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« Instagram Zen | Main | Box Office: 'Sausage Party' Is An Animated Adult Smash »
Sunday
Aug142016

Review: Sausage Party

Tim here. You can't deny that Sausage Party does what it promises. It's a not-quite-parody and not-quite-satire of the Pixar-style premise of a secret world where inanimate objects have an elaborate culture unseen by humans. In this case, it's the life of a supermarket with Seth Rogen as the voice of a heroic hot dog and Kristen Wiig as the hot dog bun he loves. To this, add in a bunch of curse words and outlandishly filthy sex talk, and you've got a solid 70% of the movie.  It's not mine to say whether this is good or bad: there's no point in telling people that what they're laughing at isn't funny, and Sausage Party's audience undoubtedly knows itself.

That audience would be anybody who has loved writers Rogen & Evan Goldberg's previous forays into sex-obsessed philosophy hiding in a thick cloud of pot smoke: Superbad, The Interview, or especially This Is the End, the duo's film that Sausage Party most closely resembles. The 30% that's not cartoon characters saying raunchy things is an extension of that film's agnostic theological commentary, and not even a necessarily bad one. [More...]

Basically, when it's not broad jokes about hot dogs sliding into voluptuous buns,Sausage Party is a parable of the way that religion starts out reasonable and productive before turning sectarian and puritanical, and how loudmouthed atheists needs to cool it on the arrogance if they want to point those things out.

It's a curious juxtaposition that more or less works, though the film does itself no favors by frontloading all of its most tired material. My own fear upon hearing the concept was that Rogen & Goldberg were going to make a one-joke movie in which the joke is that brightly-colored, toyetic cartoon characters drop F-bombs and reference sex acts, and that this was somehow inherently funny; nothing at all in the first 10 minutes of the movie suggest that this won't be the case. To be sure, the movie tries to get much too much mileage out of that basic joke, if "joke" we can call it. But there's more to it than that.

We could do without some of that moreness: the way that all of the ethnic food takes the form of the most unspeakably lazy racial stereotype is deliriously objectionable, including some stereotypes that I'd have thought were decades in the grave: the "wise old Indian" bit (here inhabited as a bottle of alcohol voiced by Bill Hader) was already being satirized before they were born; later, the film hauls out the hoary old derogatory term "fruit", which I didn't realize anybody had used in a good three decades. The idea, I think, is that this is somehow ironic, though it's not at all clear what's supposed to make it so.

Getting past that - and while we're at it, getting past the enormously strange way that Wiig's Brenda Bunson is given huge breasts and a curvaceous ass despite being a hot dog bun - and the film is actually rather incisive in its diagnosis of social ills, as far as such things go. One does not ever get the impression that the filmmakers are unintelligent people, and the critiques of both the religious and the dogmatically anti-religious are worked into the film's deliberately generic adventure plot with organic grace. Indeed, Pixar itself could hardly manage the combination of comic pratfalls and offhand message scenes more astutely: whatever else can be said of it, Sausage Party knows its model inside and out, from the abrupt switch between sentiment and goofiness to the third-act chase scene, and it alternates between using and mocking these conventions with enough success in both cases to never feel like it's resting.

What it all comes down to, though, is not how skillfully it structures itself, but how funny it is, and who can say, really? The film's sense of humor is of the sort that conflates "adult" and "bright but dirty-minded adolescent" in pursuing that elusive thing, "an adult comedy"; it's not particularly imaginative about it, though it is committed as all hell, whether to its go-for-broke cartoon sex near the end, or its protracted, enthusiastically violent war scene near the start. And that commitment translates into a fearless sensibility that is, if not the same thing as "funny", at least enthusiastically bent. Better this kind of low-brow humor tinged with wit and creativity, than just a bunch of curse words strung together without the weirdness of the cartoon world to take place in.

With so much riding on the central paradox of its juxtaposition between the childlike and the enormously crude, there's not a whole else to the movie: the voice cast is largely unexceptional, and the animation is unmistakably cheap (given the market forces at play, this film could never have come in with a Pixar-sized price tag, and it looks it). For those who enjoy an aggressive dose of gross absurdist humor, I don't suppose the year has produced a better one. For the rest of us, the novelty's not really enough to put it over as anything but a well-mounted, unusually earnest gimmick.

Rating: B-/C+

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Reader Comments (4)

But at what point do we stop being surprised that a Seth Rogen film has more going on than just drug and sex jokes?

August 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

This sounds terrible!

(puts on sunglasses, scarf, fake beard and Marilyn Monroe wig and buys a ticket)

August 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

It wasn't their best work, but it was pretty funny, and very very vulgar. The language from those filthy food mouths!

It also has what might be the most disturbing yet funny sex scene I have ever seen.

But I am Seth Rogen's bitch, or would be if I could, so Bias here!

August 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

It's a very good film and i love this site because this site gives me opinions about the film.

May 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMerve

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