SAUSAGE PARTY – a review by JJ Heaton

Starring: Seth Rogen (This Is the End), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins), Edward Norton (Fight Club), David Krumholtz (10 Things I Hate About You), Salma Hayek (Desperado), Nick Kroll (Vacation), James Franco (127 Hours), Jonah Hill (War Dogs), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)

Directors: Conrad Vernon (Monsters vs. Aliens) & Greg Tiernan (Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails)

Writers: Kyle Hunter & Ariel Shaffir (The Night Before) & Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg (Superbad)

Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes

Release Date: 12 August (US), 2 September (UK)

There’s a stigma in our Western culture that animated films are just for kids, and I think that’s a shame. Animation is just another way of telling stories, a medium that can accomplish things that simply cannot be done in live-action, and whilst countries like Japan understand that, Western animated films for adults are extremely rare. The fact that no one has ever done a feature-length parody of animated family movies is frankly bizarre, but who better than Seth Rogen and his band of usual suspects to finally break that barrier with Sausage Party.

sausage-party-poster-2

Just again up front in case you haven’t got the message: this film is definitely NOT for kids! Sausage Party is vulgar enough to shock even the most well balanced adult, and any child who somehow manages to watch this is probably going to need therapy. If you are easily offended by jokes dealing with race, religion or sexuality, this is also definitely not a film for you. This is the kind of movie that takes a jab at everyone and doesn’t care about things like modesty or political correctness. It most reminded me of the works of Trey Parker & Matt Stone in that way, and also much like both South Park and Team America it uses crass humour to ultimately talk about social issues. Sausage Party uses the template of a Pixar movie not just to make gags about weed and f*cking, but also to discuss the effect of religion on our society and how it can limit our perspective on alternative views. This at first can make the film look like a putdown piece by made by self-important liberal atheists, but the film soon acknowledges that the drastic alternative of slandering those beliefs only leads to more chaos and that a compromise needs to be found. It’s a smart and forward-looking film that uses our culture’s ideologies and stereotypes to paint a metaphorical picture of our world and then just goes bananas. The third act is where the movie really just dives into insanity, delivering a climax that is as surreal as it is hilarious before diving into one of the most debauched scenes ever put to animation and a sequel hook that is quite literally out of this world. The plot isn’t always the most coherent, especially in a moment in the third act where several characters just show up with only a hand wave explanation as to how they got there, but for the most part this is a solidly written and consistently hilarious piece of satire that will stand the test of time.

Taking food and giving it a personality may seem like a bizarre and difficult task, but Sausage Party makes it seem effortless. Sure, the film does rely a lot on stereotypes to create its cast, but it never feels derogatory and they mine some good humour out of it. Seth Rogen as lead sausage Frank is basically just playing another variant on his own personality again, but as the closest thing to a straight man this movie has it’s a characterisation that works and allows the rest of the cast to bounce off of him with their wackier characters. Kristen Wiig as the voluptuous bun Brenda is a lot of fun as the “religious” character in denial of the truth (similar to Wiig’s arc in Paul), and her chemistry with both Rogen and Salma Hayek’s taco Teresa works wonders. Edward Norton and David Krumholtz as a bagel and a lavash who constantly bicker is full of comedic gold, with Norton especially shining with a spot-on Woody Allen impersonation, and the way their relationship culminates is both hilarious and emblematic of the whole film’s message. There are so many other great characters like Bill Hader’s shamanistic Firewater or Michael Cera’s diminutive sausage Barry, but the real scene-stealer is Nick Kroll as the film’s villain. I don’t want to reveal his character’s identity in case you don’t know, but for such a stupid joke it creates a goldmine of a comedic antagonist.

Sausage Party takes full advantage of the medium of animation to tell its story, accomplishing gags and set pieces far too insane to be done in live-action. The only problem is that the animation quality itself is a little lacking in detail. There are many moments where it does shine, mainly in the especially graphic scenes, but for the most part it doesn’t look worthy of a theatrical film; it looks far more like what you’d see in an advert or a TV show aimed at toddlers. This could have been circumvented if the film acknowledged the lower quality through a gag, kind of like how Team America took advantage of the limitations of the marionette format to create jokes, but that’s never even touched on here. The designs of the characters is also a little unimaginative, with most just coming down to sticking googly eyes and Mickey Mouse-style limbs on the food. Some are more creative like the curvaceous hot dog buns with vertical mouths or how the hole of Norton’s bagel is also his mouth, but ultimately the designs feel too flat and it never truly feels like this movie could blend in with a film by Disney or DreamWorks. Making up for that, however, is Disney musical legend Alan Menken not only co-writing the score to the film but also composing the original song “The Great Beyond”; it’s a wonderful little piece that perfectly meshes the uplifting music of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid with the satirical and foul-mouthed personality of the movie.

Sausage Party is the perfect antidote to what has honestly been one of the weakest summer movie seasons in recent years. It goes beyond merely lampooning its target to create a film hilarious enough to stand up on its own, whilst at the same time making a humorous but relevant nonetheless statement about our culture’s tendency to accept the easy lie over the harsh truth. This is a movie that could finally shift the landscape for Western animation away from just material aimed at families, and if Rogen and co’s sequel promise comes to fruition then we’re in for an even crazier ride next time. Just get a bigger budget for your animation next time, OK?

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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