VOD film review: Sausage Party
Mark Harrison | On 11, Jan 2017
Directors: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan
Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz
Watch Sausage Party online in the UK: iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV Store / Wuaki.tv / Google Play
If you must watch Sausage Party, wait at least an hour after eating. In Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s grotty Pixar parody, the contradictions in terms alone are enough to make you sick. On one hand, it’s a cheap and nasty animated fever dream that revels in gross-out jokes and casts a literal douche as the villain. On the other hand, it will make you laugh far more than you expect and it’s got loftier ambitions in its supermarket sweep.
Shopwell’s is home to aisles upon aisles of food products, where the human shoppers are unaware that they are worshipped as gods by the produce, which comes to life and has a mind of its own, a la Toy Story, when they’re not looking. A daily morning hymn elaborates upon the belief system that keeps the food in its packaging until such time as they reach absolution and ecstasy in “the great beyond” outside the store.
However, the returns department puts a bottle of honey mustard back on the shelves with a terrible warning – the gods are hungry and if you’re chosen, you will be eaten. Confronted with this shattering revelation, a hot dog named Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen) travels across the shop floor with his bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), lavash Kareem (David Krumholtz) and bagel Sammy (Edward Norton) in search of the truth.
If the film were only wilfully stupid, it would be more easily classifiable, but the religious satire, obvious as it may be, indicates that there might be more to it. Rogen spent the best part of a decade trying to get this made, convincing producers to invest in an R-rated CG animation, and it’s not hard to see why – the mix of proudly juvenile potty humour and grand existential commentary makes it a perplexing project, but it’s no surprise that it doesn’t entirely work out.
It’s definitely not mean-spirited, which might be the only thing that keeps the basic religious stereotypes and gross-out sight gags from being insultingly basic. All in all, it’s not funny or clever enough when it’s trying to be funny and clever, especially as we know Rogen and Goldberg have done better elsewhere. Heck, even its tasteless Holocaust joke isn’t as funny as Rogen’s other tasteless Holocaust joke in Bad Neighbours 2.
This means that the big belly laughs are few and far between and they mostly come from the visuals. The animation is hardly high quality, thanks to the low budget and the poor treatment of animators working on the film, but it does occasionally get an inventive sight gag off before the next onslaught of sex, racial jokes and swearing. Furthermore, out of the extensive voice cast of comedy actors, only Michael Cera is really giving it his all, parleying his nervous screen presence into a malformed wiener character, who starts out shy and gets really intense, really quickly.
On that note, the closest Sausage Party gets to anything like its messed up potential is in the ridiculous final battle between our heroes and their oppressors. Where early miniature references to Saving Private Ryan’s Dunkirk landing get a big laugh, this plays more like the stylised violence of The Lord Of The Rings or 300 and leaves you gasping with shock as much as laughter.
All of the ingredients are here for Sausage Party to be as flabbergasting as its premise suggests, because Rogen and Goldberg have been underestimated for their sophisticated stoner comedies in the past. Its undergraduate religious commentary might have looked clever from anyone else, but next to The Interview, which made audaciously funny work out of a hyper-sensitive subject and caused an international crisis in the process, it feels cheap and condescending. Sausage Party is sporadically adventurous, and that’s also when it is funniest, but its crass default mode makes it unpalatable.