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Sausage Party Movie Review

Sausage Party Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art
Sausage Party is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray.

Sausage Party (2016) movie poster Sausage Party

Theatrical Release: August 12, 2016 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon / Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg (screenplay & story); Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir (screenplay); Jonah Hill (story)

Voice Cast: Michael Cera (Barry), James Franco (Druggie), Bill Hader (Firewater, Tequila, El Guaco), Salma Hayek (Teresa), Jonah Hill (Carl), Anders Holm (Troy), Nick Kroll (Douche), David Krumholtz (Lavash), Danny McBride (Honey Mustard), Edward Norton (Sammy), Craig Robinson (Grits), Seth Rogen (Frank), Paul Rudd (Darren), Kristen Wiig (Brenda)

 

R-rated animation is rare. Rarer yet is R-rated animation aimed at mainstream moviegoers. Sausage Party is the first 2,000+ theater release to fit that description since Trey Parker and Matt Stone's South Park (1999) movie and Team America: World Police (2004).
Unlike those crude comedies, Sausage Party employs the now-prevalent three-dimensional CGI, opting for an aesthetic akin to Pixar and all the competitors that have cropped up in their wake.

Sausage Party isn't adapted from television or made by people primarily employed on the small screen. The accomplished comedy duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg come from a line of mostly successful adult-oriented live-action comedies (including Pineapple Express, Superbad, and This Is the End) to make an animated movie with their distinctly crass, juvenile, and raunchy sensibilities completely intact. They share story credit with Jonah Hill and screenplay credit with The Night Before writers Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir.

Foods at the supermarket Shopwell's have an interesting understanding of the world. They desire nothing more than to be brought home by "the gods", the human shoppers whom they believe will take them to a better life in "The Great Beyond." Our attention is most devoted to a package of male sausages and their compatible neighbors, female buns, who are excited to move on on the eve of "Red, White & Blue Day." Their expectations are adjusted after a returned jar of honey mustard reveals that they have been misled and that they would be better off dead than consumed by "the gods."

Brenda, Frank, Sammy, and Lavash get stranded in their supermarket in the animated comedy "Sausage Party."

There's a funny and clever idea somewhere along the lines of Toy Story in there, but Sausage Party never really sells it or figures it out. Oh, the plot belabors this nihilistic food's eye view of the world, but the movie seems much more interested in making sex and ethnic jokes. You see, the sausages are phallic and the buns have a certain vaginal quality to them. Each dreams of mixing it up with the other, but for now, our central couple, Frank the frankfurter (voiced by Seth Rogen) and Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig), has to settle for just the tips. As in touching the tips of their fingers to one another.

Ethnic depictions have come a long way since the mushrooms of Fantasia, but Sausage Party looks to have fun with them. A principal character is a very Jewish bagel, who is voiced by Edward Norton doing a Woody Allen impression. Another is Lavash, a Middle Eastern flatbread voiced by David Krumholtz. The two butt heads throughout, a very transparent send-up of the age-old differences dividing the Israelis and Palestinians. In the end, all is healed by the two dabbling in a little gay sex, as part of the film's big graphic orgy climax designed to bring down the house.

Along the way, we also encounter a bro who's an actual douche (voiced by Nick Kroll), who gets off by juicing up; a human stoner (voiced by James Franco) whose experimentation with bath salts briefly provides clarity; a wise, pot-smoking Native American bottle of booze called Firewater (Bill Hader); a cracker-hating black box of grits (Craig Robinson); a taco named Teresa (Salma Hayek) who tries to fight her lesbian urges, a wheelchair-using chewed-up piece of gum resembling Stephen Hawking, and a sticky, used condom.

Tucked away in a dark corner of Shopwell's are the wise and bitter Grits, Firewater, and Twink.

Like most people, Rogen and his collaborators here have seen Pixar's movies and kind of know how they tick, with many of the cast members having lent their voice to various animated features from DreamWorks and Sony. But they don't really aim for the imagination and heart that puts many animated films above most of their live-action counterparts.
That'd rather just crack sex jokes and potentially offend. As someone who has appreciated most of Rogen and Goldberg's live-action comedies and who frequently laments that most American animation plays it safe, I should have been able to enjoy this. But it's really nasty and vulgar material that is never funny enough to justify that tone. The best joke in the movie (a Meatloaf song performed by a motorcycle-riding meatloaf) falls apart once you remember you can't buy pre-packaged meatloaf at a supermarket.

Sausage Party is directed by Conrad Vernon, a DreamWorks alum who co-helmed Shrek 2, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, and Greg Tiernan, whose directing filmography is limited almost entirely to Thomas & Friends shorts and DTV movies. The two ensure that the movie looks polished enough, but it is the never agreeable, sometimes unbearable crass comic stylings that drain the importance of everything from character design to sets and animation.

Though my fellow critics have been more appreciative, Sausage Party is likely to soon find out that as lucrative as animation seems to be most of the time, it is a tough game for outsiders to make a commercial impact on. Even seasoned auteurs like Wes Anderson and Tim Burton have struggled to attract the masses to their slightly different stop-motion films. Sausage Party's computer animation may make it more visually accessible, but I suspect many will still pass on it on the basis that it is that rare blend of animated but not kid-friendly.

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Reviewed August 12, 2016.



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