Sausage Party and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing this movie for at least five years and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been trying to get this made for even longer than that. I’m not sure how it took so much work to get this movie made as both of them are bankable stars and this movie ended up costing next to nothing (ten million is nothing in terms of Hollywood features), but regardless of whatever strife they had to work through, the day has finally come for us to see a movie about dicks, vaginas, and assholes being played by hotdogs, buns, and bagels. Does this movie end up being a classy as fuck masterpiece for the ages, or was all that effort for naught and this is just a giant steaming load of lameness? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the misadventures of several food items in this one grocery store known as Shopwell’s, but for the most part our focus is on Frank the Sausage (Seth Rogen). He’s living the perfect sausage life; namely staying fresh inside his package and praising the Gods every day in the hopes that he will be chosen to leave the store and enter the great beyond! Well he’s also praying that he can nail that hot little number in the bun package, Brenda Bunson (Kristen Wiig), but he’s got to keep those urges in check. After all, the Gods only want FRESH food that isn’t tainted with sin! Now all the food in this store (and presumably all the other stores in the world) seem to all follow this belief system where the humans are Gods taking them to a promised land, but as we all know humans tend to be to total assholes and will end up eating them instead which is SUPER fucked up! The day finally comes for Frank, his other sausage buddies (Carl and Barry played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera), and Brenda as one of the Gods chooses them and they’re put in its holy shopping cart. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned as the shopping cart runs into another one; splattering a lot of the food in a very gruesome manner and knocking both Frank and Brenda (along with a few other items) out of the cart and into the store… OUT OF THEIR PACKAGES!! Now you may have assumed that the shopping carts collided due to bad luck. Not quite so, as a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) had seen some shit and jumped out of the cart after telling the rest of the food how fucked they are, and that was the cause of the crash. Why is this important? Well there was one person listening the entire time, and that was Frank! So on top of getting back inside a sausage package (along with Brenda who needs to find a bun package) Frank is on a journey to find out the truth and if what Honey Mustard was saying had any merit to it! Can Frank discover the dark secrets that the world outside the grocery store holds? Will this inevitably create a schism between him and Brenda, the latter of which still has faith in the Gods and their divine plan? And what about Carl and Barry!? WHAT THE FUCK IS GONNA HAPPEN TO THEM!?
The movie doesn’t quite live up to the potential of the trailer, but it’s still pretty damn good. It’s another example of a movie that’s best material being given to us before we even see the damn thing, which means that the humor (for the most part) is only an inch deep. The basic idea of the food being blind religious zealots that get a rude awakening is clever, but it takes way too long for the movie to really go anywhere with it that we didn’t see coming. Worse yet, the stuff they only sort of showed in the trailer, namely the racial humor, is WAY too prevalent in here and just not all that funny. It’s offensive sure, but there is the germ of a good idea there in that it’s satirizing the racial advertisements and mascots that have either been retired or are somehow still with us to this day, but again; inch deep. Fortunately, the second half is where things at least start to change up a bit and the entire third act is a cavalcade of raunchiness, ultra violence, and John Waters style excess which is what I had HOPED would be true for the entire movie but is still great to see once we do get it. The movie is definitely a passion project and is shows in just how far they were willing to go to make sure their vision made it to the screen as uncompromised as possible, but for a movie that took so long to make, it’s a shame that script feels this unfinished and lazy in spots.
Once the ball starts rolling partway through the first act, the movie separates into three story lines that we follow intermittently through the film; Frank’s search for the truth, Brenda’s search for a new package, and Barry’s search to get back home. Of these, Frank’s is easily the best as his story was clearly what the whole feature was about; namely a crack at religion as a concept in a fashion similar to another completely absurd movie The Invention of Lying. The explanation as to how their belief in the benevolent Gods came about, the reasons why such a tale was crafted, and even how the good word got perverted and changed for nefarious ends (the Sauerkraut changed their holy song to include a line about exterminating juice) are not all that original as comedians have been doing these kind of jokes for years, such as Patton Oswalt’s sky cake bit, but the creativity in having that apply to anthropomorphic food gives the material a lot of new life and lets them take it in interesting places. When Frank’s quest starts to reach its zenith and he finds the proof he was looking for, it’s a spectacularly ingenious moment and is something I SHOULD have seen coming but didn’t.
