Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
Sausage Party is rude, crude and lewd. An adults’ only Tex Avery nightmare, an R-rated Chuck Jones fever dream. Sausage Party is a Disney film, if old Walt had smoked a bowl with his animators. A film of contradictions and paradoxes, it is filled with moments of Pixar-ish emotional realism and questions of great import. It also features a lesbian taco.
Good Canadian boys Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have a bit of a history of hiding deeper and darker conversations behind a cloud of dick jokes and pot smoke. Superbad and its questions of friendship and the transition from boyhood to manhood. Pineapple Express and its satire of action film conventions and clichés. This is the End and its themes of friendship and morality in the face of the apocalypse. Okay, I may have stretched on that last one. This is the End was just straight up funny, a Marx Brothers film for the age of celebrity. The Interview dealt with the surrealism that is international relations and politics while highlighting a Kim Jong-un who sang Katy Perry songs while driving a tank.
Sausage Party follows that same pattern: questions of the meaning of existence, sexual identity, bigotry and racism, secularism versus religious faith, are woven into a story of anthropomorphic groceries and behind a veil of dick jokes and pot smoke.
After more than a century of animated films giving human desires and emotions to mice and deer and rabbits and fish and household items and toys, Sausage Party takes those ideas to their nightmarish conclusion – groceries. In a supermarket, the food stuffs greet each morning with a song celebrating the gods and the hope of completing their destiny when selected by the gods to leave for the Great Beyond. The movie begins with character introduction and universe building , including a brilliant set piece of groceries falling out of a shopping cart – exploding flour bag and walking wounded, a set piece that mocks every cheap 9/11 allusion on film for the last fifteen years. The film follows a sausage, a bun, a bagel and a lavash as they journey back to their aisles and to the truth of their existence. They’re also being hunted by a douche.
Don’t let the singing, dancing, smiling food in the safe trailers fool you – Sausage Party is most definitely an adult experience. This is a movie that will give children nightmares. At the very least, they will ask incredibly uncomfortable questions. Sausage Party is also funny. Very funny. Like, trying to catch your breath in a theatre funny. There are some killer bits in this movie: Paul Rudd as the Dark Lord of the supermarket, tossing expired food into a garbage can’s dark mouth; Danny McBride’s honey mustard who returns from the Great Beyond emotionally, spiritually and mentally broken from what he saw there; Salma Hayek’s lesbian taco, her sexuality suppressed by her faith; James Franco’s bath salts shooting junkie; the Canadian beer cans whose only dialogue is a repeated ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’.
The movie is never mean-spirited. Yes, it is stupid and seemingly constructed by a bunch of fifteen year olds but it is also very smart, very tight. Sausage Party isn’t as charming as Superbad but then, what is? The cussing and swearing and double and triple entendres pile up with the puns in Sausage Party and at times the shock is overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of f-bombs. And it is during those moments I wish Mr. Rogen and Mr. Goldberg would take a page from the Edgar Wright playbook and see language as poetry or music, not just as a sledgehammer. But if they didn’t just cross the line but also set the line on fire and urinate on the ashes, would they still be Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg? I honestly don’t know.
In their films Mr. Rogen and Mr. Goldberg have always leaned more heavily towards Marx Brothers anarchy rather than the Keaton school of focused comedy. Sausage Party is no different. Like their other films there is a feeling of a bunch friends riffing, of a smoke-filled writing room where no idea is a bad idea. Not every joke lands, not every metaphor works. But there is something to be admired when such a lack of fear is on display. There is no-one else currently making films like Mr. Rogen and Mr. Goldberg, with the anarchy and chaos and willingness to take their stories to places unexpected and surprising. And there’s an orgy scene in a film about anthropomorphic food.