A film review by Craig J. Koban August 19, 2016

SAUSAGE PARTY jjj

2016, R, 83 mins.

 

Seth Rogen as Frank (voice)  /  Michael Cera as Barry (voice)  /  Jonah Hill as Carl (voice)  /  Salma Hayek as Teresa Taco (voice)  /  Kristen Wiig as Brenda (voice)  /  Edward Norton as Sammy Bagel Jr. (voice)  /  Nick Kroll as Douche (voice) 

Directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan  /  Written by Kyle Hunter,  Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

SAUSAGE PARTY is the only film in the history of the medium that has a jar of honey mustard screaming “kiss my brownish yellow ass” as well as a scene involving a taco performing oral sex on a hot dog bun.  

The fact that it’s an animated movie – and one that’s aggressively lewd and potty mouthed, pushing the boundaries of its R-rating and nearly tip-toeing into NC-17 territory – is also noteworthy…noteworthy in the sense that its characters are food items. 

An animated film that goes out of its way to be adult themed is hardly anything novel…at least not as novel as the makers of SAUSAGE PARTY seem to think.  The works of Ralph Bakshi shocked audiences and pushed the envelope of accepted decency for the animated film genre decades ago, not to mention that more recent efforts like SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER AND UNCUT also beat SAUSAGE PARTY to the punch.  There’s a somewhat pompous, self-congratulatory tone that permeates SAUSAGE PARTY, often to its detriment.  The film is uproariously funny at times, yes, but it sometimes thinks that being chronically vulgar and crude is automatically funny.  There are instances when it sure seems that these superficially cute and cuddly characters drop F and C bombs with such frequency that it would make the mobsters from GOODFELLAS flee for the hills.  Once the initial novelty of seeing produce curse like sailors wears off, the raunch factor of the film evaporates really fast. 

 

 

Having said all of that, though, SAUSAGE PARTY has a real ace up its sleeve that made it endlessly fascinating: it’s a rather unadvertised piece of satirical social commentary on the nature of religion, blind faith, and modern day race relations.  This has the positive side effect of making the film feel a hell of a lot more perceptively and intelligently scripted than its trailer campaign led on (which ostensibly honed in on the film’s scatological shenanigans).  Co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg provide for some surprisingly nuanced mediations on theology and the tenuous Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the latter taking the form of two characters – one a bagel and one a piece of flatbread – that endlessly debate their respective and differing ideologies.  It can be argued that some of the characters could easily be perceived as crude racial caricatures that strain political correctness (sauerkraut, for instance, makes some decidedly Nazi-inspired gestures, venomously vowing to “eliminated the Juice”), but the subtext buried deep beneath them is razor sharp and joyously goes for the satirical jugular.   

SAUSAGE PARTY also works splendidly as a not-so-thinly-veiled mockery of animated film conventions and clichés, especially with its gloriously deranged and amusing opening sequence, a lavishly choreographed song and dance number that involves all of the food items at Shopwell’s Supermarket praising to the virtues of their human "gods" and "The Great Beyond” outside of the store.  The blatant skewering of Walt Disney film iconography here is an infectious hoot.  Once the film settles down we get introduced to many key characters that reside within this grocery story microcosm (it should also be noted that unless humans are seriously tripping on drugs then none of them can see the food items speaking or engaging in very human-like behavior).  Seemingly everyone that resides at supermarket desires to be chosen by the gods to be whisked away to the heavenly destination that awaits them outside.  This is very important for one sausage named Frank (voiced by Rogen) and a hot dog bun named Brenda (Kristin Wiig): being chosen together means that they will finally be able to – ahem! – procreate.  This film gives a whole new meaning to the process of taking the wiener to the bun.   

One jar of mustard has journeyed to the Great Beyond and has been returned to the store with a hellish horror story of what really happens to food while there (not being able to live with his new knowledge, he commits suicide).  Of course, one of Frank’s buddies, a deformed sausage named Barry (Michael Cera) learns first hand that the human gods – gasp! – cut, slice, impale, decapitate, boil, fry, and – double gasp! – eat food…even children!  Concurrent to this is Frank's and Brenda’s accidentally ejection from their packaging while being chosen, which leads to them grouping together with Sammy the bagel (Edward Norton, channeling his inner Woody Allen) and Vash the flatbread (David Krumholtz) and they all decide to pursue some real answers as to what happens beyond the store shelves.  Complicating matters severely is a rather vengeful minded feminine hygiene product (Nick Kroll, sounding an awful lot like Rocket Raccoon from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) that wants…to...ummm…suck the juices of others to fuel his power and desires to make everyone around him as miserable as possible.  What.  A.  Douche. 

This is an exceedingly silly movie.  There’s simply no questioning that.  It’s also incredibly R-rated fare, especially considering its ravenous appetite for delivering perpetual profanity, sexual innuendo (revolving around indescribably pornographic situations involving some food items penetrating others), and all other forms of crassly juvenile hijinks that comes off like it were penned by pre-pubescent boys.   SAUSAGE PARTY occasionally struggles for new ideas and gags the longer it progresses, and for every one that wholeheartedly delivers there’s an equal number that fall flat.  Momentum issues plague the film’s scripting as well, and after the film shifts away from its wondrously realized opening sequence it struggles to find ample and secure footing to keep the proceedings swiftly moving forward.  Perhaps SAUSAGE PARTY would have worked better as a concept/idea that would have lent itself better to an animated short than a feature length film.   Even when the film reaches some semblance of storytelling finality there’s a needlessly shoehorned in bit that’s too distractingly meta for its own good.   

Still, SAUSAGE PARTY is undeniably hysterical in key moments, even when it seems to be grasping for new ways to tickle our funny bones as it runs out of ideas.  The film’s allegorical elements are ultimately what won me over.  In particular, I appreciated the way Rogen and company slyly comment on real world racial segregation by mirroring that with how the grocery store community is organized, often against one another.  And again, this animated film clearly and obviously speaks towards the inherent dangers of blind spiritual faith, and not too many other Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks animated films have the gutsy wherewithal to engage in sarcastic indictments of organized religion.  Granted, there’s an awful lot of weed, booze, bodily function, and intercourse jokes thrown in here as well, staple elements of the Seth Rogen-ian comedic milieu.  SAUSAGE PARTY, at its best, is quite winning when it lets its razor sharp satiric talons loose.  At its worst, the film offers up filthy minded dime-a-dozen debauchery that’s not really all that cutting edge and innovative.   However, the film does have a noble-minded message: if a bagel and flatbread can overcome their respective differences and learn to love one another, then why can’t people in general?  Granted, humanity is guilty – as this film points out – of mass food genocide on a global scale.  After watching SAUSAGE PARTY I’ve never felt more sorry for baby carrots in all my life.    

 

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