odd parody of the Normandy invasion sequence in "Saving Private Ryan" to the inevitable deployment of a Meat Loaf song on the soundtrack) and moments where you can practically smell the pot that must have been going around the room when the screenplay was being written (such as the all-out food orgy that serves as the film's climax, both literally and figuratively). Those with a taste for super-crude comedy may get more out of it than I did but I found myself more amused that a film like "Sausage Party" could actually get made in the first place than in the film itself.

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originally posted: 08/13/16 03:17:11
last updated: 08/13/16 03:30:29
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