For too long, Pixar has sat upon the sentient throne of animation, and remained unscathed. Throughout history, there have been a number of attempted uprisings, most notably by Pixar’s own blood, Disney Animation Studios, but none have yet proved fruitful. At last, a hero has appeared from the unlikeliest of places—a breeding ground for the benevolent—in the form of “Sausage Party.” Yet, the movie doesn’t wish to be king, but merely to swipe the crown from the king’s head, run around in it a bit and be executed with a smile on its face.
Once upon a time, there was a grocery store full of conscious food products, who believed that once purchased by the humans—or gods, as they say—they transcend existence and enter the glorious afterlife. The afterlife differs from food to food. For Frank and Brenda, a wiener and bun, it’s a place where they can finally become one; for Lavash, a Muslim pita bread, it’s a place where he is drenched in extra virgin olive oil. But one day, the seed of doubt is planted by a jar of Honey Mustard, who claims to have knowledge of the afterlife, or lack thereof. The gods do not offer salvation, he claims, but mutilation. Spurned by curiosity, Frank, Brenda, Lavash and a value pack of other edible explorers—and the occasional feminine hygiene product—set out to find the truth.
Written by the comedy team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the movie is unabashedly sophomoric, but in a self-aware way. As this is a film about talking food, a lot of the jokes write themselves. The wiener’s name is Frank, and he wants to be inside the bun, Brenda. A Native American bottle of liqueur, Firewater, claims that his people were driven from their home by crackers. The Muslim pita bread hates the Jewish bagel, Sammy Bagel Jr.—of all the Jewish names to borrow—and they’re constantly bickering over who has the right to what shelf space. Sammy Bagel Jr. is voiced by Edward Norton doing his best Woody Allen, by the way, which might be one of the funniest things about the movie. By a large margin, “Sausage Party” contains the most pure jokes compared to Rogen’s other offerings, such as “Neighbors” or “This Is the End,” where the comedy stems more from shenanigans.
As is to be expected, the f-word is treated like baking soda, applicable to almost any situation, and for about 30 minutes, it’s enjoyable to see cute cartoons shout expletives and spin sexual innuendos. Naturally, you become desensitized to the fact, but that can’t be helped. This being a goof on the Pixar formula, the film contains an emotional and intellectual through-line, which, as you may have guessed from the summary, is religion and society’s interpretation and/or distortion of it. Wisely, it’s mostly used for a clothesline to hang jokes on—at one point, a character holds up a sign that reads, “God Hates Figs”—as pulling off a definitive statement without seeming preachy is an uphill battle, especially in a comedy.
For all the triumphs of “Sausage Party,” they would land a little softer if not for the polished animation, on par with any major league animated film. The characters are expressive, and better actors than most of their voices. Most importantly, perhaps, the film is directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, two veterans of the animation space. All of this adds to the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” effect that gives the film an air of stolen legitimacy, essential to its character.
Destined to be a stoner classic, shelved upside-down between “Dazed and Confused” and the greatest hits of The Velvet Underground, “Sausage Party” fulfills its obligations to anyone intrigued by the title, the premise or the names attached, as well as to those of us who just enjoy a good pun.
3.5 out of 5 stars