SAUSAGE PARTY (Sony)
Dir. Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon
Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton, Salma Hayek
Plot: Food is alive – and what it believes is its heaven is really a trip to our stomachs.
*trying to come up with words*
Sausage Party is something…really very different. This is a film, an animated film that could have been from Pixar for all you knew, that has simply decided to have a look at quite what it can do, thoroughly checking for all the boundaries of political correctness, and gone so far above them that they should be running out of oxygen. Sausage Party‘s approach is to stuff a sausage inside a crumb rather than a bun (although the age-old matrimony between these two foodstuffs is explored in a very deep manner), and wait for its audiences jaws to detach and lower to the floor. I don’t understand where I can logically begin a review of a film that has scenes lampooning every culture and religion on this earth (most notably some German produce whose manufacture apparently took place in 1943, based on their particular beliefs), scenes of carrots, potatoes and many more being murdered in increasingly violent ways, and a concluding sequence that is so…so…nope, the words have escaped me again. The best thing I can say about Sausage Party is to paraphrase a quote from a high-pitched, immortal weed-smoking Twinkie (in case you were in any doubt): ‘Once you’ve seen that shit…it’ll fuck you up for life!’
But, despite this movie’s aggressive attempts to shock, Sausage Party is a movie that has absolutely earned the right to be talked about. It’s the funniest comedy of the year bar Deadpool, with a laugh-to-minute ratio that is mightily impressive and completely relentless. It’s highly inventive, unique, and establishes its world very clearly indeed. And, most surprisingly, Sausage Party actually has some depth to it, themes spread on Jewish bagels and filling up Mexican tacos – funnily enough, this is a film about religion. More to the point, this film obliterates religion, and actually does it quite smartly with some effective sequences. You can tell that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the best friends from high school who wrote This Is The End, were played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in Superbad, and came the closest out of any human beings to prompting a North Korean war have either 1) thought about the consequences of sentient food and the situation they would find themselves in for far too long and far too deeply or 2) got really, really high. Probably the latter. But it works: as puerile, crass and totally shocking as it is, Sausage Party is one of the most effective comedies I’ve watched in some time.
So…the frightening task of trying to explain this…this creature to you, if you haven’t heard about this movie before. Sausage Party takes place almost exclusively in a large supermarket in which food is sentient, the aisles are sovereign territories populated by different foods, and they all believe in their own different ways that the ‘Gods’ (the customers at the shop) will one day choose them and take them through the automatic exit doors into ‘The Great Beyond’, where they will be cared for. As we food-eaters know however, this lot have no idea what the truth actually is. As is the deal with organised religion for the most part, there’s a quite stringent set of moral codes and general rules in place, most notably that of total celibacy (not exiting the packaging) and a daily routine or total, all-submissive praise of the shoppers for taking them into the next world. However, as the film progresses, a common sausage named Frank (voiced by Rogen) begins to witness strange things, and questions the truth of The Great Beyond, leading him to seek proof and answers much to the chagrin of his bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), who believes the Gods are punishing the two of them because they ‘touched tips’. The path to the answers includes some of the weirdest, most utterly mental scenes I have ever seen on a cinema screen. I really need to emphasise this: if you don’t like below-the-belt humour, you are going to be in some kind of torture chamber, tied to a chair made entirely from bread with a naked Seth Rogen rubbing his manboobs on you while holding you at axepoint. If you are a parent looking for a film to take the kids to, THIS IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT IT. If you are like me, and totally immunised to any form of offensiveness, and your coping mechanism when confronted with stuff that is so strange and mad that only a complete nutcase could have even scratched the surface of it is to laugh your head off whilst trying to get your mouth put back together, then you’re in for something that will change your life.
I’m going to cut straight to the chase: if you’ve followed some of the buzz around this movie, or have read some of the other reviews, then you might be aware of the orgy scene. Yeah – I’m not making this up. If my brain could even enter that frightening place and come up with something quite this…to put it bluntly, fucking fucked up idea, then I would want to be psychologically examined. There is a scene at a point in this movie in which food sex happens – and there’s a lot of set-up for this. Frank and Brenda, the sausage and the bun that believe they belong together and were made for each other, long for the day when Frank can ‘fill’ Brenda – obviously, with Rogen being a thirteen year old child and apparently able to reduce the ages of his co-screenwriters, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, this whole device is the perfect excuse for a number of sex jokes so great that the actual number becomes irrelevant. But when it comes…you’ll know. And if you think there would even be a tiny bit of restraint from Rogen and the animation team behind Sausage Party…you know what the truth is. It’s effectiveness is beyond doubt – from what I could hear, the audience were lapping it up, and the laughter was so vocal I could barely make out what the food was saying from the brink of orgasm. And here I was thinking 2016 had been a dull year overall up to this point: what do I know? This is the year, and this is the movie, that caused me to just write that sentence. Honestly, I’m not sure where my laughter came from while watching a variety of food-based sex positions (there’s enough to fill a handbook) that redefines ‘food porn’ quite literally and will probably put Nigella out of a job. It was either I was laughing at it because the mere idea of that scene is so shocking I find it impossible not to laugh at, or my chuckles came from a place that was trying its very best to react in some way to what it was being confronted with.
