Can Pete’s Dragon and Sausage Party save a summer of blockbuster failure?

This summer has been tough for moviegoers craving a good time luckily there are films about animated meat products and a dragon to save the day

In the seven years Ive been writing about film for a living, I cant recall a summer where I dreaded going to the cinema more.

Spring didnt indicate that would be the case. In February, Deadpool upended virtually every superhero movie cliche to prove theres still some life left in the genre. Disney matched that films ingenuity with Zootopia, a gorgeously animated cartoon about a bunny befriending a fox, that also somehow managed to tackle a litany of social justice issues while coyly addressing race relations in America and police brutality.

All that goodwill that Hollywood built up in those early months came to an earth-shattering thud with the arrival of Zack Snyders superhero mashup Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which failed to deliver either a plausible storyline to account for the titular brawl or much in the way of good time.

From there on in, the dominoes kept falling. Warcraft: The Beginning didnt bother to make a lick of sense. Alice Through the Looking Glass squandered the wonder that characterized Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland, burdening itself with a lame time-travelling plot. X-Men: Apocalypse trotted out a bored-looking Jennifer Lawrence for another superhero movie in which most of the world gets destroyed with glaringly little consequence.

The overwhelmingly dire output of late has suggested that the Hollywood honchos have fallen asleep at the wheel in rather spectacular fashion. When a film as deafeningly hyped as Batman v Superman fails to crack $1bn worldwide, you know somethings amiss.

Given the sludge thrown our way this season, it almost didnt come as a surprise that last weeks two big releases were just as bad. DCs second big film of the year, Suicide Squad, was a hodgepodge of a blockbuster, assembling a bunch of underdeveloped villains to fight a villain even hokier than Oscar Isaacs titular purple god in X-Men: Apocalypse. Nine Lives, Barry Sonnenfelds kiddie flick about a cat voiced by Kevin Spacey, shouldnt have been granted life at all. A third Garfield film would have been more welcome than this drivel.

But all is not lost for summer 2016. By industry standards, Sonys Sausage Party and Disneys Petes Dragon couldnt differ more.

Produced, written by and featuring the voice of Seth Rogen, Sausage Party is a hard-R animated film, the likes of which people havent seen since Trey Parker and Matt Stone tested the MPAAs boundaries with South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Team America: World Police. Despite the plots core similarities to Toy Story (it imagines the secret lives of food, instead of toys), Sausage Party is distinctly non-Pixar, by gorging on racial and cultural stereotypes (Edward Norton does a killer Woody Allen impression to play a Jewish bagel who butts heads with an Arabic flatbread; Salma Hayek voices a lesbian taco), meanwhile engaging in a radical thread that questions the existence of God and the destructive harm organized religion can breed. Its also very, very funny.

Petes Dragon caters to a much younger demographic: like the 1997 partially animated original, it tells a sugary sweet tale about a young boy raised by a big, cuddly dragon. The latest in Disneys fruitful bid to remake all of its animated classics comes from indie darling David Lowery, a young film-maker who showed great promise at the Sundance film festival in 2013 with his artful and subtly devastating romance Aint Them Bodies Saints. Petes Dragon, his first studio gamble, retains the homespun quality that made his last picture so endearing, despite its boasting a blockbuster-sized budget and visual effects galore. It bests The Jungle Book, until now the best-received of the Disney live-action revamps, by bearing the stamp of its formally rigorous maker so strongly.

Read more: