It’s hard to believe that a raunchy, R-rated animated film about talking sausages and food from the mind of Seth Rogen could make insightful observations about religion, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and mob mentality – and yet SAUSAGE PARTY does just that. Make no mistake, there’s still enough sexual innuendo, swearing, and violent sausage slicing to fill four grocery aisles, but by imparting some social commentary along the way, Sausage Party proves its got just a bit more on its mind than phallic-shaped food jokes. The movie is not as funny as some of Rogen’s past efforts, like This is the End and Pineapple Express, but will still satisfy those looking for a rowdy and fun R-rated time at the movies.
The film opens with a musical number right out of a Disney film. And it should feel that way since none other than Disney composer alum Alan Menken composed the song, in which all the food items in grocery store sing about being chosen by the gods and getting taken to the great beyond. Of course, the gods are humans, and the great beyond is their homes. The song is a cheerful, musically pleasant kickstart for the film, even if it doesn’t come close to matching any of Menken’s earlier Disney movie compositions, like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast.
Among the food items within the grocery store is Seth Rogen, who voices Frank, a hot dog who is among the hopefuls to be taken to the great beyond. Stuck in the packaging with him are nine other franks, including a stunted hot dog named Barry voiced perfectly by Michael Cera. Sharing the same stand as the hot dogs are packages of buns, and inside one package is Brenda (Kristen Wiig). Sex jokes abound with Brenda and Frank, as they discuss their hopes of being picked together, and hopefully smashed together. And when a shopper chooses both Brenda and Frank’s package, their excitement only grows. Unfortunately, a shopping cart accident causes Frank and Brenda to be separated from the rest of their brethren, in a sequence that hilariously and brilliantly mirrors the Omaha Beach landing scene in Saving Private Ryan. A can of spaghetti grasps desperately at his spilled noodle innards. A cream filled cookie is stunned as he picks up the back half of his body. The sequence is easily one of the highlights of the film.
Of course, we see the actual fate of the food in the great beyond. Needless to say, it’s not pretty. We take preparing food for granted, but when viewed through the eyes of sentient beings, it’s immensely violent. Skinning a potato, grating cheese, and chopping lettuce all become brutal when viewed through the eyes of conscious food beings. And although this new perspective is funny its own right, functioning within the movie, the scene serves a greater purpose. A purpose that argues blind belief isn’t always the best course of action. Or blind optimism that ignores harbingers. Later scenes in which a lavash named Kareem (David Krumholtz) and a bagel, Sammy Bagel Jr. (a surprising Ed Norton channeling Woody Allen), represent the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the movie demonstrates the divide that occurs when two groups oppose each other, and how individuals interacting can break that down. Again, all deep stuff for a movie that uses penetration as its punchline 75% of the time.
As brilliant as the social commentary can be, the humor never quite reaches the same levels. Many jokes and gags are as base or obvious as they come, and could have used a little more thought and cleverness. That said, there are plenty of jokes that arrive fully cooked and land with appropriate laughs. One scene involves Brenda the bun invoking jealousy in Frank by describing the different produce she could accommodate. Frank responds negatively, and later a scene gives a payoff to this setup that is the funniest of the film. It’s crude, it’s lewd, but the joke is well thought-out in the context of talking, walking food and it completely works.
Sausage Party isn’t the R-rated animated comedy to end all R-rated animated comedies, but it’s still very much worth seeing for those who enjoy its kind. Even if not all the film’s jokes land, the commentary on social issues makes up for it. At the very least, the film will give viewers pause the next time they go to pop a couple of baby carrots in their mouth. As Jonah Hill’s character screams, “They’re just children!”
Running time: 89 minutes
Wil Loper | Contributor