Barry’s quest to return home isn’t as interesting as it goes for more of a dark Toy Story angle where he’s trying to survive in the real world after getting a rude awakening about their ultimate fate when they leave the store. I like the idea of seeing what a traumatized food item would be going through after their entire world has shattered around them and what they’ll do when they’re operating on pure survival instinct, but it’s not really as clever as Frank’s journey and isn’t as intense as they want it to be. Still, there’s some solid material here to mine; especially once he finds his way to a Stoner’s house which plays out a lot like Cid’s big scene in the first Toy Story.
Unfortunately, the worst part of the movie is the Brenda Bunson part; mostly because this is where they shove in most of the racial humor which is overall pretty lousy. Now of course the point here is to be offensive and I’m totally for doing shocking humor if it’s on point and is really funny, but it never really manages to be either. Two of the tag-a-longs for Brenda’s journey are a bagel and a lavash who alternatively play a stereotypical Jew (i.e. Woody Allen sounding) and a stereotypical Palestinian so that the movie can do all the funny Israel and Palestine jokes that are about as old and stale as all that food would be for staying out of their package for that long. Seriously, when you’re material was already done to death by the Drawn Together Movie (which admittedly was made during this movies ten year journey to the screen); it’s time to update the material. It’s not even GOOD overused material considering how obvious the jokes are and how freaking long they go on and on with it. The rest of the food they meet along their journey are probably just as lame and lazily offensive (particularly a Mexican Tequila bottle), but at least they don’t stick around for that long while we’re stuck with this odd couple the entire time.
The silver lining to her scenes though is that they feature the villain most prominently who is a huge highlight of the movie. The bad guy is a literal douche (hee hee hee) that’s out to get revenge on Frank as he blames him for the shopping cart incident which left him broken and led to him getting thrown in the garbage. Now the joke is pretty simple as the douche is acting like a douche, but Nick Kroll is giving a fantastic performance here that keeps the characters material from getting stale (that, and a side joke about him inadvertently doing food puns works every time they do it). However, what REALLY makes his character such a gripping and noteworthy part of this movie is that he starts to drink other liquid based foods to refill himself as he’s got a leak that’s draining him of all his fluids. Not only does this keep him full, but it ALSO seems to give him extra strength an energy which is a pretty damn ingenious concept! From the food’s perspective, humans are doing these horrible things to them to keep them strong and powerful (which is true as we need nourishment), and then they extend that to this douche character who gets stronger the more fluids he ingests; so much so that he goes mad with power and thinks himself as a god which, in this world, are the humans. It’s a really clever extension of the mythology they’ve set up here and it adds a lot of legs to his role in the story.
So the first half of this movie is a bit shaky as we’re going back and forth between uneven stories and we’re getting jokes that aren’t really landing intercut between the more interesting and insightful (if a bit worn) commentary. The second half though (or maybe more towards the end of the second act) starts to streamline things as the stories start to converge (and the movie has exhausted most of its racial humor) which really kicks things up a notch as we head into the finale. By trimming some of the excess weight, the movie has more focus and plenty of time to start exploring its central theme and taking action on it. The ending goes so far outside the box and into deranged excess that my best comparison would be a John Waters flick crossed with early Peter Jackson. Not quite at the level of awesomeness that combination would suggest, but that seems to be the target their aiming for and it ends up working much better than pretty much anything else in here.
I really did enjoy this movie, but I get that sense that I’m in a weird spot as I’m not wildly in love with it. The word I keep hearing in reviews and coverage of this movie is “unique” and honestly its far from that. Maybe I’ve seen to many John Waters, Ralph Bakshi, Monty Python, and Sam Raimi movies to be surprised by any one singular aspect, but taken as a whole it’s a damn fine mash up of those elements that is held back a bit by weak comedy in spots and laggy first half. Still, I absolutely recommend this movie for anyone into… well ANY of the things this movie tries to be! If you love Bakshi, then this is probably the best American produced R Rated animated feature since his heyday. If you like wacky fun mixed with ultra violence, then the ending is going to be right up your alley! Hell, the Johnny Waters comparisons are not made lightly as it’s filled to the brim twisted Americana and gross out moments that serve to endear us to the characters. It’s got something for EVERYONE… maybe. It is REALLY offensive at points and not just to the knee jerk naysayers who are gonna bring their kids to this movie for no fucking reason (Random aside: I have an aunt that worked at a library that got in some trouble because a mother rented Pink Flamingos thinking it was a kids movie). If you’re someone who’s willing to roll with what they dish out here and see this as an equal opportunity offender (which is not true for everyone and that’s absolutely valid), then I really think this is gonna be a pure delight to check out. Maybe not the funniest film or the year as some people are touting it, but still a damn good time.
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