‘Sausage Party’ only aims for low-hanging comedy fruit
When the primary antagonist of your movie is a literal talking douche, it’s fair to say that you’re not aiming for intelligent humor. Critics have often ridiculed Seth Rogen’s work for being immature drug jokes and dick jokes, but there was usually a level of cleverness to his movies. Some looked at Superbad and saw a juvenile comedy about two high school kids trying to get laid, but I appreciated a lot of the improvisation and performances from Michael Cera and Jonah Hill. Some looked at Pineapple Express and thought that it was nothing but low-brow stoner jokes with no real creativity or story, but I saw a hilarious comedy that put a new spin on the classic weed movie. Some looked at This Is the End and saw a bro movie with a bunch of guys hanging out and acting like idiots in a house, but I saw an excellent skewering of celebrity personas, like a far less flattering Entourage. Sadly, sausage party is exactly the movie that people rip on Rogen for making. It’s juvenile, it’s crude for no reason other than being crude, and it’s just plain not that funny. So congratulations, Seth Rogen, you’ve made an Adam Sandler movie.
Sausage party is the tale of Frank (Rogen), a hot dog that is consistently called a sausage because “Hot Dog Party” lacks the cheekiness of the other title. Frank strives to be with his girlfriend Brenda (Wiig), a hot dog bun who lives in a neighboring package. Frank and Brenda live in a grocery store with other food products, all waiting to be purchased by “the gods” so they can venture into The Great Beyond, the heavenly and mythical world outside the store. When a container of honey mustard (voiced by Danny McBride) is returned to the store after being purchased, he reveals that the great beyond is a lie and that, in fact, the humans who purchase the food brutally murder/eat it, in some sort of horrifying, hellish ritual to sustain themselves. All the rest of the food products dismiss this as nonsense, but Frank starts to wonder if it’s true. Frank’s friends in the hot dog pack are purchased and headed to the great beyond, but Frank falls out of the package, which leads him to wonder if his friends are in fact going to heaven or hell, and how he might be able to save them. Along the way, he meets a variety of other food products in the store and sets out to discover the truth about the great beyond.
This concept is original and creative. The animation looks like a demented version of a Disney Pixar movie, and as a fan of dirty cartoons, I’ve always enjoyed seeing an adorable animated character swearing up a storm. Sadly, this premise runs thin, and it runs thin fast. While this might have been a hilarious 10 minute short or even 22 minute TV episode, the 83 minute runtime feels staggeringly long as the film continues to rely on the same juvenile jokes and low-hanging comedy fruit, so to speak. It’s like Rogen and his friends sat around saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we did a whole joke where a nervous, Woody-Allen-like bagel and piece of Middle Eastern flatbread who thinks he’s going to get 77 virgin olive oils in heaven hated each other? And won’t it be hilarious if the villain of the movie was literally a douche who got all muscly and juiced up like those metaphorical douches on Jersey Shore? Look at us and our clever satire!” Except none of those things are very funny, they’re all so incredibly on-the-nose that they might as well have been written by a seventh-grader—no disrespect to seventh graders.
Along time ago, when South Park did their episodes about Family Guy, Cartman’s biggest complaint about getting compared to Family Guy was that all of his jokes are central to a plot, not just tucked in for a random punchline like they are on Seth MacFarlane’s series. This is what makes Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s dirty little cartoon feel so clever and fresh year after year. It’s intelligent. While there may be fart jokes, they’re central to a plot, and all the scenes relate to each other in a causal way. Sausage Party seems to be nothing more than a series of jokes strung together with no causality, which makes the whole thing feel childish, crude for crude’s sake, and overall poorly executed.
By the end, it’s so clear that they’ve run out of ideas that the big save is to have all the food get together for a gigantic orgy, something completely unrelated to any aspect of the plot. I’m sure people will compare this to the notorious Team America puppet sex scene, which certainly had an aspect of shock for the sake of shock, but was also a part of an overall story, and a great over-the-top moment to remind people that whole point was to take action movie tropes to the extreme.
As a fan of Rogen, I wanted to like Sausage Party, but the whole movie just reminds me of a kid who just learned the F word and wants to say it in every sentence. It’s like Rogen and co. are so preoccupied with being crude and edgy that they forgot to be funny, as opposed to a lot of their other movies where the curse-filled dialogue feels natural and realistic. It’s one thing to be crude, it’s another to be crude and clever, and this movie doesn’t pull that off at all. They slip in discussions about heaven, the existence of God, race relations, and conflict between Israel and Palestine, but they don’t earn any of these moments, making it feel like a tacked-on attempt to make the film seem smart and satirical.
The worst part of this is that we know Rogen and Goldberg can do better. They have written such hilarious screenplays and been a part of some of my favorite comedies, but this feels like they had a five-minute idea and ran with it. It’s the kind of pedestrian, poorly-done, unfunny garbage you’d find in a later era Adam Sandler movie, and that’s so disappointing when we know Rogen and Goldberg are capable of so much more.