Directed by: Greg Tierman and Conrad Vernon
Premise: An animated film in which all of the products at a grocery store are sentient beings who want nothing more than to be chosen by shoppers, who they regard as gods, and taken home. But one sausage discovers the truth about what happens when they travel into the great beyond.
What Works: Sausage Party has an absurd premise but it is carried out terrifically and this movie sits in the company of comedy titles such as Blazing Saddles, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, and Life of Brian. Like those movies, Sausage Party has a ridiculous sense of humor and it combines low brow gags with social commentary. In this case, Sausage Party is an anti-religious tract. In the conceit of the movie, the sentient food of a grocery store live out their lives under the delusion that the customers are gods who will take them to a better place but of course that’s not true and it’s revealed that this myth of a great beyond was concocted to placate the living food so that they will accept their fate. The moviemakers amplify this idea with the inclusion of a lavash and a bagel (voiced by David Krumholtz and Edward Norton) who are lightly disguised proxies for Palestinians and Israelis. Sausage Party is actually quite smart about this and the film is able to say things about religious conflict and the abuse of religious faith in a way that is almost inconceivable in a mainstream Hollywood film. But Sausage Party is also critical of the so-called New Atheist movement in that the characters who have discovered the truth must learn to talk to people of faith in a way that’s not condescending. And in that respect, Sausage Party takes on matters of religion and faith in a way that is actually more sophisticated that a lot of straightforward religious films. But the political content would be all for nothing if the movie wasn’t funny and Sausage Party is hilarious. The picture is dense with laughs. Sausage Party keeps the jokes coming and it strings together outrageous sexual comedy with sight gags, puns, and physical comedy. In a Hollywood marketplace that is characterized by the recycling of old ideas and rote storytelling formulas, Sausage Party is an inventive, original, and subversive film.
What Doesn’t: The animation of Sausage Party is acceptable but it is nowhere near the excellence that audiences expect from the features films of Pixar or DreamWorks Animation. The imagery doesn’t have the same level of detail or subtlety. However, the look of the animation tends to work for Sausage Party in much the same way that the cheap-looking paper cut-out style of South Park supports that show’s anarchic tone. The humor of Sausage Party isn’t for everyone. This is a high concept comedy from many of the same talents behind This is the End, The Night Before, and The Interview and it has a similar sense of the absurd. Also like many of those films, the sense of humor of Sausage Party is very sexual and very crude. In fact, this is among the most explicit comedies to ever be released by a major Hollywood studio, equaling and sometimes exceeding the outrageous gags of Borat and The Hangover. For that reason, the appeal of Sausage Party is limited. And the anti-religious nature of the movie is going to further narrow the audience. Even those who are susceptible to the movie’s sense of humor may find that that the conceit of Sausage Party is over extended. The movie has several recurring gags and running jokes that are run into the ground by the movie’s end. As a metaphor, Sausage Party is lightly disguised. The appeal of using a metaphor, as in Animal Farm or The Purge movies, is that it creates some distance between the audience and the topic. Sausage Party is so blunt about its politics that the metaphor runs very thin.
Bottom Line: Despite its silly conceit, Sausage Party is one of the funniest, smartest, and most subversive major releases of the summer. The picture isn’t going to appeal to everyone but those who get it will find Sausage Party to be one of the best times to be had at the movies in the summer of 2016.
Episode: #608 (August 21, 2016)