Sausage Party (R)
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir
Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long. Almost 21 years have passed since the release of Toy Story and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg‘s filthy ode to Pixar is the first R-rated, computer animated feature film. How has it taken two decades to get something like this? Surely others have tried, but leave it to Rogen and Goldberg to make it actually happen. Sausage Party stars Rogen as Frank, a hot dog who is desperate to be sold and carried out of the grocery store by one of the “gods” – or who we know better as customers. Beyond the great automatic doors is what they believe to be the food version of heaven. Once there, they are able to indulge in their wildest fantasies, freed from their packaging. A glimpse of the truth, that these “gods” are only taking them to their demise by consumption, from a shell-shocked jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) leads Frank to search for answers. Sausage Party is surprisingly deep for what it appears to be on the surface, and, while not perfect, bodes well for the future of hard-R animation.
First thing’s first: this is by far the raunchiest movie I have ever seen in my life. I am still shocked by what they were able to put on screen simply because the characters are anthropomorphized food. I think the writers (Rogen and Goldberg along with Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, and Jonah Hill who gets a story credit) exhausted just about every food-based dick joke in the books and they never pass up a good food pun (“Friends, ramen, country club lemonade… lend me your ears of corn.”). Its sexual references are constant and explicit – the climax features a lot of… well… climaxing. This is also an extremely violent film, but it comes off as funny and mostly harmless because it’s all happening to food: a banana loses the skin from its face due to it peeling off; jelly (blood) splatters all over our characters after the jar falls from a cart; children (baby carrots) are chewed to bits. This film is rude and crude and shocking from the start and only gets more insane as it goes. It’s anarchic spirit is contagious.
One thing about Sausage Party that is particularly grating, however, is the amount of swearing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well placed “fuck” every once in a while, but the use of swear words here reached a level of saturation that drove me crazy. It’s like the creative team found it hilarious to watch cute pieces of food curse and opted to have a baby carrot yell, “For the love of shit! Run!” – which is a phrase I have never heard before in my life – in lieu of crafting actual jokes. The film lapses into this type of laziness in other parts of the film, such as when Frank meets Firewater and gets high just because it’s contractually obligated that a Seth Rogen character has to get high in every film. Nothing particularly creative happens with the drug use at this point which is disappointing. This group of actors has had huge success with drug fueled scenes in the past (tripping during school in 21 Jump Street; the entirety of This is the End) so the lack of creativity is disappointing, especially considering the freedom allowed by animation. Fortunately, Sausage Party does get injected with some great energy late in the film through the introduction of bath salts – not the kind you put in your tub.
The animation is vibrant, colorful and, while not even coming close to the majesty of a Pixar production, gets the job done. The characters are hilarious, but only a handful are truly memorable creations. Visually the most memorable character is the one played by Nick Kroll, named “Douche.” I’ll give you one guess as to what he is playing. The rest of the cast puts in great performances, especially Michael Cera as “Barry” and Edward Norton as “Sammy Bagel Jr”. Edward Norton’s performance is so transformative that I could have sworn Sammy Bagel was being played by Richard Kind. It’s a fantastic and hilarious performance. Unfortunately, no piece of animated food will ever be as charming as these actors are in the flesh.
What Sausage Party may lack in visual prowess is more than made up for with jokes. The jokes in this movie almost never stop, and while you may not laugh all the time, I can guaranteed your mouth will be agape from pure shock. This movie pushes the envelope in ways I didn’t know were possible for a big studio comedy. Sometimes you may even have to watch this through your fingers – it’s that gross.
In the end, what really grounds this film is its rumination on faith. Rogen and co have constructed a raunchy cartoon all about the fundamentals of religion and what it means to live your life shielding yourself from hard truths. It’s surprisingly deep for a movie featuring a walking-talking douche and though Sausage Party may be covered in filth, it’s filth with meaning. There’s something oddly beautiful about that.
Rating: 4 out of 5