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While talking food in movies or television might not necessarily be new (Veggie Tales most likely leaps right to mind), Sausage Party is a whole different bowl of ingredients. What sounds like a 30-second sketch comedy routine is being pushed to a full on 90-minute animated film and with a name like Sausage Party, nuance has surely been peeled away.
Written by the people who brought us the genre defining Superbad, Sausage Party is about a cart full of food finally selected from their grocery store shelves, bought and brought home thinking nirvana is close by only to realize that not only will they be eaten but skinned and cooked alive in the process. While the joke might feel slightly amusing at first simply because anthropomorphizing things is a common human trait, it raises a ton of questions that most certainly won’t be answered, but worse, after the concept is introduced, is devoid of humor. The problem is easy to spot. While bringing to life things that we know aren’t sentient, such as Pixar’s highly successfully and endearing Toy Story franchise, a very specific line must be walked in order for it to work. What makes Toy Story special are two things: 1) the toys understand already what their role is and it wholly defines them, embracing it 2) they do not spend any time considering a higher purpose or questioning their existence. Their journey is to fulfill their role in the human world. That’s why it connects so broadly. Now think about Sausage Party.
Two issues pop right up. First, when does a hot dog even become sentient, let alone a jar of jam or peanut butter? (Which in the trailer includes the glass they are housed in). More disturbing is the hot dog though since a hot dog is processed meat, something that already comes from actual living creatures. Is the hot dog the essence of dead cows? And if a jar of peanut butter is ‘alive’, isn’t it made of dead peanuts? And the jam from slaughtered strawberries? You see the dilemma. But okay, it’s not about that, it’s about their role once they are sentient. The movie is framing its plot around a ‘we’ve all been lied to’ Soylent Green angle. And if that is a broader political message we’re meant to learn, in a story about sexualized hot dogs, how do we identify? Maybe that’s the point. Of course, Sausage Party isn’t concerned with that, though maybe these are questions that have answers in the film, but that is highly doubtful.
It’s easy to overthink this. It’s ‘just a comedy’ might be the way out. (So was Movie 43). But something about this just doesn’t sit well and aside from the awful, generic animation and easy sexual ‘jokes’ it employs, it just feels bland and forced.
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon and featuring the voice talents of Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Edward Norton, Jonah Hill and more, there is a lot of star power behind this project. But this one is spoiled even before it’s even opened.
Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Evan Goldberg (screenplay), Kyle Hunter (screenplay)
Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Edward Norton, Jonah Hill