I can’t put it any more delicately – Sausage Party is not for the easily offended. It’s like Pixar made an adult film, with an interesting and clever message hidden behind crude, filthy, hilarious jokes. Before and after its stunning conclusion (it’s genuinely jaw-dropping), this film has a lot to say – and while sometimes it drops the ball (no pun intended) in favour of another pun, filthy joke or stereotype, I think it’s one of the funniest movies released for a good while.
In the Shopwells supermarket, all the food and drink are sentient (unknown to humans), and believe that when they are purchased by a human (whom they think of as gods), they’ll be taken to the ‘Great Beyond’. Hot dog sausage Frank (Seth Rogen) and his girlfriend, hot dog bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) are looking forward to consummating their relationship (yes, really) after leaving the store, but a chain reaction of events leads them on a quest to discover the truth behind their fate outside the shop.
This film begins with a Disney-style song that quickly goes off the rails of decency, setting the tone, but writers Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir are adept at offending all, not just one group. Their story seems one-note, but builds in a complexity I wasn’t expecting, and what sets it apart is that behind all of it is a clever spin on identity, belief and tolerance (or, most likely, intolerance). I doubt very much you’ll see or have seen a gross-out movie feature such a degree of thought.
But the jokes – wow. Some are quite clever, some are suitable for all audiences, and then there are the stereotypes, the sexual stuff and the language (hearing the c-word in an American film is always a memorable moment). One example to test your tolerance: German products singing about the annihilation of ‘juice’! Above and beyond the many political/cultural/borderline racist jokes comes (no pun intended, again) the sexual humour, which could have been more juvenile in other hands, but manages to be pretty funny (see the poster to the left for a taster). Beyond the shockers, the swearing and the cultural references (a joke about a famous physicist is as offensive as it is hilarious), there is an extended scene towards the end that broke the audience at my screening, me included – people were laughing in shock, and it simply has to be seen. Don’t let anyone ruin it for you…
The animation isn’t up to Pixar’s standards, but then this was a cheap film (it cost less than $20 million, compared to Inside Out somehow costing $175 million), and it needed to be with the adult content, or it wouldn’t have been made! Nonetheless, I was impressed by the ability of the animators to give expression to so many different types of food and drink, some adding to the conveyor belt of constant laughs. Directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan are perhaps upstaged by Rogen being front-and-centre as the main character and one of the writers, but they make a coherent movie work pretty well in the short running time (it’s less than an hour and a half long!)
The voice cast is a who’s who of US comedians, from Rogen and Wiig’s sausage and bun through to Michael Cera (deformed sausage Barry), Jonah Hill, Bill Hader (the Native American stereotype Firewater), Nick Kroll (the film’s antagonist, an actual douche – great Parks & Rec joke there), Danny McBride (the honey mustard who returns shell-shocked from the ‘Beyond’), Paul Rudd (the nerdy store manager), James Franco (a stoner who actually sees the food is alive) and many more. Other actors take centre stage too, including Edward Norton (as Jewish stereotype Sammy Bagel Jr.), David Krumholtz (as the particularly offensive Muslim stereotype Kareem Abdul Lavash) and Salma Hayek (as lesbian taco Teresa Del Taco). If you know the actors, by and large you know what to expect, but I was particularly impressed with Norton’s neurotic Jewish bagel, as well as his Arab-Jew conflict with Krumholtz’ close-to-the-bone Muslim stereotype.
What didn’t I like? I found Kroll’s douche character to live up to his name (the film sort of stops whenever he reappears), and while I was pleased at how brief the film was, that also works against it, with some scenes rushed, some areas unexplored and some other lesser parts dragging on (Frank’s quest in particular). The music immediately hits its highest point with the opening song, and then mostly just uses a bog-standard score and some popular songs for laughs. Despite these issues, there is nearly always another offensive or hilarious scene to come, and the end hints at a far more bizarre sequel.
It feels like we’ve been a bit starved of decent or even funny comedies lately, so see Sausage Party if you can! And if you do, and you ate before or are planning to just after the final scenes – I accept no responsibility for putting you off your meal.