Reviews Roundup: Sausage Party; Britney Spears

IN CINEMAS

Sausage Party

Let’s face it, Seth Rogen’s films have always been a bit of a sausage-fest, so this one reallySausage-Party-0.jpg shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s based on a deliberately stupid idea by Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jonah Hill: ‘What would it be like if our food had feelings? We very quickly realised that it would be fucked up.’

And fucked up it most certainly is: as the food items are inevitably sliced, diced, and eaten alive by the humans they refer to as ‘Gods’, the gross-out humour quickly reaches South Park levels of extremity. But Sausage Party also aims for South Park levels of satirical insight: much has been made of its atheistic moralising, and the critics are right, religion does get the most jabs here, with the downright silliness of a belief in the ‘Great Beyond’ shown to increase the divisions between the different food types and leads, for example, to demands to ‘kill the fruits’. What’s more, everyone secretly wants to screw each other, but they abstain out of a fear that ‘the Gods are always watching’ and will punish them in the land beyond the supermarket. And then they die anyway…

A neat idea, but as this year’s glut of failures have already proven (Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad, Miles Ahead, the remake of The Jungle Book), high concept does not always equal high quality. Sadly, this film falls down on what should be its primary selling point: the jokes, which are substandard. With the Rogen team on board, you might be able to guess a lot of them anyway – yes, there are male junk, pot, and potty-mouthed gags galore. In his live action output he’s managed endless variations on the same punchlines – and I’m not ribbing him, their goofy stupidity is self-conscious enough to be frequently charming. But here there is just too much reliance on the assumed shock value of watching different animated foods swearing at each other, which stops being subversive and starts being tedious quite quickly. Plus the script’s food-related puns are just as bad but more frequent than you might expect, and pop culture references to Saving Private Ryan, Stephen Hawking, and The Beatles are not amusing enough to rise above the level of pastiche.

A shame, but then again I can’t entirely knock a film whose message is to stop worrying about the afterlife and to start living out your innermost desires, so long as they don’t harm anyone else – because if not now, then when? ‘The Great Beyond is bullshit’ – exactly. And when the film’s utopian alternative to religion is depicted in a genuinely outrageous scene (you’ll know it when you see it), which almost landed it with an NC-17 rating in America, I can’t help but be cheered by its unexpected existence at the end of a woefully bland summer for cinema.

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ON SPOTIFY

Glory – Britney Spears

britney-spears-glory.jpgListening to Britney’s early stuff these days is mildly disturbing – she comes across as a distinctly weird male producer’s submissive bimbo fantasy: she’ll let you hit her …Baby One More Time, she was Born to Make You Happy, she’s addicted to you though she knows that you’re Toxic etc. Her tinny, weak, babyish voice and porno schoolgirl outfits helped to deal a further blow to the empowered feminine pop star image forged by Madonna. However, as time wore on and seminal artists such as Pink, Beyoncé, and Rihanna carried on the Material Girl’s work in the no-male-bullshit vein of female pop, Britney sniffed a commercial wind and soon followed suit. She did well to do so: on tracks like ‘Circus’, ‘Womanizer’ and especially ‘Piece of Me’ there’s simply no doubting that she sounds like a bad motherfucker.

Yet she’s never convincingly sustained this attitude over album length – until now, that is: Glory is her crowning achievement to date. Of course it’s about sex, but that doesn’t mean it’s dumb, and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s anti-feminist, as some clueless cultural commentators always pounce in to argue. On the beautiful opening track she reverses gender roles and plays Christian Grey to her partner’s Anastasia Steele in a bondage fantasy; on another she puts on a Private Show for her man which ends with his tasting her ‘apple pie’; on yet another she demands that a lover stop talking and ‘come talk to me with your touch’. On nearly every track Britney sounds in control, of both her own pleasure and her man’s, making Glory an advocate for mutually enjoyable sex to place alongside Beyoncé, even if it doesn’t quite reach the same ecstatic heights. ‘Nobody should be alone if they don’t have to be’, she insists. Right on.

When Britney attempts to move the album’s discussion on from sex to love, the results are more mixed: ‘It’s just so hard to forget ya’ and ‘I’m not gonna ask you for something/Just luv me’ are very dull choruses indeed. But suddenly there will be moments of perceptiveness to stop you in your tracks: when she discovers a woman atop her boyfriend, for example, who exasperatingly she realises looks ‘Just Like Me’, a concern that obsesses her more than the act of betrayal itself. And brilliant lines such as ‘Put your love all over me’, which manages to be both a double entendre and not, more than make up for any occasional slips into mawkishness.

The music itself never stops resisting sentimentality, a combination of slick R&B and EDM which comes to a head on ‘Clumsy’ with a bass drop that is both cheesy and, accompanied by a defiantly girly ‘woo!’ from Britney, incredibly charming. The sonic precedent here is clearly Justin Bieber’s Purpose, but that album fell flat on its face due to lifeless vocals, whereas Glory opens up new avenues of vigour and subtlety in Britney’s voice that just keep on giving. Try ‘Man on the Moon’, ‘Love Me Down’ or ‘What You Need, for instance, exciting and mature and surprising performances the lot of them.

Glory is like all of the best pop music: it just wants to make you laugh, it just wants to make you smile, it just wants to make you dance – and if you think there’s something artistically redundant in all of that then you’re wrong – but it also contains lyrical surprises that evolve in power and complexity all the time. So she doesn’t actually write her own songs. And uses autotune on occasion. Tell me about it. I’ll be over here, listening again, having too much fun to care.

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