Recently, I commented within my review of The Secret Life of Pets that the formula of seemingly mundane objects and creatures coming to life has been the bread and butter of many animated movie projects, especially after Pixar revolutionized CG animation with 1995’s Toy Story. Sometimes though, the result of objects coming to life isn’t so much enchanting as it is horrifying! This seems to be one of the over-arching jokes of Sausage Party, a raunchy, ridiculous animated comedy with a hard R-rating, which is incredibly rare for fully CG-rendered films.
The R-rated animation genre is so rare in fact that most studios rejected Sausage Party for many years, after the project was first conceived as far back as 2008 by comedy partners, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Sony Pictures, alongside Annapurna Pictures, eventually agreed to make the movie in 2013, likely following Rogen and Goldberg’s hit directing debut with that year’s all-star Sony-made comedy, This is the End, and it took several more years to actually get it to the big screen, even with an all-star comedy cast filling its many roles, headlined by Rogen himself.
Much like This is the End as well, despite the risky premise of Sausage Party, it’s another bold, but effective hit for Rogen and Goldberg, who have once again made a surprisingly smart, enjoyable and often very funny comedy out of a rather raunchy presentation. Sausage Party playfully targets every uncomfortable facet of the modern world that it can, with a food-themed lens screened over examinations of religion, racism, homophobia, politics, and pretty much everything else that people are generally uneasy about openly discussing in most forums. The novelty of an R-rated animated comedy does wear off eventually, since there’s only so many times you can hear foodstuffs drop F-bombs before it gets old, but there’s something very respectable about how little Sausage Party cares about, ahem, roasting absolutely everyone and everything, especially when it manages to find so much genuine wit amidst so many filthy circumstances.
There are lots of important characters in Sausage Party, and quite a few of them are most enjoyable when you don’t see them or their character arcs coming in advance. Like I said though, Rogen is in charge of the show, as the titular sausage, who is actually a hot dog when it comes down to it, named Frank. Frank is packaged with several other so-called sausages, including the loudmouthed Carl, voiced by Jonah Hill, and a small, deformed sausage named Barry, voiced by Michael Cera, and they live in a supermarket where they hope to be ‘chosen’ (by the human customers), and taken to ‘The Great Beyond’. Obviously though, that heavenly ambition is not exactly what the food thinks it is, and this is where most of the character arcs from Sausage Party spring from.
The characters in Sausage Party aren’t that well-developed, even Frank, who feels like a typical accidental hero that is determined to expose a terrible truth, seen in no shortage of other movies, but in this case, it’s excusable, since the characters are supposed to be food, leading very straightforward lives. There’s only so much you can develop these personalities with, and Sausage Party smartly understands this, leaning more on its crazy world and shock humour to supply the laughs. Despite that though, the very well-written script still manages to make the characters likable, if not terribly deep.
The only leads who don’t work quite as well are Frank’s bun girlfriend, Brenda, voiced by Kristen Wiig, and Douche, who is exactly what you think he is, voiced by Nick Kroll. Wiig and Kroll give the same great voiceover performances as the rest of the cast, but their characters’ existence doesn’t fully fit with the rest of the ensemble. Brenda purely exists to be the butt of jokes and sexism commentary, never really having a true identity of her own, even by this movie’s simplistic character standards. Likewise, Douche, despite having some very funny moments, isn’t really a necessary part of the story, and feels like a forced antagonist to Frank, who is dwarfed by the very world itself seeming to be an antagonist in this movie. It honestly just feels like Rogen and Goldberg couldn’t pass up the chance to put a literal douche into their R-rated food comedy, and that’s the only reason why the Douche character is in the story.
When Sausage Party isn’t excessively reveling in curse words and juvenile toilet humour though, its characters consistently deliver surprisingly clever shock humour. This is an incredibly creative movie, finding all sorts of ridiculous links between the modern world, and appropriate food personalities, and mining them for fairly big laughs. Sausage Party isn’t a consistent gut-buster, sometimes going more for smirks than for belly laughs, but there is some really standout comedy with these food personalities, and even some of the human personalities that show up at appropriate points in the story. As long as you’re not easily offended, Sausage Party is a movie that you’ll easily be able to enjoy with a constant smile on your face, at the very least.
The lead ensemble is eventually rounded out by a few more characters, such as a lavash and a bagel that irrationally argue and despise each other in blatant racism commentary, voiced by David Krumholtz and Edward Norton, respectively, and a lesbian taco that takes a shine to Brenda, voiced by Salma Hayek. Again though, these characters largely just serve as the butt of jokes, letting the movie’s horrifying, yet ridiculous world elevate proceedings single-handedly. There’s plenty of fun surprises to look forward to with the characters, who are crass, sometimes to the point where it’s a tad forced, but they’re also still undeniably clever. As I said, Sausage Party’s shock humour is best when you don’t know much about the characters going in, though there’s also a good amount of subtle detail and character gags to reward repeat viewings, especially when they thrive in such a well-developed environment.
Sausage Party is one of those interesting movie experiences that feels simultaneously simple and complex. You can easily sum up the movie as being a food-themed comedy where one hot dog discovers the truth about the reason for food’s existence, and tries to tell the rest of the grocery store that he lives in. When you really dig into Sausage Party’s world though, you’ll find a movie that is rife with themes and commentary amidst its outwardly raunchy antics, and one that is extremely well fleshed-out. This is a comedy with quite a lot to say, and little regard for being polite or politically correct, making it a movie that feels both witty and refreshing, managing to truly stand out amidst a deluge of low-brow, proudly offensive R-rated comedies in recent years.
