by Justin MadoreIt started with a simple concept. What if food had feelings? Although the idea for the film started this way, it grew into something much more complex. Sausage Party has been the talk of the Internet for a while now thanks to an incredible and shocking reveal trailer, with cinephiles and casual moviegoers eagerly salivating for a chance to digest the newest film from Seth Rogen and company. Pitched as the first R-rated CG animated comedy, it could’ve merely been just that — a gimmick movie. However, it’s usually not that simple with Rogen, who excels at injecting thoughtfulness into what could’ve been another crass cinematic piece of junk in the hands of another.
Sausage Party tells the story of a hot dog named Frank (Rogen) and a bun named Brenda (Wiig). Frank and Brenda live in a supermarket, and everyday they pray that they’ll be chosen by the gods to enter the “Great Beyond.” All of the food in the supermarket conduct their lives based on a song written about the Great Beyond, which covers how they’ll only enter eternity if they follow a strict set of rules. However, when bad things start happening, Frank starts to question the notion of the Great Beyond. As you can probably tell, Sausage Party is heavily satirical of religion, and it’s surprisingly reflective on the subject as well. The different types of food each represent different belief systems and nationalities from around the world. It’s comical to watch Kareem Abdul, a Middle Eastern lavash (voiced by David Krumholtz), argue with Sammy the Jewish bagel (Edward Norton), and the conflicting theologies simultaneously help ground the jokes in reality while giving the viewer some food for thought (pun intended). Additionally, it’s worth noting that while the film has a definite atheist slant, it never goes so far as to condemn any kind of religion.
The cleverness of Sausage Party really begins at its aesthetic. It lampoons the celebrated films of Pixar and Dreamworks by mirroring their appearance. In his theatrical directorial debut, Greg Tiernan uses the skills he’s been honing for years working on over 30 different Thomas the Tank Engine projects, while Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2 & Monsters vs. Aliens) lends the “Dreamworks look.” The result is smooth animation that is indistinguishable from a children’s program. Pairing the visuals with a warm and unthreatening soundtrack further plays to the technique that is so essential to the film’s success.
The animation is used to execute visual gags, which helps vary the jokes. In one scene (parodying the opening of Saving Private Ryan) where food falls out of a shopping cart, our hero, Frank (Rogen), is disoriented as he sees a broken can of spaghetti desperately shovelling its “innard” noodles back into itself as well as a can of peanut butter sobbing over the broken remains of a glass jar of jelly. In addition, without spoiling anything, the ending provides one of the most ludicrous visual gags I’ve ever seen — it genuinely had me rolling in my seat. The contrast between the chosen aesthetic and the vulgarity of the jokes is what raises the humor to another level.
Anyone who knows the crew behind the Rogen/Apatow collection of films knows how crude they are, and Sausage Party is just as crude as the rest of them, if not more so. The dialogue is full of constant cursing, sexual innuendos, and countless endorsements of a variety of drugs. The script keeps the crass jokes coming at a continuous rate that doesn’t let up for more than a handful of minutes at a time, and the result is often hilarious. There is a stretch toward the middle of the film where the humor becomes too repetitive, though. The constant swearing becomes tedious and there aren’t any sight gags to relieve you of the overwhelming amount of profanity, as the writers definitely display an over-reliance on the novelty of a hot dog saying “fuck.”
Despite this shortcoming, Sausage Party is anything but one-note. As with most of Rogen’s films, there are layers throughout. The aforementioned contrast of aesthetics and jokes parodies popular children’s films and the commentary on religion and belief systems gives the story the substance it needs to be more than just your typical raunchy comedy. But most importantly, it’s a funny movie, which is ultimately the bar on which comedies should be judged. After a bit of a lull, the Apatow Mafia has delivered their best film since 2013’s This is The End.
4 out of 5 stars