Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Salma Hayek, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton
(Columbia Pictures/Annapurna Pictures)
Wide: 12 Aug 2016
UK theatrical: TBD
Wieners say the damnedest things. Thanks to Sausage Party, the new animation abomination from directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, we get to hear every wicked syllable. Sausage Party is lewd, offensive, immature, and disgusting. It’s also one of the funniest films of 2016, and perhaps the most subversive comedy since Borat visited America nearly a decade ago. Seth Rogen’s troupe of talented writers attacks each sexual, political, and religious target with equal venom and vulgarity. Sausage Party is a gleeful ode to anarchy that transcends both stoner comedy and Pixar spoof.
Like any self-respecting animated feature, Sausage Party begins with a zippy song to encapsulate its magical world. In this case, that magical world is the decidedly un-magical Shopwell’s supermarket, and the singers are the foul-mouthed foodstuffs that line its shelves. From condiments to feminine hygiene products, each item fantasizes about ‘the Gods’ (aka: customers) whisking them away from Shopwell’s supermarket and delivering them to ‘The Great Beyond’.
Frank (Rogen) is a horny hot dog sausage who dreams of being wrapped in the spongy embrace of Brenda the hot dog bun (Kristen Wiig). When both are dumped into the same shopping cart, their orgasmic future together in The Great Beyond seems assured. Their fantasy is interrupted, however, when a returned bottle of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) warns the gullible groceries about the unspeakable horrors awaiting them. Now, Frank must make a dangerous pilgrimage across the store to find the truth about his destiny.
Directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon deliver the R-rated goods straight out of the gate, with enough colorful expletives to make Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street blush. Most of the early humor, as you might expect from the film’s title, is dedicated to sexual fantasies and potty pre-occupations. It’s like being transported into the fevered brain of a 13-year-old boy, only with better writers.
Instead of wallowing in pre-pubescent smut, Rogen and his co-writers (including long-time collaborator Evan Goldberg) venture into riskier territories. For example, a nebbish bagel (Edward Norton) from the Middle Eastern aisle clashes with an ill-tempered Muslim flatbread named Lavash (David Krumholtz). Together, they capture the complexity and futility of warfare in the Middle East arguably better than any political pundit ever could.
Likewise, a randy taco shell named Teresa (Salma Hayek) is experiencing strange yearnings that contradict her destiny to be stuffed with meat; she’s much more comfortable fondling Brenda’s buns. Teresa is one of several groceries who are curious about crossing the sexual aisle. The filmmakers create a cultural smorgasbord in their supermarket, deconstructing and re-arranging societal norms like so many cans on a shelf.
The Sausage Party’s biggest target, however, is organized religion. The unwieldy constraints of religious dogma are under constant attack. Of course, Frank’s questions about fate are riddled with theological implications, and almost every answer undermines the notion of blind faith. Cultural beliefs about the afterlife are lampooned with razor-sharp precision. Lavash’s expectation to find “77 extra-virgin olive oils” waiting for him in The Great Beyond is a particular highlight. Like Rogen’s previous doomsday effort, This is the End, it’s unlikely that Sausage Party will earn many fans in the fundamentalist crowd.
One uproarious sequence after another demonstrates the true power of animation; cartoon creations can say and do things otherwise off limits to their human counterparts. Whether it’s the ridiculously over-the-top racial affectations of a wise Indian Chief called Firewater (Bill Hader), the strident homosexuality of a Twinkie, or a wheelchair-bound piece of gum (Scott Underwood) with a Hawking-esque vocal synthesizer, animation eases the guilt of laughing at truly terrible things. It’s the perfect medium for envelope-pushers like Rogen and Goldberg, who must feel like sticky-fingered kids in a candy store.
Of course, Sausage Party isn’t perfect. A film with this many jokes and non sequiturs is bound to have a few stinkers. The expletives are artificially inflated, which makes the writing feel lazy at times. The villain of the story, Douche (Nick Kroll), doesn’t work at all. He’s a one-note character structured around the film’s least inspired gag. It’s almost incomprehensible to think that something could be beneath these particular filmmakers, but Douche is, indeed, beneath them.
Tiernan and Vernon get the look and feel of their film just right. An obvious poke at Pixar, these colorful characters would be right at home in a setting like Toy Story, provided their mouths were gagged. The filmmakers also delight in sprinkling Easter eggs throughout the action, including a nod to Meat Loaf’s iconic “Bat Out of Hell” album cover. Yes, Meat Loaf is in this film, and no, he still won’t do that for love.
Sausage Party is an irretrievably crass film that works on almost every demented level. Numerous scenes will leave you breathless (or aghast) with laughter, including one bonkers sequence that redefines the term, ‘food porn’. It’s also got a lot to say about the dangers of controlling people through dogma and the unintended consequences of exposing the strings. Mostly, it’s just funny as hell.