The Disaster Artist (Franco; 2017)

Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Troll 2.  The Room. Ask any film lover what the worst film of all time is and you will most often get one of these three as your answer.  Whichever they answer will also be a film they will tell you you have to see to believe with a sort of gleeful sado-masochism glinting in their eye.  That’s because these films really aren’t the worst ever made, they are the most ineptly made. They are movies that make you wonder at how they could possibly have been made, at how any producer would willingly give money to such a project, and at how any director could have missed how horribly any single line of dialogue was delivered let alone every single line in an entire film.  In short, at how could a film in which every single element is so badly botched that individually they could have never passed muster in even the most mediocre of films, and yet here we have an entire film made up entirely of such elements.

If there’s anything Hollywood likes more than stories about itself, it’s an underdog story, so when Tim Burton made Ed Wood in 1994 about the director who made Plan 9 From Outer Space it was lavished with film awards and nominations.  Twenty-three years later it looks as if Hollywood history is about to repeat itself with The Disaster Artist, a film chronicling the life of The Room‘s creators Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero played by James Franco and his brother Dave Franco respectively.  The Disaster Artist starts in the late 90’s (1998 if I remember correctly) when Tommy and Greg first met in an acting class, and chronicles the story of their friendship and primarily on their decision to make their own movie as they get rejection after crushing rejection from Hollywood studios and talent agencies.


I’ll just start with what makes The Disaster Artist a fantastic film, and that is James Franco.  He is not only the star of the film but also its director, and his attention to detail in both of these roles is borderline mind-boggling.   Just after the film’s finale but before the end credits begin to roll The Disaster Artist in a moment of entertaining and well-deserved bragging shows scenes from the actual film The Room and those same scenes as recreated in The Disaster Artist, and from the acting to the set design to the camera angles to the costumes everything is impressively close to spot on.

It’s in Franco’s portrayal of Wiseau, though, that the attention to detail really pays off.  Tommy Wiseau is James Franco’s Rain Man or Forrest Gump, except that where those characters were a dedicated performance of a series of quirks, Franco gives us a fully realized character in Wiseau who is most assuredly strange, but he’s also passionate, lonely, craves attention, is hard to work with, but is also incredibly generous.  Underneath the strange accent and tics is a fully realized, completely sympathetic person with a depth rarely seen in a film.  I’m sure it helped that the real Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero are still here and had at least some interaction with the cast and crew of The Disaster Artist, but just because Franco had help most actors don’t get doesn’t make the performance any less impressive.


The Disaster Artist is a comedy at its core, I would call it more comedy than drama at any rate, and it’s a film which could easily fall into mockery given its premise.  It doesn’t.  Watching Sestero and Wiseau bring their dream to life is hysterical, but the film always manages to take the high ground by focusing more on the passion and heart of its characters than on their ineptitude.  This makes the film into a skewed inspirational story with a message that seems to be saying the pursuit of our dreams is more important than the actual achieving of them, and who knows, you may still achieve greatness in the last way you want or expect despite yourself.

Do you need to have seen The Room in order to understand and enjoy The Disaster Artist?  I have seen The Room once before, some time ago, and part of me wishes that I hadn’t.  It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of The Disaster Artist in any way, far from it, but I believe that the experience each person has is going to vary greatly depending on whether they are a fanatic of The Room whose seen it over and over at midnight showings and at home, whether they’ve seen The Room a time or two and at least know what it is, and if they’ve never seen The Room at all.  The fanatic is going to see a movie about the creation of a thing they already know and love, the one-time viewer will get the story but won’t have near the investment, while the person who’s never seen The Room will get an off the wall inspirational biography.  All three of these people will get an entertaining, hilarious, and at times heartwarming movie, but all three will come away with an entirely different take away from the experience, and part of me wishes I could start at the beginning and experience The Disaster Artist from all three perspectives (though, I don’t know when I’d find the time and the energy to see all those midnight showings).


