Sausage Party

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Release: Friday, August 12, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Seth Rogen; Evan Goldberg; Kyle Hunter; Ariel Shaffir

Directed by: Greg Tiernan; Conrad Vernon

Sausage Party represents Seth Rogen’s strongest screenwriting effort since Superbad. It’s been even longer since he’s been this charming in a lead role as well, and he plays a six-inch-long frankfurter. Or sausage, wiener, whatever. He’s a real hot dog in this outing, a riotous, deliriously perverse bite of modern satire that will in all likelihood cause you to think twice the next time you’re thumbing through greens-turning-brown in your local Wal-Mart.

In the world of Sausage Party, Wal-Mart would be the Warsaw ghetto for perishables. In the world of Sausage Party the Food Pyramid takes on an entirely new meaning, a reality that’s manifested brilliantly via anthropomorphic food groups. There’s hierarchy and a universal belief system that shoppers are Gods. Food items believe they’re destined for great things once they’re Chosen, that they’re headed for a place called The Great Beyond where they’ll enjoy an eternity of being loved and treated like royalty by the human that rescued them from their prisons/shelves. A place where a sausage like Frank (Rogen) looks forward to slipping inside a nice, warm bun. A place where an Arabic flatbread named Kareem Abdul Lavash dreams of being greeted by 77 bottles of extra virgin olive oil that will help him stay lubricated and not dry out and be nasty and shit.

Broader arcs, involving Frank’s quest to save his sweet friends (and even salty foes) from continuing to be blinded to a horrible reality — food gets eaten, not laid — and Brenda’s determination to not act on her own sexual urges in fear of upsetting the Gods, are not exactly revelatory. Nor are the main beats delivered en route to one of the most ridiculous afterparties you are likely to ever see. (Yeah, This is the End may have been blessed by the Backstreet Boys but you’ve never seen food porn until you’ve watched this movie.) Because the story is rather store-brand generic, you’re left sort of worrying if there is a way Rogen and company can wrap things up without cooling off completely or melting down or some other food metaphor that suggests deterioration.

But there is no need to worry. At all.

And broad arcs be damned by the way. Getting lost in this supermarket is just way too much fun. There’s so much to see and do. Rogen, once again reunited with Evan Goldberg and aided as well by Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir (the latter two co-wrote The Night Before with Goldberg, a rare case in which Rogen did not share writing duties), has crafted a genuinely hilarious and heartfelt film that manages to strike a near-perfect balance between satire and sobriety. One wouldn’t necessarily think Sausage Party has any right to be stepping into arenas like proving the existence of God, thereby the purpose of religion, or that packaging certain foods into certain aisles could be viewed as segregation but we should never downplay Rogen’s creativity.

In this adventure there is strength in numbers. That applies both to the mission Frank and friends find themselves embarking on as well as to how we’re able to connect with this strange little world. Frank is joined with varying degrees of hesitation by fellow wiener Barry (Michael Cera), who suffers from serious confidence issues; Frank’s love interest, the curvaceous bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) and two squabbling neighbors from the International Foods Aisle in David Krumholtz’ Lavash and Edward Norton’s argumentative bagel Sammy (I still can’t believe that was not the voice of Woody Allen). The diverse selection of characters makes the watch more dynamic and energetic. Nevermind the fact that mainstays like Ketchup, Mustard, apples and oranges are wholly unoriginal, they don’t really lend themselves to comedy. And even though a hot dog does take center stage, brilliantly the summer grilling classic is broken down into two distinct characters. And of course we know why.

Food puns abound and as is expected, ethnic, gender and religious stereotypes play a role in deciding which items we are going to spend time with (for example: the non-perishable items are colored as wizened old Native Americans who have seen it all and it’s no coincidence that the film’s primary antagonist is a Douche named Nick Kroll. Er, played by Kroll, rather . . .). Incensed after Frank cost him his chance to go to The Great Beyond during a shopping cart collision, Douche sets out on a murderous vendetta to take out the wiener (and bun) responsible for not only the missed opportunity but his new physical deformity. (In this reviewer’s opinion we venture a little too deep into TMI territory when watching him mentally breaking down, mourning his lack of purpose. And we really could have done without 90% of Kroll’s brutal dude-broisms.)

It wouldn’t be a comedy from the Rogen-Goldberg school of puerility if it doesn’t make you feel at least a little guilty for laughing at some of the things you end up laughing at. Even still, Sausage Party (hehe) finds a number of ways to justify genre-defining tropes like making sex jokes out of literally everything. Wiig brings strength, courage and conviction to the part of a sexy piece of bread. Some things will never change though, as even here Rogen’s every bit the pothead we’ve come to love him for being as he finds room for a scene where a wiener gets roasted with a can of water and a gay Twinkie, and he does it without disrupting the flow of the narrative. The characters are well-defined and each have individual motivations for survival, which is critical in helping us actually “buy into” the situation at hand. (Let’s get real: we never take any of this seriously but we take it far more so than we thought we would when the project was first announced.)

