‘Sausage Party’ Review: Just Get Stoned and Watch ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’ Instead
Sausage Party is the first ever R-rated CG-animated film. Based on a concept Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Evan Goldberg first came up with 8 years ago, the film, by definition, is something you have never seen before. It’s raunchy, rowdy and almost completely insane. Unfortunately, it’s just not very funny.
Rogen stars as Frank, one of eight hot dogs in a packet at a supermarket (his fellow wieners include Hill and Michael Cera, as a deformed, stumpy dog). Every morning all the items in the store sing a big song dedicated to the “gods” (humans) who arrive daily to deliver them to valhalla. Yes, the food is unaware that when we buy them and bring them home, we chop, boil, stew, cook and eat them; they think they’re transcending to a higher plane of existence. So Frank and his girlfriend Brenda (a bun, natch) are naturally thrilled when, on the Fourth of July, they’re picked by a shopper to leave the supermarket and experience life on the outside, aka “The Great Beyond.”
But, shortly before checkout, a bottle of honey mustard who was returned to the store (Danny McBride) warns them that freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Knowing the true meaning of life, he jumps to his death before Frank and Brenda can save him. The shopping cart tips and in the film’s most inspired bit, the food that has crashed to the floor walk around in a Saving Private Ryan daze (a cracked can of Spaghetti-O’s holds its spilled noodles as if they were intestines).
Before leaping to his death, Honey Mustard told Frank to seek the truth from Firewater (Bill Hader), a wise bottle of liquor who claims to know the truth about their existence. So Frank, Brenda, Sammy Bagel Jr. (Ed Norton doing his best Woody Allen) and Vash (David Krumholtz as a loaf of middle-eastern flatbread) make their way through the store during closing to find answers and avoid the wrath of Douche, a douche who’s actually a real douche. Along the way they meet a lesbian taco played by Salma Hayek (considering the film’s penchant for sexual punnery, that it is not a fish taco seems like a lone moment of restraint), a Stephen Hawking-esque wad of gum, and a human druggie who injects bath salts and is later decapitated.
If it were not immediately clear, Sausage Party delights in its R-rating often to its detriment. There are so many unnecessary F-words, you’ll quickly become numb to the idea of cursing food. A hot dog that says “motherf–-er” is funny maybe once (and I’m already being generous), but after around the 50th time, it loses its luster. By the time the film devolves into a graphic food orgy, you’ll feel like a contestant at the end of a competitive eating contest: overstuffed, exhausted and delirious.
As you might expect, the film traffics heavily in food-related puns. A few are mildly amusing (a character says, “OK, so…” and a jar of queso appears and says, “Yes?”), but most are of the eye-rolling “ketchup/catch up” variety that were done with far more effectiveness in Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. The film itself even notes in a meta live-action coda that Sausage Party isn’t even the best animated movie about food, falling far behind Ratatouille and both Cloudy films in almost all metrics (unless you’re measuring oral sex acts, in which case Sausage Party has them all beat).
Sausage Party gamely tries to discuss at least one larger idea, introducing a theological debate about whether believing in something you can’t prove is sensible or stupid, and how fighting and arguing about it isn’t the best solution. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s almost completely drowned out, like pouring ranch dressing on filet mignon.
It should be noted that the version of Sausage Party screened by Rogen and Goldberg at SXSW was a work in progress, often used as a disclaimer by studios as insurance on the chance that the audience doesn’t like it. (As Keanu stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele noted during the pre-screening introduction of their work in progress print, if you like it, the movie is locked; if not, we still have a lot of work left to do.) But Sony’s Sausage Party debut of was a work in progress in the truest sense of the phrase. Major sequences, including the film’s big opening musical number, featured incomplete animation and some later scenes were still rendered with crude hand drawn sketches. This, however, was the least of the film’s problems.
Rogen has proved himself to be one of our finest modern comedic talents, expertly blending smart, dumb and funny (I’m still convinced This Is the End is a near masterpiece), but Sausage Party feels more like Kevin Smith at his most immature. Let me be frank: It’s not the wurst, but I’ve still got some beef with this movie that you won’t relish having to digest. And that’s no baloney.