Sunday, August 21, 2016

Twisted Adult Animation Resurfaces in Seth Rogen Comedy

August 21, 2016

The (red band) teaser trailer for the recently-released CGI comedy Sausage Party (which premiered back in March) finds a group of grocery food items as they discover the shocking truth of their existence. Bizarre, over-the-top, and unbelievably subliminal, writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (the same guys responsible for such raunchy comedies as Pineapple Express and This Is the End) deliver the latest example of twisted, hard-R adult animation, joining the likes of such fare as South Park and Family Guy. (A green brand trailer was released a few months later, and while a little tame, it's still pretty crazy.)

This isn't the first time animation has been made strictly for adults, despite the medium's universal appeal thanks to the likes of Disney and Pixar. And let's not forget Warner Bros. track record of memorable Looney Tunes cartoons. But in the last quarter-century, several films and T.V. shows have taken daring and provocative turns, from such animators and/or directors as Ralph Baskhi (1972's X-rated Fritz the Cat, 1992's Cool World), Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Trey Parker & Matt Stone (South Park), and Seth McFarlane (Family Guy). They have showcased subtle adult references and/or content out of bounds for the youngest of viewers, thereby challenging the mere notion that the medium is just for little tikes. Now I'm all for the fact that animation can be used to tell any kind of story whether for adults or children--hey, even directors known for live-action features, such as Richard Linklater [2001's Waking Life], Wes Anderson [2009's Fantastic Mr. Fox], and Charlie Kaufman [last year's Anomalisa] have shown their knack for the medium--I do have to scratch my head when it comes to R-rated content, or content that sneaks it's way into other film fare, whether G-, PG-, or PG-13-rated. The following are examples of animated films for audiences and critics to ask specifically if these kinds of projects (or just their content) are really necessary. 

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
First things first, there's no denying this live-action/animated Disney-produced feature is a cinematic marvel. The filmmakers deserve every accolade they've received for bringing cartoon characters to life in the real world. And the writing and homages are very clever and creative. Unfortunately, when promiscuous sexual content (mostly in the form of an unbelievably cleavage-bearing femme fetale) and often intense and violent situations (some scary and unpleasant) get added in, the result is an experience that is intriguing for some adults but problematic and bizarre for others. In fact, Michael Eisner, co-president of the Disney studio at the time, considered the film "too risque" to be released under the Disney brand, and recommended it be released under the studio's Touchstone Pictures banner, which had been releasing more adult-oriented films like The Color of Money, Three Men and a Baby, and Ruthless People.

Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996)
The two dim-witted metal-head teenagers from creator Mike Judge's popular and controversial MTV series from the Nineties end up in a cross-country man-hunt after their T.V. is stolen. The two mistake a murder hire for possible sexual escapades and pervade the entire film with, according to the MPAA, "continuous crude and sexual humor".

Antz (1998)
PDI/DreamWork's first computer-animated feature (and only the second of its kind, following 1995's Toy Story) features an all-star cast, including Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, and Gene Hackman, as well as some impressive visuals. It was also the first of the studio's early features that were more adult-oriented, with an A-list voice cast and subtle crude gags, as well as language to make it more "permissible" for adults. DreamWorks would subtly continue this trend in their next few features, particularly the Shrek films (2001, 2004, 2007, 2010) and Shark Tale (2004). (Fortunately, that wouldn't last long.)

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
Possibly the adult animation movie to end all adult animation movies, Parker & Stone satirize (and push the boundaries of) censorship, parenting issues, war, race, and religion. They ultimately turn each on themselves, as Cartman, Kenny, Kyle and Stan sneak into an R-rated Canadian movie, repeat everything they hear and outrage their parents, who in turn declare war on Canada. Throw in Satan and Saddam Hussein as villains, and the most language in an animated movie (at a running time of 81 minutes). Cassette cases for VHS sales and rentals included a parental warning "that 'South Park' is intended for mature audiences."

Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights (2002)
Essentially a feature-length version of Sandler's ever-popular "Hanukkah Song," the SNL-veteran brings his silly, crude schtick to this raunchy, often mean-spirited, holiday comedy about a town delinquent who is put on probation with an underappreciated basketball referee and his quirky sister.

The Simpsons Movie (2007)
America's popular dysfunctional family from Fox's long-running animated sitcom hits the big screen as Homer causes havoc in Springfield and forces his family to go on the run from angry mobs and government agents. Though it featured family-friendly trailers like Alvin and the Chipmunks and Horton Hears a Who during it's theatrical release, the rating's description ("irreverent humor throughout") should be taken seriously.

Rango (2011)
An Oscar-winning and visually-eye-popping animated feature (the first from George Lucas' effects company Industrial Light and Magic) about a thespian chameleon who winds up in a western town and becomes a local hero after inadvertently killing a villainous hawk. Despite being backed by Paramount and Nickelodeon as a family feature, the film's story and various references (from Chinatown to Dirty Harry and even Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) will easily fly over the youngest of kids' heads while causing parents to scratch theirs. 

No comments:

Post a Comment