Final verdict:  The Disaster Artist is just a little too oddball to be a film I recommend to everyone, but that’s the only reason I wouldn’t.  James Franco gives a performance so incredible he very well may garner his first Oscar, and while it’s more of a long shot, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see him get a Best Director nomination, as well.   The Disaster Artist is both one of the best biopics and best comedies of the year, and that’s a combination you don’t see often at all.  If you’ve seen Ed Wood, you’ll already be familiar with what you’re getting in The Disaster Artist, but even then you will still be awed by the attention to detail in both the performances and the recreations.



Sausage Party (Tiernan & Vernon; 2016)

It’s no shock to anyone that an R-Rated cartoon 10 years in the making from Seth Rogan (screenplay and voice of Frank and Sergeant Pepper), Evan Goldberg (screenplay), and Jonah Hill (screenplay and voice of Carl) is rude, crude, and subversive.  What may shock you a little more is that they can write a movie with quite a bit of depth. There is  no subtlety whatsoever as the metaphors club us over the face the entire running time,  but the allegories run surprisingly deep in Sausage Party.

The main story line in Sausage Party is that all the food at Shopwell’s Supermarket believe that they are on the shelves so that they can one day be chosen by the gods to be taken out of the store and off to the Great Beyond where life will be a paradise.  Frank and Brenda (Kristen Wiig) are a sausage and a bun who are next to each other on their shelf, and they hope that one day they will be chosen by the same god so they can be joined together. They are chosen together as they’d hoped, but a freak mishap leaves them stranded together outside their packaging along with Sammy Davis Bagel (Edward Norton), Kareem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz), and a douche (Nick Kroll) and our foods have to make their way back to their shelves in the hopes they can be chosen again – but, along the way, Frank starts to learn the truth about what happens in the Great Beyond.

The main theme here is a look at religion, particularly monotheism.  Politics and culture are also jabbed at here and there throughout Sausage Party, but the focal point of the satire is the big three monotheistic religions.   It never even attempts to use subtlety in its skewering of religious belief, as I mentioned in the opening statement, but it’s also a far deeper look into religion than just the “religion is dumb” that you may expect.  Yes, it does show the dangers and stupidity inherent in religious belief, but it also looks at what could be the roots of how those beliefs came to be, and the very real purpose they serve, as misguided as they often are.  One of the final jabs in the movie, in fact, is turned around to point the finger at atheists, agnostics, and in particular those who mock others with religious faith, and even though everyone is covered, and nearly every belief system is mocked, Sausage Party always has a purpose and never falls into the trap of being mean satire purely for the sake of being mean.


Yeah.  We’re mean with a purpose.

As to the humor in Sausage Party, if you can think of a sexual innuendo, racist slur, or raunchy pun that involves food in any way you can bet it is in here somewhere, and used pretty cleverly, at that.  While the jokes themselves are obvious, the set ups only occasionally are, and even on those occasions the writers were making it obvious for a reason.  It cannot be overstated just how crude the screenplay is, every four letter word in the book is used over and over again and every body part and function gets joked about on a regular basis, as well, so if you can not abide crassness, then you will not find Sausage Party funny.  For those who fall into the not easily offended camp, however, the jokes are the peak of foul humor. It’s rare that a movie can make someone grimace and belly laugh at the same time continuously for nearly its entire length, but Sausage Party is that rarity.

One aspect of Sausage Party that does fall on the underwhelming side, unfortunately, is the CGI.  There is nothing wrong with the quality of the animation itself, it’s quite crisp and fluid, in fact, but there is also very little imagination to it.  All the characters are very basic food stuffs with little arms and legs that nearly always face toward the audience in a neat little line.  There are exceptions to this, such is scenes inside shopping carts when food is piled on top of each other, but the majority of the time you are just watching boxes and tubes with spindly arms and legs making what may as well be a chorus line.  This is, in my opinion, a case where making the movie’s characters look so much like their real life counterparts was a mistake, and I wish the directors and animators had made some bolder and more creative visual choices to match the bold directions the script takes.


We’re always used to facing toward people on our shelves.  It’s a hard habit to break.

Sausage Party is not a film I’d recommend to everyone, as it is immensely vulgar and less subtle than a jackhammer in a library, but to those who don’t mind those caveats there will be very little here not to like.  It’s both hilarious and intellectual, and that’s a combination that just isn’t seen often enough and needs to be taken advantage of when it appears.

Rating:  7 out of 10