Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Sausage Party" Review: A Deliciously Depraved Feast With Some Surprising Social Commentary


There has been a common misconception for quite some time that animated films are for kids and/or families. While that is often true for the most part it isn't exactly the train of thought that the creators of the new animated film Sausage Party subscribe to. Mixing elements found in Pixar's Toy Story with that of Pineapple Express or This is the End, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have crafted a hybrid movie going experience that is unlike anything we have ever seen come out of Hollywood. Not since the release of the South Park movie over 20 years ago has a film gone so far out of its way to be this insulting to as many people as possible while simultaneously making them look inward at their own insecurities. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:   
Projector Type: 2D Digital
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime:  1 hr 29 min
Studio: Sony Pictures
Release Date: August 12, 2016

Biases:  
Loves: Clever raunchy humor, South Park
Likes: Most of the voice cast, the idea of food having feelings
Neutral: The animation itself isn't the greatest
Hates: Nothing
Should your kids see it?: Uh, no.

A match made in aisle 4...second shelf...next to the ketchup...and mustard.

Imagine if your food could talk. What would that be like? Would you freak out or would you converse with it? Would you stop eating it? How about your toilet paper or feminine products? Would you continue to use your favorite shampoo if every time you squeezed the bottle it was equivalent to squeezing someone's guts out? These questions along with a ton more nonsensical topics are covered extensively in the world of Sausage Party, a film about a hot dog named Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen) and a hot dog bun named Brenda (voiced by Kristen Wiig) who are awaiting their moment to consummate their love when they are finally chosen by the gods who will subsequently take them to the metaphorical garden of eden where they will live happily ever after.

The problem here of course is that the gods are not gods at all but are in fact us, humans who purchase food items like Frank and Brenda and consume them. Their garden of Eden is basically our kitchens where we proceed to slice and dice them up with complete disregard for their well being Their love is only consummated when we place a burned alive Frank inside Brenda's pried open crevice. If that sounds disturbing then just wait until you see what happens to the baby carrots who are actual babies! Much of the humor found in Sausage Party revolves around this idea that the food we eat is conscious complete with feelings and emotions but totally unaware of their purpose in life which of course is to be our sustenance.

When the cooking utensils come out the film transforms into a horror movie of sorts.

This is illustrated in the film's opening scene where we see an entire grocery store full of food and other consumer products erupt into a Hollywood style musical number celebrating the moment the store doors open completely oblivious to the carnage to come. Much like a puppy dog in a pet store window, they can't wait to be taken home with their new owners whom they view as their god and saviors. This is an interesting viewpoint that the film takes which turns this mostly raunchy comedy into a biting social commentary on religion and those who blindly follow their faith. While this idea has been explored in plenty other media it is sort of unprecedented in a film filled to the brim with some of the foulest and most depraved humor around. Seriously, one moment we are watching food products debate the idea of false deities and the next we meet a used condom who recounts in horrific detail the abuse it received from its owner.

In the grand tradition of South Park the filmmakers have adopted the if-we-insult-everyone-we-insult-no-one mantra by throwing in a bunch of racial stereotypes that are guaranteed to upset at least someone. Some examples are your typical Jewish character with Sammy Bagel Jr. (voiced by a near unrecognizable Edward Norton) who is always trying to be diplomatic, the Middle-eastern demographic covered by Kareem Abdul Lavash (voiced by David Krumholtz) who is always dreaming of being covered with virgin olive oil, Mr. Grits (voiced by Craig Robinson) who just hates crackers and Firewater (voiced by Bill Hader) the leader of the non-perishables who is constantly getting high and speaking of mystical legends surrounding the gods. There are tons more but you get the point I think.

The humans (or Gods) prepare for the slaughter.

On the surface level these characterizations are outright hateful interpretations of how every ethnic group and demographic views each other but if you look a bit deeper you see that the film isn't so much exploiting these stereotypes as it is exposing our own hypocritical ignorance. It is human nature to never see ourselves for who we truly are and in many ways we never will, but it is the ability to recognize that particular failing that helps makes us tolerant of each others beliefs and morals that may not line up with our own. Strangely Sausage Party conveys these points along with plenty others in both a humorous and often times poignant manner which gives some surprising weight to a film that at first looks like just an excuse for adults to see what it looks like when you animate a bagel sticking its face into the ass crack of a lavash.

At this point you might be thinking, "What is up with all this social commentary crap, isn't this  supposed to be a comedy?". Well that is part of the beauty that is Sausage Party, for all the topical (and non-topical) subjects it covers at heart it is still just a raunchy comedy about sex, drugs and...well, sex. While it is kind of a cliche thing to say at this point, if it is either starring, directed by or produced by Seth Rogen you should expect going in that you are in store for a gluttony of humor revolved around everyone's favorite herbal medicine and Sausage Party sort of sets a new bar for this type of comedy. At no point does the film ever try to be something it isn't, it knows what it is and is proud of it.

You will never look at your food the same again.

That being said, the main gimmick of the film of food being alive fuels most of the humor and they leave almost no stone unturned in this regard. The aforementioned racial stereotypes like the bagel and lavash are just the beginning but things really get messy (quite literally) with the introduction of the film's surprising villain which is none other than Douche (voiced by Nick Kroll) whose name isn't just a funny metaphor. Nothing can prepare you for the antics of Douche, a character whose sole purpose in life is to, "Get on up in there" and he will stop at nothing to make this happen. Between him trying relentlessly to fulfill his destiny (and literally someone elses), Teresa del Taco (voiced by Salma Hayek) falling shell over tomato for Brenda's buns and the introduction of what I believe to be the best character of the entire film in the form of a chewed up piece of bubblegum that closely resembles Stephen Hawking, the film is constantly throwing new characters and brand new insults at the audience which all culminates in one of the most outrageously hysterical finale in film history.

There are only so many ways to illustrate just how crazy hysterical Sausage Party is without simply outlining every joke in great detail (which surprisingly wouldn't ruin the jokes as you might think).
Admittedly most of the films humor isn't that different from stuff that Pixar has done in the past with Toy Story, A Bug's Life or even Finding Nemo where it takes these things we take for granted in our lives and gives them a face but the differences end there. While watching food make funny puns and in-jokes about what it is like being food is entertaining enough on its own, this is one of those rare instances where the push into R rated territory truly turns it into something truly special and unique.

Racial stereotyping has never been so delicious.

Beyond all the apparent social commentary there also lies what may be one of the greatest comedies of all time. I do not hand out that sort of praise lightly as everyone knows that comedy is generally a victim of its time and does not age well but much like the non-perishables in the film it is difficult to imagine the film getting stale with the passage of time on the shelf. The jokes and gags which come at a blistering pace are without a doubt what most will take away from the experience but they will also come away with a slight self awareness that perhaps wasn't there before. Not many films can instill such a thing in the viewer while also providing so much toilet humor but that is the magic that is Sausage Party, the year's best comedy, animated or otherwise.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

On the surface Sausage Party is exactly what it sells itself as, a hold no prisoners animated comedy about consumer products that must come to grips with their lot in life. But below those surface elements you will find one of more intelligently written films about social and ethnic acceptance that isn't afraid to examine and lampoon our own belief systems in a way that isn't nearly offensive as it is good natured adult themed entertainment.

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