Director(s): Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Starring: Seth Rogen, Kristin Wiig, James Franco, Bill Hader, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera
Release Date: Sep 2
It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone to find the writers’ room behind this film decorated with several bongs, beer cans and a well-worn copy of Mario Kart 64. Previous movies from Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, such as Pineapple Express or This is the End, felt like they were borne from a wealth of private jokes, coming together to form a well-oiled laugh machine.
With Sausage Party, it feels like we’re overhearing the private jokes and, for some, we’re left wondering whether maybe we just had to be there.
In typical Disney fashion, we are introduced to the lively residents of Shopwells with an upbeat musical number. Every individual shopping item wakes up, eagerly praying to be chosen by ‘The Gods’, to be taken away to ‘the Great Beyond’. Some items, such as Frank (Rogen) and his frankfurter buddies, see this as an opportunity to get into some shapely buns, such as the curvy Brenda Bunson (Wiig).
Unfortunately, they’ll need to learn the hard way what actually happens to food outside in ‘the Great Beyond’…
I’m just going to say it; cartoon characters swearing excessively or making sexual gestures is plain uncomfortable to watch. Visually, it is like being slapped in the face with your lost childhood. The animation doesn’t strive to be beautiful or even visually pleasing either, because that would be thematically at odds with its incredibly crass humour.
And while there is something to be said for the humour, lasting impressions of Sausage Party are that it is an ugly movie, and in more ways than one.
This is especially unfortunate, because the blame for this might easily fall on the shoulders of the animators who, controversially, were revealed to be badly mistreated during production, doing overtime with no pay. To blame them would be a mistake. You can’t fault a decorator for not putting the chandelier in the shit-house.
If anyone is to blame, it’s the purveyors of crude humour itself. If you’re going to leave a bad taste in the mouth of the audience, you might as well go all-out.
And all-out they certainly go. Crude though the humour might be, the film is not without its moments. Two separate scenes involving hallucinations are both utterly priceless and their semi-explanation of why people can’t see the food walking or talking is a slice of meta-narrative brilliance.
Despite its style, you can tell there is some heart in the film because the entire cast throw themselves into it with great enthusiasm. Rogen is particularly well cast, an ineffably likable lead and a testament to why he is so popular at the moment. Wiig does an excellent job as his counter-part, and a special mention has to be made for Bill Hader’s Firewater, a native-American ‘Non-perishable’. The most inspired casting choice, however, is for Nick Kroll’s character.
Slight spoiler alert, he will be a big hit with Parks and Recreation fans.
With these individual moments keeping you chuckling along, it’s quite easy to overlook the fact that a sizable chunk of the humour is supposed to be coming from the notion of food swearing. Rogen may be the king when it comes to dropping a well-timed F-bomb, but he relies on it too heavily here. It’s an enjoyable but lazy way to keep the momentum going.
And, while almost certainly not intentional, this could actually be considered another slice of unparalleled meta-genius; the films’ structure makes it a perfect movie to put on and talk over when the guys come over with bongs and beers in hand.
Lazier still than the swearing, though undeniably brave, is the ‘shock’ humour. The lightest example of this can be seen in the trailer, when a lowly Irish potato discovers he has a date with destiny and a potato peeler. It builds on that, climbing the ladder of controversy until it culminates in a staggering finale that will have you blinking in disbelief at the colourful chaos onscreen.
It nails the shock part, of that there is no doubt.
The humour aspect is debatable.
Overall, Sausage Party is very easily comparable to a standard, real life party.
It has both its glorious highs and typical lulls.
It’ll be remembered fondly by some and not at all by others.
And while it may be a willing sacrifice, there’s no question that it looks pretty bad in the harsh light of day.
Written by Stephen Hill