'Sausage Party' Review

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

Sausage Party is technically late to the party in discovering that animation can be filthy, R-rated and not kid friendly in the slightest. While South Park has cornered the market on that truth in movies and television for 20 years, Seth Rogen and his potty mouthed troupe try to carve their niche with their own efforts to be dirty, tasteless and yet somehow thoughtful at the same time, with food no less. As it turns out, they reach a near-South Park level on all those counts.

In a supermarket where food can talk, every item literally prays for the day when they are taken out of the store and towards "The Great Beyond" Sausage Frank and bun Brenda are especially anxious to be chosen together, and their time comes right before "Red white and blue" day.  But thanks to a seemingly crazy honey mustard jar who claims a much more terrifying truth, Frank and Brenda are left behind, leaving them and a few other abandoned products to try and get back to their aisles before sunrise. However, when Frank also learns the horrible truth about food's true destiny, he has to race against time to wake up everyone else before the "Gods" devour them too.

There really shouldn't be parents who take their children to Sausage Party and get outraged when they learn of its own horrible truth and language, but there probably will be one or two. At the least, they should figure it out fast enough once the movie starts, since the f-bombs and other language bombs start dropping non-stop from minute one.

In addition to driving home the joke of an R-rated animated movie over and over again, Sausage Party drives home its actual food for thought, so to speak, instantly as well. Any resemblance between our world and the food's world of blind religious belief, unshakable devotion to a paradise in the beyond, the twisting of such beliefs to support rather hateful ones, and especially the sexual repression from such extreme worship is very, very intentional. Still, they do get to live by a theme song composed by musical master Alan Menken, which isn't the worst trade off.

The opening red band trailer already graphically showed how the food experience the horrible, murderous truth in a kitchen. But in the film, that doesn't come until halfway through, as much of Sausage Party is spent on Frank, Brenda and their new associates navigating the store to get back to their aisles. And to drive home the politically incorrect point further, that road trip is filled with every racial and ethnic stereotype one can think of.

Rogen and company's other big idea to parallel our world is to fill it with the broadest possible parodies of ethnic groups. In addition to a bickering bagel and lavash, there are non-perishable items made up of Native American, African-American and gay food caricatures, a female taco with increasingly powerful urges towards Brenda, and so on and so forth. But white people, or rather white "bros", are stereotyped as well in the form of a literal broken douche who keeps "juicing up" on other items to get his revenge, with at least one allusion to rape in the process.

This sort of approach is where Sausage Party is bound to either completely win people over or completely turn them off. As easy as it is to see all these parallels, spoofs and parables to our own messed up world as hilarious, outrageous and even rather clever, it may be just as easy to see them as utterly lazy, offensive and beating the same dead horses over and over. Quite honestly, both views are really correct.

If you've seen one sex joke about buns and sausages, and one joke about Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, douches, Native Americans, African Americans, religion, utterly blind faith and animated characters cursing up a storm, there are still 100 left to go for each anyway. Rogen and his gang still keep throwing outrageous gags/stereotypes after outrageous gags/stereotypes to shock us and hold us over with laughter, whether it is truly shocking for long or not.

There is a good case to be made for all of this still being hysterical, just as much as there is one that it is all far too thoughtless and repetitive. Considering the truly brilliant ideas Sausage Party is built on at its core, carrying them out with the same sex, language, ethnic and racial jokes over and over may not seem like the most truly creative way to do it after a while.

The fine line between insightful, hilarious comedy and comedy that is just offensive for offensiveness's sake has always been a fine one. While the South Park masters and old school Mel Brooks have been on the right side of it, the likes of Seth MacFarlane and Adam Sandler are often on the other, sadder end of the spectrum. But even at their worst, the Rogen gang has never approached the worst that MacFarlane and Sandler have wrought.

If anything, Sausage Party is a reminder that when the Rogen crew is on, there is almost no other comedy crew better.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone would probably be proud at how Sausage Party goes so overboard with its big set pieces and satire, if not requesting royalty checks. But Parker and Stone are usually a two-man team, whereas Rogen has a whole collection of friends voicing things to the hilt.

In addition to Rogen himself as leading sausage Frank, there’s Kristen Wiig as Brenda in what may be her funniest movie work since Bridesmaids, as she is certainly less restrained than in the PG-13 Ghostbusters last month. There’s also Rogen troupe newcomer Edward Norton literally impersonating Woody Allen alongside the Muslim impersonating David Krumholtz, and Salma Hayek also joining in as a hard, horny lesbian taco. Nick Kroll is also ideal as a power-mad douche, and not just because this is the second time he’s played a character literally named Douche, in addition to a shock jock on Parks and Recreation.

The packed house also includes Michael Cera as a much thicker and more cowardly sausage than his brethren, Bill Hader and Craig Robinson as two of the un-perishables, James Franco as a druggie under the influence just hard enough to talk to his food, Paul Rudd as a supermarket drone, Danny McBride as the mustard who’s seen too much, and Jonah Hill, Anders Holm, Harland Williams and Scott Underwood for good measure.

As all these old friends and co-stars come together to sell the mad and filthy punchlines, as the animation keeps up with its graphic images and its different color schemes for the p.o.v. of the food and human world, and as the religious parables and sneakily deep implications about faith and the manipulation of faith grow, Sausage Party becomes the kind of comedic roller coaster that has been missing all summer, if not all year.

This has been a rough summer for studio movies, as everyone knows by now, with comedy getting a few knocks upside the head as well. Rogen’s own Neighbors 2 had great ideas and themes but less effective comedy and box office than the original, while Ghostbusters was drowned out by controversy from the very beginning, Bad Moms tried a more R-rated female comedy approach with mixed reactions, and Central Intelligence became the biggest live action comedy of summer by default and by the drawing power of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart alone. But for most movie comedy fans, it has been a long wait to get a comedy like this at the end of the tunnel, animated or otherwise.

Sausage Party may well become the most popular animated movie of all time among atheists, and not just because there’s a piece of gum modeled after Stephen Hawking. But even the hard core atheists kind of take it on the chin when Frank goes about disproving everyone’s beliefs the wrong way at first. Although the movie is very clear in the benefits of throwing out old, repressive and divisive belief systems by the end, it is done differently than just saying everyone is stupid for believing in God/religion, even in a film where nuance is certainly not the order of the day.

While these intellectual points give Sausage Party its backbone, and its cover to sell itself as something more than an excuse for f-bombs and countless stereotypes, the outrageous stuff is what everyone will likely come out remembering at the end. It is kind of hard not to, considering how the third act plays out.

Spoiling the specifics would be unwise, and utterly impossible to do on a family-friendly site like this. Suffice to say, things build up to deranged and taboo places that not even Parker and Stone have dreamed up in the last two decades, if that’s possible. In fact, one unforgettable set piece may be the most jaw dropping and graphic in a comedy since Borat’s naked wrestling match, and there’s even room to break the ultimate fourth-wall afterwards to boot.

This final nasty triumph caps Sausage Party’s place as the nastiest triumph of the summer, and perhaps of 2016 overall. Maybe the massive outrageousness, vocal highlights and pointed satire shouldn’t entirely drown out the more problematic and less creative approaches, and perhaps this looks better than it does because there haven’t been many live action movie comedy highlights in a while.

Even with all that in mind, Sausage Party is still a movie that comes right in the nick of time to help give summer a somewhat happy ending, in more ways than one.