It’s tough to go into much of the storyline of Sausage Party for want of avoiding spoilers, but rest assured that the storyline is very smartly executed, and culminates in an appropriately ludicrous climax and resolution. The laughs in the movie fluctuate a bit throughout the first two thirds, but the final result of everything is often where Sausage Party is at its funniest and most memorable, so it never gives the impression of running out of gas, even when some comedic backdrops clearly work better than others. This is also assisted by the movie being careful not to overstay its welcome, with Sausage Party focusing purely on its best comedic material across a brisk 88-minute runtime. Despite the relative brevity of Sausage Party however, it feels very fully-featured, and hits the spot for those that are craving its envelope-pushing adult humour.
Sausage Party may have been created and mostly written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, but it’s actually directed by a duo of rather surprising animation veterans. The movie is helmed by Thomas & Friends’ regular director, Greg Tiernan (yes, seriously), as well as Dreamworks Animation’s Shrek 2 and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted director, Conrad Vernon, both of whom are naturally branching out pretty far from their prior works!
Fortunately, the two realize their new R-rated direction pretty well, particularly when it comes to rendering the movie’s supermarket setting. The world itself is often the best spiritual character in Sausage Party, and the way that Tiernan and Vernon add lots of character to even background features is very entertaining. The characters also have a lot of energy and personality in their animations, actions and voiceover to boot, and the hard R-rating means Tiernan and Vernon don’t need to exercise any sense of restraint, even if they could have done with reigning in a few jokes earlier than they do.
Perhaps the best testament to the direction behind Sausage Party however are the scenes that aren’t simply about cussing and crude modern references, and instead spotlight some of the comic horror-themed scenes that involve the food being ‘killed’ for both human consumption and disposal. The way that the movie plays with scenes that would be horrifying if they involved humans, yet are hilarious when they involve food, is highly amusing, and masterfully realized. There’s several very shocking moments of food violence that found some of Sausage Party’s funniest elements, even if some were given away in the trailers, and they work as great ways to give the movie a sense of twisted style, while also further celebrating the R-rating that this movie is clearly so very proud of.
The soundtrack of Sausage Party is composed by Alan Menken and Christopher Lennertz, and like the comedic material behind the movie, the music suite is surprisingly diverse. There’s a lot of cheeky representations of scenes across many different genres of music, making the score feel very energetic and engaging. There’s even a few licensed tunes cheekily snuck in, which make perfect sense when you hear them amidst the crazy circumstances that they play over, though obviously, I would be giving away some very funny jokes if I said which songs they were. Rest assured, the movie’s soundtrack is quite good, and actually better than most comedy soundtracks, for animation or otherwise.
The rest of the audio in Sausage Party is similarly well-realized, and actually does a great job playing with the movie’s sense of scale. There’s quite a few jokes that illustrate how horrible events are from the small, delicate perspective of the foodstuffs, while switching back and forth from the banal, quiet existence of the human characters, which is pretty effective. Not only that, but the movie doesn’t over-indulge in audio gags, and positions them in such a way that they feel humourous, without feeling overdone or cloying. It’s another thing that effectively adds a lot of character to the movie’s strange world, which seemingly makes almost every element of the food’s livelihoods a lingering danger, giving the story a great sense of unease, without compromising the sense of fun.
Sausage Party, despite being a fully CG-animated movie, isn’t handled by Sony’s Sony Pictures Animation studio. Instead, the movie’s animation was put together by Sony’s cinematic special effects outfit, Sony Pictures Imageworks, alongside Canadian animation studio, Nitrogen Studios Canada. This leads to animation that isn’t as impressive as the competition, particularly since Sausage Party’s budget is pretty small, but the visuals still look pretty cleverly realized. The character designs are fairly inspired overall, and as I said, the environmental detail in the movie is particularly impressive, especially with some of its great subtle humour, and especially during the scenes that are supposed to present tongue-in-cheek horror for the food characters.
Something particularly surprising about the movie, and actually kind of disappointing, considering some of the more comically grisly food violence, is that Sausage Party isn’t available in 3D at all. Despite being fully rendered in three-dimensional CG animation, the movie was only released flat in 2D in the end, and that’s a let-down, considering the missed opportunities in some of the more over-the-top animation-related gags. Perhaps the lack of 3D is related to the low budget, but either way, the animation is still good enough as it is, if not exemplary. The grisly food horror is still pretty entertaining in 2D when it comes down to it, though the movie could have been just a bit more engaging than it is, had it been allowed to have a lively 3D presentation.
Sausage Party is a great time for those willing to appreciate its wonderfully raunchy, politically incorrect sense of humour, and it’s a movie that fully earns its R-rating, even with protagonists that happen to be food. Seriously, leave your kids at home! This is absolutely not a movie for children, but adults willing to appreciate it will surely have lots of fun with it, ultimately making this another off-the-wall win for the comedy dream team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
In a Summer that’s sadly been full of more over-hyped cinematic disappointments than usual, Sausage Party is a great breath of fresh air, being a movie that is not only amusingly original, but also genuinely lives up to its promise of being a crassly funny roast of world convention through the lens of an over-the-top supermarket inventory. Its tongue-in-cheek horror goes very well with its biting social commentary, but it’s all topped off with a fantastic sense of mischievous fun as well.
Even putting aside the high distinction of being an R-rated animated movie with a crazy concept that truly works, Sausage Party is a triumph amidst adult-minded comedies in general, where it somehow finds new ground to forge in a subgenre that’s been very well-worn over the past several years. Like any exotic meal, it might prove surprisingly spicy, and occasionally bitter at first, but if you’re willing to take the chance on Sausage Party, you’ll find yourself quite content and perfectly satisfied after the plate is clean!
- Biting, well-voiced ensemble cast of clever leads
- Excellent, memorable world rife with subtle humour
- Highly amusing direction, especially in the horror-themed scenes
- A few less effective core characters
- Some of the crassness is a bit forced