Title: Sausage Party
Release Date: August 12th, 2016
Directors: Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
Release Format: Theatrical
Conceptually, Sausage Party is the kind of movie a group of film-loving friends jokes about. A premise so high concept and ridiculous, that there is no way it could actually exist. After all, the animation is currently in a strange place. Mainstream computer animated films are safer than ever, with Pixar churning out sequels and Illumination producing bright colors that yell. Meanwhile, adult animation that was taboo and edgy (I.E. The Simpsons, South Park) is starting to feel dull. Both sides need a shake up, and who better than Seth Rogen to do it? Starting an international conflict with The Interview certainly didn’t put the fear of God in him. Surely, animation won’t either.
Yeah, about that…
Sausage Party centers of a society of food living inside Shopwell’s Supermarket. Everybody living within is desperate to be “chosen” and taken to “The Great Beyond” by the humans, whom they worship. However, a sausage named Frank (Seth Rogen) starts to suspect that the truth may be much more horrifying. After all, Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) has returned from The Great Beyond with a bad case of PTSD. In fact, Mustard is so unhinged, that he sets off a series of events which leaves Frank trapped on the floor. With his beloved bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) by his side, Frank must find his way home and grapple with the reality of what lies beyond those glass doors.
Yes, as it turns out this isn’t Rogen merely using animation as a filter for his brand of crude humor. This is his all-out assault on organized religion. Carlin by way of carrots. By its sheer controversial nature, this is dicey territory for even a Rated-R animated movie. Fortunately, Sausage Party strides onto these cultural land mines with such creativity, that it becomes both ingestible and thought provoking. The world building here is fantastic, the secret world of Shopwell’s both absurdly hilarious and tragic. Points of view from all over the world are represented (some better than others) through these characters. It’s not one sided either, as the damning effects of shattering people’s beliefs are covered as well. For a film that is ultimately silly, the level of depth here is astonishing. In fact, in many ways, it mirrors the social commentary and quick wit of The Lego Movie.
Sausage Party commits so completely to its silliness that the great majority of the jokes land. Sure, a lot of it is the fairly standard Rogen crew sex and drug humor. However, seeing it from this new angle does a surprising amount to make this all feel fresh again. While the animation is clearly a few steps down from Pixar level, the level of visual invention is phenomenal. Veteran animation directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon stuff every inch of the frame with jokes. In fact, there are so many tiny visual gags and puns that they’ll be hard to catch during a first viewing. Meanwhile, when the film explodes into action, they deliver some of the most glorious cartoon violence in quite some time. The food deaths, in particular, are genuinely horrifying, with several possibly becoming classic deaths among cult movie fans.
Sausage Party does, however, seem a little undercooked in the character department. Rogen and his gang of usual suspects (Wiig, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill etc) are wonderfully expressive voice performers. Unfortunately, none of them are really allowed to stretch beyond one personality trait. They’re each a piece of a point, so while they’re funny, none of them really stand out. This starts to become a bit of a problem when the film goes for a couple of cheap cultural stereotypes. While several of them end up working fine (Edward Norton as a Jewish bagel is fantastic), others are far less intelligent. It feels like a couple of low blows in an otherwise wonderfully crafted comedy. Fortunately, the movie also goes in a couple directions with these characters that are flat out brave. Directions that some live action movies are afraid to go in.
This is not going to be a film for everybody. To say that Sausage Party is weird is a massive understatement. Some are going to find it absolutely disgusting, such is the nature of food. However, it takes its potential ridden premise, goes as far as it can go, and then goes further. It’s willingness to take things so beyond the realm of decency is what makes it so great. It’s certainly Rogen’s sharpest comedy since This is the End and a beautiful recovery from the tepid Neighbors 2. Especially considering this exhausting sequel ridden summer, Sausage Party’s pure unfiltered originality is the most delicious treat in theaters.
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