Sausage Party is an exceptional use of title, mainly in terms of expectation. If you walk into an animated film about talking food called “Sausage Party“ and are offended by the early jokes of Frank the Sausage (voiced by co-writer/producer Seth Rogen) wanting to slip inside Brenda Bun (voiced by Kristen Wiig), you’re not going into this with a proper stance. Then again, if you’re expecting any sort of letting up on “Aw man, it’s an R-rated cartoon! They’re going to say curse words a lot!”, that’s not quite Sausage Party‘s style. While there is a solid amount of intriguing comedic ideas at play in Sausage Party, that recurring factor stays a relative constant. Rogen, Evan Goldberg and the crew at Sony Pictures Animation were clearly looking to take advantage of making an animated film that normally wouldn’t get much of a theatrical release on a fairly big budget. Sausage Party succeeds most when it does this to either satirize religious dogma or older animated film tropes. Not so much when characters simply say “fuck” a lot.
It’s a crutch I feared Sausage Party would lean on far too much. There’s nothing that visually exciting about an animated piece of food saying vulgar language. It’s an easy accomplishment and doesn’t really shock or offend as much as it gets repetitive. This is especially true during the first act, which seems to be treading territory that would have seemed shocking twenty years ago when South Park initially started. While this does remain a recurring joke, it does dwindle as the bigger themes of religion take a center stage. Plus, even the curse word heavy jokes manage to occasionally be funny thanks to the delivery from these very talented actors involved. Michael Cera has a fun turn as a deformed sausage. Nick Kroll utilizes his Guido voice from The Kroll Show to play a literal douche who hated food puns. Hell, Edward Norton delivering an obscenity laid rant as a bagel named Sammy Bagel Jr. in a Woody Allen voice is enough to save a DOA joke that’s just about cursing.
The religious satire of Sausage Party isn’t subtle. It’s about as on the nose as you can get. About as on the nose as Sammy Bagel Jr. and Karem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz) arguing about how the former has invaded their aisle. The entire concept of “The Great Beyond” that food is lead to when they leave the store is inherently a screed against any sort of religion and how to relate the idea that such dogma is inherently dividing, even from an atheistic stance. Plus, this religious angle is part of the overall use of stereotypes in Sausage Party, which is to say they’re everywhere. Sausage Party isn’t afraid to pretty much use any number of food related puns to make fun of pretty much every religion, ethnicity and nationality. There’s some amount of purpose to this, mainly in terms of the lack of political correctness that can be found on both food products and older animated films of specifically Disney’s ilk. For example, the Native American themed whiskey Firewater is voiced by Bill Hader in a fashion that wouldn’t make him too out of place in the ‘What Make the Red Man Red’ sequence from Peter Pan. It’s a simple proxy of consumer culture, allowing the film to essentially have its cake and preach against eating it too.
The most clever moments of Sausage Party are when it takes aim at the typical story beats of the average Disney film. An opening song becomes part of the religious themed plot elements and makes fun of any number of Disney celebratory opening songs. It helps that Alan Menken – writer of many a beloved Disney song from the past twenty five years – wrote the song and the entire musical score to give these dark themes a bouncy Disney score as a point of comedic subversion. Given its three dimensional animated style, Sausage Party also takes many a shot at the typical formula of a Pixar, mainly the concept of believing an elaborate societal lie only to come to terms with the meaning of existence that’s been covered up. The ending retaliation to that in particular feels like a solid comedic subversion of the climax for a Toy Story and even has a weird twist on the physics of Ratatouille. Pixar even gets a shout out on a bumper sticker that says “Dixar.” It’s not often we get satirical takes on Pixar’s style in a film, but Sausage Party being one of the few doesn’t make it the end all be all.
I admire Sausage Party for it’s lack of concern for offense on some level. It’s nothing too out there or audacious, but it’s a small blip of fun to remind us that animation isn’t a genre; it’s an artistic style. The things Sausage Party lampoons aren’t new targets, but they’re targets worth going after. Still, Sausage Party overall isn’t as immortal as its non-perishable characters claim to be in terms of enduring laugh per joke ratio. It’s religious satire, food puns and vulgar activities are fun enough for the 88 minute running time. The animation isn’t really that up to snuff in terms of creative designs or smooth textures. Not a necessity if a film is clever enough to look past this, but the repetition of jokes based merely around language makes that hard to do. If anything, Sausage Party just gives me more hope that other studios will take chances with animation… unless the overtly Mexican bottle of tequila and Salma Hayek‘s Teresa the Taco get a spin off. Then we’re going backwards.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Packages of Sausage