Sausage Party is about as shallow and lazy as comedy scripts come. The cleverest thing about the movie is the restricted red band trailer. It’s quite a shock to see that trailer for the first time. In the first twenty seconds, you’re led to believe the movie is another Pixar-like children’s animated movie. This time it’s food that is being anthropomorphized, and the adventure will begin when the heroes are chosen by humans at the grocery store for a life beyond the walls of the supermarket.
The (admittedly hilarious) shock comes when the woman who bought the groceries starts to peel a potato in front of the rest of the food. Like the humans in this sort of Pixar movie, she’s oblivious to the sentient nature of our heroes, and she can’t hear the horrific cries of the potato as he screams, “Jesus! Fuck!” After that initial shock, you realize this is one of the most sexually explicit, most foul-mouthed animated movies ever made, and that there’s not much else to Sausage Party.
Writers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir are commendably committed to being as outrageous as possible. The problem is that even with the project’s long gestation period, they forgot to focus as hard on crafting a story that made any sense. They also used their objective of being as crass as possible as an opportunity to fall back on exceptionally lazy stereotypes for their characters and troubling rape imagery for their jokes.
Sausage Party is set in the world of Shopwell’s, a grocery store where all the food is conscious and they start every morning by singing a song praising “the gods.” They plead for their gods – that’s you and me – to select them, because they believe that when they leave Shopwell’s a blissful afterlife awaits. Frank the hot dog and Brenda the hot dog bun dream of the day they are chosen, so they can finally be unpackaged and spend the rest of eternity having wild sex. Frank starts to have doubts about the truth of his beliefs when a jar of honey mustard comes back from the great beyond. (The particular god who chose him meant to get regular mustard.) Visibly shaken and ranting, the food around Honey Mustard try to decipher his ramblings. Before he can fully explain, though, he is selected by another god, along with Frank and Brenda.
Honey Mustard’s belief that committing suicide would be better than leaving the store again leads to the best part of the entire movie. As he takes a swan dive out of the shopping cart, Honey Mustard pulls most of the other food along with him, who are all trying to save him. As the food falls to the floor, the breakable items smash open. Naturally, this mess in aisle two is merely cause for the gods to get a mop, but the carnage as viewed from the perspective of our edible heroes is rendered as the famous storming of Normandy Beach from Saving Private Ryan. The visual flourishes of the animators are brilliant. Like when the camera sweeps in slow motion over a can of spaghetti trying to stuff his innards back into his body, or an Oreo cookie picking up his back half as he stumbles around in a daze.
If the fleeting moments of inspired filmmaking like that were the rule, and not the exception, Sausage Party could have been the best comedy of the year. Unfortunately, the satire on display is uninspired and characters like Firewater are representative of the screenplay’s doltishness. Firewater is a Native American bottle of liquor who holds the answers to the outside world, and he is the tired Hollywood stereotype of the Noble Savage. The character is made even more unsavory because the voice behind Firewater is the very white comedian Bill Hader, who is performing the worst example of red face since Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger. At least directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon had the good sense to cast Salma Hayek, an actual Mexican actress, as a taco named Teresa.
Nick Kroll delivers a very funny performance as a douche named, well, Douche. He’s a feminine hygiene product that vows revenge against Frank after the hot dog inadvertently causes Douche’s nozzle to become bent, making him useless. The performance is funny, but the character is responsible for the kind of unfortunate comedy that relies on rape jokes, as Douche forcibly holds down a juice box so he can suck it dry in order to refill his own leaking fluids.
The most disappointing aspect of the story is the religious allegory Rogen and company attempted. Religion is a ripe target for mockery, but here it becomes a missed opportunity because the screenwriters never make it clear exactly what aspects they are mocking. It’s not the belief in God, because even as Frank tries to convince his brethren that everything they’ve been taught is wrong, “gods” in this world do exist. Frank isn’t making the case for atheism, he’s just trying to convince the other food that the gods aren’t the benevolent beings they worship, but are instead indifferent murderers. The message of the filmmakers is muddled at best.
Sausage Party does have some laugh out loud moments, but they are few and far between. Depending on your comfort level with hedonism, the outrageous climax of the movie will either strike you as hilarious or horrifying. These moments don’t come close to making up for the disturbing race and rape humor in which the film traffics. For those who like their humor exceptionally stupid, Sausage Party won’t disappoint. Overall, it’s a movie that’s about as clever as a 90 minute TruckNutz commercial. Anyone hoping for a smart and consistently hilarious satire, take another look at Blazing Saddles.
Why it got 2.5 stars:
- Don't get me wrong, Sausage Party has some genuinely funny moments, just not enough to make it worth seeing.
- The movie is more disappointing than anything else, mainly because the comedy is so very bro-tastic.
Things I forgot to mention in my review, because, well, I'm the Forgetful Film Critic:
- Edward Norton plays the Jewish bagel named Sammy. I am a big fan of Norton, but he does perhaps the worst Woody Allen impression I've ever heard.