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The first question that pops into mind as soon as Sausage Party starts is just who exactly is this movie aimed at? The simple animated characters and the colorful world they live in all seem designed for kids, with lots of dancing and singing as the story opens. It’s not long after though when that song’s message is clearly one just for the parents as innuendo and profanity set the tone for the entire experience. But what adult wants to sit through 90 minutes of cartoon consumables making food jokes? Maybe more than I suspect. And that’s okay. Movies are personal, and opinions are just that. For me though, despite a few genuinely solid moments, this one is stale.
It all begins on the day before the Fourth of July, known as Red, White, and Blue Day to the food inside the Shopwell Grocery Store. They all feel like their chances to reach the Great Beyond definitely go up. That goes especially true for the hot dogs, led by Frank (Seth Rogen), who dreams of a life together with his girlfriend Brenda (Kristin Wig), a hot dog bun in the package sitting next to him. They believe, like most around them, that The Gods promise them a utopia if they get chosen.
Naturally, there are those in the store that know the truth about the real fate of food and some try to warn the others. When Frank and Brenda do get put in a cart, an accident involving suicidal mustard causes them and a few others, including some flatbread named Kareem (David Krumholtz), a bagel named Sammy (Edward Norton), and an obnoxious douche named, er, Douche (Nick Kroll) to become stranded in the aisles. They decide to make the journey back to their shelves, but the journey is rife with dangers and ugly truths. One of them being Douche.
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, Sausage Party is a pun-filled, foul-mouthed movie that tries very hard to clever, and admittedly, there are several good food jokes and homages to action film clichés (the Saving Private Ryan Normandy carnage bit was grin-worthy), but not nearly as good enough to mask the sigh-inducing, eye-rolling other moments that fill up the remainder. The filmmakers dedicate nearly the first five minutes alone to wiener and bun jokes with Frank and Brenda longing for the day when he can finally slip his into her . . . well, you get where this is going. They start with just the tips.
I guess I’m not really concerned much with the plot, having only paid half attention to it. I was much more focused on the rules of the world the food are occupants of, with both perishable consumables as much alive as the glass containers some live in. Like, berries, apples, and bagels all have eyes and mouths and hands and feet and talk, but so too does the glass and plastic jars of peanut butter, ketchup, mustards, and well, douches. So why doesn’t the bag holding the hot dogs have a life? And what about the jams and sauces inside the jars? Were they once alive and then made dead to live as something new in the bottles that now store them? Have to be, right? And then there’s questions of sentience. How does the Douche fully understand what his purpose is, in fact openly celebrating in the idea of dispatching his medication, um, into a woman, but the hot dogs and bun do not?
Sure, in some respects, the ending kinda sorta maybe finds a way around that, but then again, not really. The makers weren’t really putting thought into that aspect, and I suppose, I shouldn’t either. Religion, politics, education, and more get touched on, but it’s hard to find any real theme beyond trying to be just close enough to the edge of offensive as to be cringe-worthy but never too controversial. The Nazi sauerkraut sing about eliminating “the juice” but that only inspires groans rather than gasps. Native American “firewater” alcohol is pushed out of their space by the crackers isn’t any better. Wordplay can be effective in the right script, but without much context, just the opportunity to say it doesn’t really make it smart.
There’s also a feel like this film might be a morality tale on the dangers of blind faith, poking a few jabs at a corruptive nature in religion, but even there the film won’t take a stand. It gets a little better as it plods along to the end when a malformed sausage named Barry (Michael Cera) discovers a way to communicate with humans, though how and to what end is decidedly ghastly. This leads to a wild showdown with people and well, an ending that had me thinking of the last scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Blazing Saddles, and that had me in wishing this film had been as sharp.
To be sure, none of these observations are surprising. The team behind this film, including the familiar voice cast, have all worked together before and on better. Tastes vary and perhaps with the right appetite, this could be a fun film to put on the list, but otherwise, these ingredients don’t mix.
Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Stars: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera