Before the Emerald releases its best of 2016 lists of films, books, concerts, songs and albums, we felt it was important to balance praising the year’s best works of art with pointing out which let us down. These are not the worst pieces of the year; these are works that showed great potential and fell short of expectations.
What could possibly go wrong in an R-rated animated comedy starring Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, James Franco and many more about a group of male sausages and female buns wanting to intimately get to know one another outside of their sealed packages?
Well… Where to begin?
The first few minutes of Sausage Party are downright hilarious. From there, it falls flat on its face in its attempt to be the raunchiest comedy ever created. The R-rating grants Sausage Party a license to say whatever it wants — unfortunately, it dedicates itself to tactlessly using the F word 126 times in a mere 89 minutes in ways that do nothing to further the humor. Instead of being used as a punchline, the ceaseless onslaught of vulgarity becomes nothing more than distracting punctuation.
The villain is a literal (and yes, pun obsessed) douchebag voiced by Nick Kroll. A sausage smokes weed with a bottle of whisky [a red-flag of a plot hole because if the food characters smoke marijuana, a plant, then they are no worse than the human woman who ends the life of the runaway baby carrots in the film’s third most traumatic scene]; there’s a 10-minute food orgy, and after a man smokes bath salts, he is able to magically communicate with food.
Perhaps over-analyzing the plot is missing the point, but Sausage Party’s flaws are impossible to ignore and spoiled what could have potentially been the funniest movie since This Is The End — a near comedic masterpiece. Much like The Purge, this is a film that has a concept that sounds great on paper, but it was poorly executed. Crude does not alway equal funny, and Sausage Party is the definition of going too far without reason.
Read the Emerald’s initial review of Sausage Party. Chris Berg and Craig Wright have drastically different takes on the comedy.
Reboots are a tricky business. Revitalizing a franchise with any sort of success happens so infrequently that the risk pretty much always outweighs the reward. Someone probably should have told Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, who teamed up for the first time since 2010’s toothless war thriller Green Zone to try and bring the titular Jason Bourne back to life. Why anyone thought this was a decent idea is a mystery.
The plot, about as barebones as the film’s title, follows Bourne as he discovers yet another secret from his past in a globe-trotting adventure that plays like a parody of past Bourne films. Tommy Lee Jones, one of cinema’s finest actors, appears to have wandered onto the wrong set. His character exists out of necessity; it wouldn’t be a proper Bourne film without an older villain in a suit. Meanwhile, the film’s action sequences are shot in a style so reliant on a shaking, fidgeting camera that they’re nearly impossible to follow. Damon himself gets only 25 lines of dialogue (seriously), leaving Alicia Vikander to carry almost all of the dramatic weight by herself.
By the time the credits roll, and Moby’s “Extreme Ways” graces the audience yet again, it’s easy to bemoan the possibility of this happening another time. The Bourne Eulogy would have been a much better title. — Dana Alston
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Harry Potter is more than a franchise: it is a defining part of childhood for many millennials. When the world found out another movie would be released — one that was supposed to have grown up with the fans — the hype was intense; unfortunately, the film was not.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was missing the grandeur and scope of past Harry Potter films, perhaps because it didn’t take place in a very fantastical setting. More than that, this film fell short of the franchise in almost every area. In the past, stakes were always high and the tension strong, but in Fantastic Beasts the villain felt unimportant, and conflicts were often resolved before they were even felt.
Harry Potter balanced innocent wonder and magic with dark adventures and haunting themes. In an effort to be more mature, Fantastic Beasts tried to rely on more realistic or adult issues like abuse, oppression and war. But these never felt pressing or epic, and the film was left feeling hollow.
Fantastic Beasts was supposed to have grown up with its fans, but instead it grew into the trap that all modern blockbusters do, pandering to the lowest denominator, delivering instant gratification and show-off graphics instead of building real tension — entertaining but not high quality material. — Patience Greene
“Dead Alive” by The Shins
“Dead Alive,” the 2016 single by indie pop group The Shins feels lackluster compared to the band’s previous efforts. It’s a pretty darn boring single for a group that has produced gems like “Know Your Onion” and the quiet, striking “New Slang.” “Dead Alive” has a boppy, carbonated sound in the way every Shins’ song does, but it doesn’t expand past that trait.
While “Simple Song,” the single for 2012’s Port of Morrow, expanded on the sound of past albums with robust instrumentation, “Dead Alive” feels like an off-brand version of that very song. The drum machine and James Mercer’s (the sole original member left in the band) voice make for a cheap high: At first all seems well with The Shins, but this song proves that nothing has changed for this band in the last four years except for its lineup. There’s more to The Shins than this, but right now they feel more dead than they do alive. — Sararosa Davies