"Once you see that shit, it'll fuck you up for life. Good luck, have fun."
Animation is a unique genre, one that open more possibilities than any other filmic technique and with the recent surge from the likes of Pixar, Laika, Studio Ghibli, Dreamworks it seems as if the genre is slowly becoming one of the few guaranteed ways of being bankable at the box office. So it would only be inevitable that someone tried to take a mainstream animation movie and use it to broaden the horizons of the genre, do something audacious that we have never seen before and do something that John Lasseter probably never envisioned back in 1995.
In a supermarket called "Shopwell's", where the sentient food who reside within see the humans as gods who choose them to go into "The Great Beyond", a sausage named Frank (Seth Rogen) has dreams of living in the great beyond with his girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a hot dog bun. But when he discovers the terrible truth about their beliefs he makes it his mission to warn the others and stand up against the humans.
The concept of ‘Sausage Party’ alone is an audacious one, and in a world where animation is associated more than ever with being purely kids entertainment (even though in reality it feels like it’s pushing through more boundaries than ever) it seems amazing that a studio would even greenlight an animated movie that is by design cutting itself off from the usual target demographic for the genre. But then again this is also a world where the R rated ‘Deadpool’ was able to become a monster hit, so maybe there’s a great potential for a movie like ‘Sausage Party’.
Despite having a premise that is based on what seems like a one trick gag (the gag being, “the animated people are swearing and fucking, isn’t that funny?”) ‘Sausage Party’, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, is actually much smarter and more ambitious than one might expect. As well as being a satire of the current Pixar trend of personifying inanimate objects, it is also a film that tackles issues of religion, race, gender and a large part of society. Conflicts over interpretation of scripture, segregation and science vs religion are all addressed in their own way and satirised rather brilliantly. It does it so well that I found myself being reminded of the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and that was where I found a problem.
Maybe this is overly critical of me, but for some reason as soon as I was reminded of Trey and Stone, ‘Sausage Party’ as a whole suddenly felt much less original and boundary pushing, as well as less satirically brilliant. Not only have we seen this kind of mean spirited, foul mouthed satire done before, but of course we’ve also seen it done with animation. The films of Trey and Stone include ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut’ and ‘Team America’, both of which are not only funnier by having a wider variety of humour, but they are also more subversively intelligent in their satire. All of a sudden ‘Sausage Party’ felt much less unique and became little more than a comedy that was merely following in the footsteps of others. If anything it had taken the ideas of those before them and made them more accessible to general audiences.
If I could go back to my earlier statement about ‘Sausage Party’ lacking a wide variety of humour I can explain another problem in more detail. Within the first ten minutes of the film, most of their jokes have been used and sadly most of the film is the same ten minutes of material being recycled. It is still humorous enough and manages to escalate so far by the final act of the film that the movie finally picks up pace again to become outright hilarious, but while I was waiting for that to happen the jokes in between felt repetitive and eventually started to fall flat.
It began to feel as if the writers of the movie found a few hilarious jokes and then built an entire movie around them, all the while pulling on the same comedic thread until the movie starts to drag and feel frustratingly slow. I felt sure that I had been watching the movie for a lot longer than 88 minutes. This is not to say that the film lacks any laughs for a significant section, there are a number of frequent laughs to be had at any point in the film, but not nearly as many as there should be. That is as I said, until the last act in which the filmmakers explore every dark and hilariously twisted detail you could imagine. If you thought they didn’t have the nerve to go as far as your wildest imagination can comprehend, trust me when I say they go even further.
Smart, dumb, but not quite as comically brilliant as it feels it should be.