But the ‘food orgy’ (I still can’t believe I’m saying that in the real world either) isn’t the only scene that is memorable, although it probably is the grand-daddy; it’s just one of many. We see food suicide, a food war zone, a conscious evil tampon voiced by Nick Kroll shoving himself up a shop manager’s anus and taking control of his arms and limbs – like Ratatouille, but with less consent. And of course, we are introduced to the horror of watching food die at the hands of us in our kitchens. Scenes like this are of course jaw-dropping, totally shocking things to watch in a film, and it’s made even more effective by the fact that it’s all animated. We’ve become so accustomed to the personification of inanimate things by Pixar, and only been presented with animated movies made for families (Sausage Party does break new ground as the first digitally animated motion picture to garner an R rating in the United States), that our minds are conditioned to accept the precise opposite of what Sausage Party is delivering: It’s a movie that has been planned meticulously and primed to hit us with exactly what we’ve never seen before and couldn’t possibly expect to. Directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, who are no strangers to animated movies themselves, are arrow-sharp here, only making the unflinching horror of animated food facing their inevitable deaths, and food doing other rather adult things of course, even more stark.
Fortunately, its backed up by a screenplay that doesn’t hold back whatsoever, quickly deciding that the sentience of food and its fate would be so messed up that they had to make Sausage Party as messed up as possible. The jokes are mostly based on stereotyping and casual racism, I will admit – and those jokes are still effective, but less so in comparison to some of Rogen’s sharper lines and gags. The characters are for the most part genuinely funny, and we’re laughing with them and not at them – the highlight is the secret group of ‘Non-Perishables’, foods that have no expiration date and therefore eternal life, who are the only group who know of what lies beyond the supermarket. And they are extremely high. Bill Hader leads them as ‘Firewater’, and everything he says lands, as well as his supporting grits and Twinkie, who persuade Frank to get blazed before they have a talk with him. The cast, full of some of comedy’s biggest names and every single one of Seth Rogen’s mates, are all game and for the most part on top form. Rogen’s put on funnier displays, but he tones his idiosyncracies down to play the everyman here. Kristen Wiig redeems her forgettable Ghostbusters performance with some sassy line-delivery and playing scared of the Gods’s wrath if she questions them. Michael Cera, a cult hero if there ever was one, an actor I have seen painfully little of recently, is absolutely hilarious as a deformed sausage who gets to see the truth of the outside world first-hand. The rest of the actors mainly appear in cameos, with Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson all having some side-splitting moments as a sausage friend of Frank’s, a jar of Honey Mustard who has seen the truth, and the aforementioned box of grits who has a long-standing grudge against crackers, who he believes to have uprooted him from his rightful home. And as ridiculous as all of this must sound, I’m delighted to say all these plot devices are not only funny, but they actually give context to what is a remarkably rich world that Rogen and Goldberg have created for this food.
And the overarching triumph of Sausage Party is that it actually functions as a rather decent allegory of religion. Sure, the solution it offers, which is to accept that life has no purpose other than to get eaten, will probably not go down well with religious people, nor will any of the jokes made at many religions expense, with Judaism bearing the most brunt. But it all comes together somehow – it’s a bittersweet dish, made from a whole host of ingredients that you wouldn’t usually eat on their own, a massive amount of some really spicy sauce and then a three hour frying just to take it beyond anything you will have ever possibly tasted before. Sausage Party actually creates a pretty fulfilling picture of how religion not only brings people together but pushes them apart, and Rogen and Goldberg are most certainly of the opinion that it’s more of a needless hindrance to anything else: this is the first film in which I can say that this point is best displayed by a lesbian taco who has to hold in her lust for Brenda, as she believes the Gods don’t believe in it. In a sense, Rogen and Goldberg are preaching unity in atheism, but unity none the less, and have somehow also imbued the incredibly positive message that you shouldn’t let anything get in the way of what you desire or who you spend time with just because of belief systems. Even if the method in which the batshit mental, 24/7 blazed out of their skulls people who came up with this movie display this theme is the traditionally and blatantly unsubtle ‘watching a lavash have anal sex with a bagel’ device. And on that note, I have exhausted all of my words, all of my shock and awe, and expended whatever sanity I had left before I bought that cinema ticket and sat down. Go and see it, because not only could I not go into considerable detail due to spoilers and my limit on just how adult I can get while writing these reviews, but I could neither come even remotely close to capturing the feelings you will have watching it. The only way you’ll know is if you go and experience it for yourself, preferably with your mouth sewn shut so as not to have it permanently separated. Don’t knock it until you try it, dear reader – I’m not sure if that’s what the lavash said to the bagel before he put…no I’m stopping now.
BEST WATCHED: Umm…I’m stumped here. Definitely see it but…whichever way you do, you’ll be just as stunned. Definitely don’t watch it while tripping – you’re going to have a haunted life.
Well, Sausage Party has made a lot of money off of a small budget, Rogen has talked very positively about making a sequel, and we should all be scared. Because there’s a very well-set tradition in Hollywood that the second movie in the series is the one that ‘goes dark’. This time, I’m not entirely sure I want to know what going darker in the Sausage Party universe will behold. Either way, we should all build doomsday shelters.