Sausage Party is classic Seth Rogen-Evan Goldberg. It’s rib-ticklingly funny from start to finish, with only a few brief moments where all action comes to a halt in favor of more somber reflections on the state of life in a grocery store that’s about to erupt into civil war. You’ll find almost every alum from previous Rogen-Goldberg offerings here, and, hidden behind the guises of ordinary foods, they become icons. This is far too fattening a meal to keep having, but damn it all . . . why does fat have to taste so good?

Stephen fucking Hawking gum and Michael Cera the wiener

Recommendation: Irreverent, profane, over-the-top, delirious, and bizarrely heartwarming. Sausage Party uses anthropomorphism to its advantage and then some, creating memorable characters out of mundane food items and giving them distinct human personas that we can identity with and care about. (Obviously some more than others.) The rules of course still apply: fans of Seth Rogen’s sense of humor need apply while all others who aren’t big on the guy probably won’t find much mustard to squeeze out of this one. Visiting the supermarket will never be the same again, and I think that more than anything is the mark of an effective comedy.

Rated: R

Running Time: 89 mins.

Quoted: “Banana’s whole face peeled off, Peanut Butter’s wife Jelly is dead! Look at him, he’s right there.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

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25 thoughts on “Sausage Party

  1. Pingback: War Dogs | digitalshortbread

  2. I am thrilled you had such a good time with this one 🙂

    Totally does not sound like my cup of tea though. I liked Superbad when it came out (because I was 17 and all that shit makes sense at that age, you know?), but rewatched it a few months back with Natasha (she’d never seen it) and my husband, and I hated it. Plus I don’t like Rogen (most of the time), so pretty much everything is stacked against this for me hahaha.

  3. I was disappointed. I was expecting a lot and I found Sausage Party didn’t deliver many laughs for me on what was a great concept. And the ending kind of wiped out any lingering regret about eating food, which made the movie feel even emptier.

    • Just read your piece on it and you make some really good arguments. I just was able to climb on board with this, I can’t really explain it. Maybe blind devotion?

  4. Any idea what they were singing in that opening musical number “The Great Beyond”? I grasped a few lines, but I couldn’t understand much of what they were singing. No one I’ve talked to could either. If you can find the lyrics, I’m just curious.

    Incidentally, I was bored by this, but at least it was only 88 minutes so there’s that at least.

    • Not knowing the lyrics to the opening song wasn’t an indication that I was going to not enjoy the movie. I have no idea what they were singing, but I have no idea what half of the lyrics are in metal music and I love metal! 😉

      • I just found my inability to understanding the lyrics of the main song kind of frustrating. In and of itself, understanding the lyrics also had little to do with my (lack of) enjoyment of the movie. However it does represent a sloppiness in filmmaking, like out of focus shots. My main gripe was I didn’t find it funny but I can’t support that because humor is subjective. 😇

        • Yeah, i see your point. I doubt we’ll ever see a Seth Rogen movie that will have truly impressive technical aspects to it, and Sausage Party doesn’t break really any new mould. I just was high on the fact that he turns all these basic food groups into foul-mouthed little crazies. Incidentally I think that was the major sticking point for you (and quite a few others) with this one. Comedy really is subjective and that point kind of proves it. Although, yes, I also agree that being vulgar for the sake of it is pretty uncreative. Which is why I’m so easily avoiding Sacha Baron Cohen

  5. When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure it was even real. An ‘R’ rated animated movie is a rare thing indeed, so I’m stoked that it lives up to the promise. Sterling work as always mate.

    • Not everyone has really thought much of it though, and everyone keeps acting surprised. It’s a Seth Rogen movie. You sign up for raunch. You sign up for silliness. You don’t sign up for profound theological discussions about food groups. I thought Sausage Party did what it needed to do, and sure it could have delved beneath the surface more often but I really enjoyed it, despite what everyone else’s thinking. 🙂

  6. Loved the review but to be honest I would rather have my shins peeled with a cheese grater than watch this flick. I have such a dislike for the brand of humor Rogen and his merry band (goldberg, Hill, Cera, etc) put out there. I’ll probably pass on this one. 😉

  7. Liked the themes (even as an individual outside of the message lean). I just thought it would be more funnier, however, and I’m a guy who doesn’t mind Rogen. Just a tad disappointing from a comedy aspect, in my opinion. Great work as always, Tom.

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  9. Wow. This doesn’t sound like the Rogan movies I’ve bothered to see recently. I think I’ll go catch this today, it actually sounds good, though it has been a while since I liked anything Rogan has done. Maybe I’ll have to get myself thoroughly cooked beforehand so I can watch it on his wavelength 😛

    • In truth it’s got many of the hallmarks of Seth Rogen’s other, lesser stuff, but I think the fact the whole story is played out with fucking fruits and veggies and bags of mixed nuts and all this other stuff, it is elevated to something more. A lot of people are take-or-leave on Rogen but I quite like him. But I think I would agree that your approach to watching might be the best way to go! 😉

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