Sausage Party (2016) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use
Running Time: 89 min.
Cast (voices): Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Nick Kroll, Michael Cera, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz, Salma Hayek, Bill Hader, James Franco, Anders Holm, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson
Small role (voices): Sugar Lyn Beard, Paul Rudd, Harland Williams
Director: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Screenplay: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Review published August 12, 2016
The food items at the supermarket named Shopwell's are excited about the prospects of the annual '4th of July' sale, where many of them get chosen by the 'gods' to go to the promised land of the "Great Beyond." The most excited are the members of a package of ten phallic sausages, especially Frank (voiced by Rogen, Neighbors 2), who becomes enamored of what he hopes will be his future companion, Brenda (Wiig, Ghostbusters), who is one of a collection of eight vulvic hot dog buns. As luck would have it, the god selects both of their respective packages, but a returned jar of honey mustard warns them of the horrors that await them all once they leave the store (i.e., getting sliced, diced, cooked and consumed), leading to a series of events that has Frank, Brenda, and company out of the packages and on to a crazy odyssey as they mill about within the store.
The funny bone is in the arm of the beholder, and certainly there will be a share of the viewing audience who will come away loving Sausage Party and its brand of rude, crude, and largely distastefully vulgar humor (warning: do not bring the kids), primarily because they find those aspects funny in and of themselves. However, you won't be able to count me among them; I laughed only once, possibly only to test if I still had the ability (the meatloaf sings, "I Would Do Anything for Love" -- yeah, I'm embarrassed I laughed too). While I do admire Rogen, Goldberg and the rest for coming up with an inventive new way to deliver their gleefully sophomoric brand of 'bro'-based comedy to the big screen, no amount of CG-infused character designs and cartoony environs can cover over the fact that this is merely the same recycled sexual, scatological and stoner gags they've made their bread and butter since day one. Despite its 'mature' rating, this is about as 'juvenile' as films get.
Sausage Party is directed by Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2, Madagascar 3) and Greg Tiernan (who you may be shocked to learn has directed many episodes of the very kid-oriented "Thomas and Friends"), based on a script from Rogen and Goldberg, plus Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir (who helped Goldberg pen the script for the Rogen vehicle, The Night Before). There appears to be a not-terribly subtle allegory about issues of sexual guilt and repression, class and religious segregation (represented by Woody Allen-aping Sammy Bagel Jr. and Lavash the Arab-stereotype flatbread), and the faith-based appeal of (and subsequent disfavor for) an afterlife, using food as the metaphors, but outside of using these aspects as excuses for crass and borderline-obscene dick-and-fart jokes, there doesn't seem to be a prevailing sociopolitical itch to scratch on the minds of the film's creative team. (I've heard of film's being labeled as 'food porn' but this one takes the term to another level.)
Some will consider Sausage Party as a spoof of popular animated films from the likes of Pixar and Disney, but I would caution not to expect an out-and-out satire. There are a few moments that may echo some of the things you might see in one of those all-ages films (such as musical numbers co-written by Disney regular, Alan Menkin), the movie employs more of a kitchen-sink approach to comedy, willing to do and say pretty much anything to try to elicit laughs from audiences coming in fully expecting at least a dozen solid guffaws. While I've already alluded to the fact that those laughs didn't come for me (perhaps because I watched the film completely straight and sober, unlike many of the film-going public in the theater around me), there are also too many elements where the film is clearly trying to be so-crude-it's-funny but actually made me sink into further depression.
One such story element deals with a feminine hygiene product named, of course, Douche, whose over-amped temper and vengeful megalomania is meant to give the film the semblance of a villain, but is completely unnecessary and generally detracts from the semblance of bratty cheer that the rest of the film feels built upon. Rogen and company just think the fact that he's a douche is automatically funny; if it were anything else, it would cease to have a reason to exist in this film. The faux-shocking ethnic-based elements are really for those who laugh at anything deliberately un-PC, such as the Firewater-brand whiskey bottle represented as a stereotypical "injun", a tequila bottle who is a lusty, mustachioed Mexican, or the Grits being a black who hates the 'crackers', a lesbian taco who wants Brenda's 'buns', or the German food-stuffs led by a Hitler-like sauerkraut who wanted to exterminate the 'juice'. Just as with most components of Sausage Party, a little bit goes a long way. Had this been a 10-minute film, it would be an instant hit among many, but at 90 minutes, the hit-and-miss nature of the comedy, plus the scattershot nature of its story, produces a few prolonged lulls.
If you're someone who enjoys F-bombs so liberally employed they almost seem forced in on the chance they might break some sort of record for animated obscenities, who guffaws at any instance in which racial, gender and sexual stereotypes are exploited for laughs independent of how clever they are beyond their perceived naughtiness, or who relishes any and every opportunity for someone to throw in a grossly imagined double entendre, by all means, seek out Sausage Party, as it is chock full of this level of raunch for raunch's sake. While the idea of Sausage Party is amusing, unfortunately, the reality of actually sitting through it once you settle in to the premise is a tough sell. However, the film does pack quite a crescendo for an orgiastic closing act, which will possibly be just enough to have paying audiences walking out still snickering at what they've seen, perhaps enough to forgive most of the scattershot and very repetitious nature of what has come before.
If you're cordially invited to this party full of sausages, just know that this invitation will come enclosed in an envelope that is persistently pushed throughout.
©2016 Vince Leo