Okay, so that happened!
Sausage Party is an animated film about edibles in a supermarket who discover that what lies beyond the store doors is not a glorious utopia but graphic decapitation, evisceration, maceration, pulverisation and gory death. It has well over one hundred uses of a four letter f-word that isn’t the word food and it seems to be totally obsessed with sex in all its different variations. This film was always going to divide audiences, either it’s your sense of humour or it’s really really not and personally I’m in the latter camp. I wasn’t shocked but I was repulsed at times, occasionally offended (not myself but for others) and crucially it did not make me laugh, not once.
Sausage Party is written by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg who have previously collaborated on Superbad, This is the End and The Interview. As with the last two of those films Rogan also takes lead acting duties. The desire to shock is something that has informed what these guys have done before (you’ll remember how North Korea reacted to The Interview) but what this movie doesn’t have is the bromance element that has softened this in the past. Rogan’s sausage Frank does have sausage buddies (voiced by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) but you can’t engage with his relationships in the same way you could before. The characterisation isn’t strong enough. This time they are more worried about how funny they think it is to have a cartoon frankfurter swearing and dreaming about sliding into a hot dog bun.
You remember that scene in Grease where Danny has been dumped by Sandy at the drive in and he is sitting on the swings while the big screen behind him plays an advert where a hot dog jumps into a bread roll? (Pictured) Well Rogan and Goldberg have taken the innuendo in this and run and run and run with it.
The sexual humour is really full on but more problematic are the cultural and social stereotypes. I’ve heard the film makers talk about equal opportunities insulting because everyone comes up for a bit of ribbing but when the only demographic not insulted here are able bodied, white collar, male Americans it doesn’t really work as a defence. I reject the claim that they are merely highlighting prejudice too because they have presented the Germans as Nazis which is both in poor taste and seventy years out of date. The Israel/Palestine conflict is also played out in the form of a lavash and a bagel who are sworn enemies. Of course while they are initially opposed they come to respect one another despite their historical differences so apparently that’s all okay. In fact the story arc of these two characters is a lot like that of Gimli and Legolas in The Lord of the Rings but for the fact that Gimli and Legolas didn’t end up having rough passionless sex when the quest was done. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler but the movie kind of spoilt itself already by always returning to cheap smut.) The film actually picks on a couple of individuals as well and here it really shows its true nature. Meatloaf being depicted as a meatloaf isn’t that bad (or clever) but having a character who is essentially Professor Stephen Hawking appear as a piece of chewed up gum is unacceptably offensive and disrespectful in the extreme. This is where this film about dirty food is truly distasteful.
The movie’s main target though is religion and, no surprises considering the tone, the idea of puritanical abstinence. It doesn’t really have much to say about this though. It seems to be suggesting that the alternative to chastity is promiscuity which isn’t a particularly empowering message, gag or not. Similarly its criticism of church doctrine is over simplified and possibly even a little superior. The atheism is a little smug and Rogan proves to be no Richard Dawkins. He’s not even Kevin Smith.
I suppose this should be no surprise given its title but nothing about Sausage Party is sophisticated, from its opening song and dance number to its Lego Movie meets The Last Action Hero ending. Sorry Seth, your wiener is no winner.
The Ripley Factor:
Kristen Wiig and Salma Hayek are the only girls properly allowed to the party. Hayek plays a horny taco and provides the least enlightened portrayal of female homosexuality since Lesbian Vampire Killers. Wiig is the hot dog bun and while she may drive the action forward and takes some control of her situation she also solely exists to have the male protagonist get inside her so not really a feminist icon. She’s uncharacteristically potty mouthed for such an initially innocent character too.
Is this one for the kids?
Well it’s not very grown up but it clearly isn’t suitable for children either.