It is amazing SAUSAGE PARTY made it to cinemas. The history of animation is filled with daring attempts to change people’s perceptions of what cartoons can be. Prior to the 1937 release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length cel animated feature film, it was referred to as “Disney’s Folly” by the media. Yet its success led to a legacy of animation that stands today, inspiring the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks to challenge the Mouse’s mantle. While this adults-only feature may frequently tip the hat to those classics and help change perceptions about what US animation can be, its ambitions are far baser than that. The result is something that might pay tribute to all those classics, but falls short of pulling anything more than a single-joke narrative together.
Following in the footsteps of Toy Story or Cars, SAUSAGE PARTY anthropomorphises the items on the shelves of a supermarket chain. As “Red, White, and Blue” day approaches, the foodstuffs look forward to the human “gods” choosing them and taking them into the “afterworld.” In particular, hot dog sausage Frank (Seth Rogen) is keen to finally fulfill his destiny and slip himself inside Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig), and that’s about as far as the sex comedy stretches in a script that shockingly has four people credited. When they are both finally chosen, an accident results in the breakage of multiple comrades. Jilted Douche (Nick Kroll), an actual feminine hygiene product, seeks revenge on the others for robbing him of his chance to do what he was made for. Thus, a small group of products band together on a voyage of self-discovery and dick jokes.
Although SAUSAGE PARTY is a constant barrage of puns, most of them are based around double (and sometimes single) entendre. It all begins harmlessly enough, and on the surface there’s a interesting attempt at dissecting humanity’s relationship to religion. The food refuses to believe the truth about the world despite evidence to the contrary, and the frequent squabbling between the Arabic-looking Kareem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz) and the Woody Allen-esque Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton) is a microcosm of the Middle East conflict, or at least a limited version of it.
However, unable to let go of its stoner comedy roots, the film never allows itself to go any deeper than this, repeating a series of hackneyed gags using stereotypical portrayals of ethnic groups. The Mexican food hangs out in a border-town cantina, for example, while the Firewater is a Native American Chief, the potatoes are Irish and so on. At its worst, the film is completely unfamiliar with the lines of good taste, as the Douche not only appears to rape a juice box to death, but makes light of such encounters along the way. It’s the earliest of many purile scenes that betrayed a juvenile attitude towards homosexuality, undercutting any points of tolerance the film might otherwise preach.
It’s the animators you really have to feel sorry for. There is some top-notch work on display here, making the whole supermarket world feel much larger than it actually is. Visual nods to Pixar pepper the feature, and these definitely elicit a few laughs. A stoner sequence is reminiscent of Toy Story’s Sid freaking out over his abused toys coming to life, and it’s this kind of subversion that works best, especially its gruesome conclusion. There’s a flashback sequence that switches to more traditional cel animation in the style of John Kricfalusi’s most famous works, and it’s a testament to the animation team that this works seamlessly. It’s just a shame that these animators, working at the top of their game, had such meek food to feed them as this one-note script. The same could be said for the voice talent, padding out the credits with A-listers who add little beyond caricature.
SAUSAGE PARTY is a disturbing movie. That’s the intent, as the very idea that food might have feelings is enough to give us all eating disorders. Yet if we did, it feels like the kind of thing this movie would also make fun of, as all of its disturbances come from a complete disregard for any progress society has made in the last century. As the film culminates in a literal orgy, a sight that is so outrageous it’s potentially brilliant in its stupidity, it becomes worrying that we also started seeing parallels to The LEGO Movie in the coda. At times the film skirts along the edges of a heartier bit of nourishment, but to paraphrase the insidious Douche, “A hole’s a hole, bra.”
SAUSAGE PARTY is released on 11 August 2016 in Australia from Sony Pictures, and on 12 August 2016 in the US, from Columbia Pictures.
2016 | US | DIR: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon | WRITER: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir | CAST: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton, Salma Hayek | RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes | DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures (AUS) | RATING: ★★