Film Review: Sausage Party

An R-rated, animated anthropomorphic-food tale that’s overstuffed with strained stereotypes and wannabe-outrageous profanity.
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Anthropomorphism has rarely been as absurdly filthy as in Sausage Party, a decidedly R-rated animated affair in which grocery-store food items (and other inanimate household objects) are reimagined as living, breathing, white-gloved creatures convinced that their destiny is to be purchased by “gods” and then taken to the heavenly “great beyond.” The catch, however, is that their actual future involves being chopped, sliced, smashed, and chewed—a fate they invariably view as blood-curdling “murder.” As far as comedic premises go, it’s a fairly funny one, which is why it’s all the more dispiriting to find that, more often than not, Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon’s film doesn’t amount to more than its central conceit and the incessant cultural gags and profanities it uses as tiresome embellishments.

Working from a screenplay (and story) co-conceived by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Sausage Party focuses on Frank (Rogen), a hot dog yearning to be chosen by a human alongside curvy bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig), whom he desperately wants to enter. Their horny dynamic is merely one of many instances in which the film hyper-sexualizes its subjects, who also include stubby-but-girthy frankfurter Barry (Michael Cera), lesbian taco Teresa (Salma Hayek), and a Douche (Nick Kroll) whose “Come at me, bro” steroidal attitude marks him as, well, a douche. In these as well as other characterizations, the material embraces its raunchiest—as well as most juvenilely vulgar—impulses, so that from an introductory sunshiny musical number to the chaotic finale, expletives are thrown about with a fervor that suggests the filmmakers are overly pleased with their own supposed naughty-cartoon subversiveness.

Things come to a head when a jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) informs Frank that only doom awaits them outside the store’s doors. Soon, both Frank and Brenda become stranded in the store while Barry and his unlucky cohorts are taken to a woman’s kitchen, where ghastly slicing, dicing, boiling and microwaving terrors await. That gleeful horror-movie depiction of food preparation and consumption gives Sausage Party a minor jolt of hilarity. Unfortunately, though, the film constantly falls falls back on lame stereotypes for its humor, be it a Woody Allen-ish Jewish bagel named Sammy Bagel Davis (Edward Norton) and a virgin olive oil-craving Arab Lavash (David Krumholtz), or a pot-smoking Native American bottle of Firewater (Bill Hader) and a cracker-hating African-American box of Grits (Craig Robinson). For every moderately clever bit—such as the sauerkraut being portrayed as Germans who want to exterminate the “Juice”—there are three more that elicit groans (Hey, it’s Meat Loaf as meatloaf!), and aren’t salvaged by Rogen’s protagonist confessing, in meta fashion, that such portrayals are “outdated.”

Tiernan and Vernon’s bright, bouncy animation amusingly contrasts with the filth and gore on display. Yet their fractured narrative—which eventually involves humans being able to “see” their food’s true talkative nature after getting high on bath salts—is heavy on commotion but light on purpose, right up to a tacked-on Frank-Brenda fight rooted in the divide between faith and reason. Unsurprisingly, such hearty notions aren’t sustainable by this doggedly thin lark, which only manages to generate genuine witty momentum during its climax—a sexual romp of wild inappropriateness to rival Team America: World Police’s notorious puppet-sex sequence, and apt to make even the merry orgy revelers of Caligula blush.

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