What is a sausage party? Well, I’m way more partial to the slang term, sausage fest, but this Slate article will break it down for you (Kelly). You could either be talking about an actual social gathering where people are celebrating, cooking, sharing, and eating sausages, or you could be referring to a party or event in which the amount of males grossly outnumbers the females attendance (Kelly). With this in mind, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have co-opted the term for their super R-Rated CGI animated comedy, Sausage Party. Sausage Party is as funny as it is obscenely debased, absurd, and wildly inappropriate. The film has an excellent ninety-minute runtime and even tries to deliver commentary on religion, sex, and acceptance in a cruel, intolerant, and harsh world.
The story revolves around Frank (Seth Rogen), our sausage hero, who wants nothing more than to go to the ‘Great Beyond’ with the love of his life, Brenda Bunson (Kristen Wiig as a hot dog bun). Frank is deeply disturbed after witnessing a gruesome warning about the ‘Great Beyond’ from a returned supermarket food item. Frank has an existential crisis after he discovers the terrible truth: the ‘Great Beyond’ is a lie. The ‘Gods’ (humans), that he and all the other food have been worshiping, are horrible monsters who eat them alive. Through a series of mishaps, they end up going on a grand adventure that leads to dark discoveries about the very nature of their existence.
Written by the comedic powerhouses, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the duo claim to have pitched their movie concept for eight years before a studio would make their film. According to Goldberg, they wanted to make a satire of a Pixar movie, in which things, in this case, food, come to life [Goldberg]. They quickly realized how dark the movie would be, and decided to double down on the idea [Goldberg]. The film's themes are surprisingly mature given much of the juvenile humor in the film. The film muses on accepting who you are, as well as being with whomever you’d like, regardless of ridiculous social or moral rules put in your way; to express tolerance and acceptance of other yourself and other people.
Sausage Party also boasts a series of A-list comedic actors for the voices the various food items. Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Salma Hayek, Craig Robinson, and even Edward Norton (and he’s hilarious) show up, just to name a few. The voice actors all seem to be having a blast with the inappropriate and offensive humor, and their comedic timing and chemistry meld marvelously with the animation.
The food characters themselves are great, led by the trio of Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, and Michael Cera, the latter as Barry the deformed hotdog. The three leads all have solid character arcs, with Frank leading the charge of self-discovery, while Brenda, despite strong conflicting emotions, wants to respect the dogma of their religion. Meanwhile, Barry seeks to overcome his deformity and cowardice to help save Frank and the rest of the supermarket. Real world religious animosity and intolerance is explored in the film, nowhere more obviously than between the highly intolerant, judgmental Muslim lavash, Kareem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz), and the passive-aggressive, and, of course, whiney, Jewish bagel, Sammy Bagel Jr., portrayed by Edward Norton doing a magnificent Woody Allen impression [Setoodeh]. The villain of the story, portrayed marvelously by Nick Kroll, is a literal douche, who breaks his nozzle (see what they did there?). He does a magnificent job being evil and is a loathsome bastard who does some pretty heinous things in the film.
Is Sausage Party funny? Yes absolutely. Will it offend you? Maybe, especially if you have delicate sensibilities or are uptight about religion, sexuality, or race. But the movie contains lots of great jokes. There are, of course, tons of low brow obvious jokes, like the food aisles, as well as the food themselves representing the stereotypical ethnic background that they come from (i.e. A bottle of Tequila or a Taco is a Mexican, while a bagel is Jewish, Sauerkraut are Nazis etc). Wacky meta-humor, that I can’t spoil, parodies of other films, and raunchy sex humor with food puns and innuendos, as well as some smart barbs about religion and existential meaning, abound. So the movie is dark, hilarious, and keenly aware of the Pixar films it's parodying.
These lewd, crude, and rude jokes are paired perfectly with Sausage Party’s animation. The film is CGI animated with bright colors and the CGI looks great. It's clean, fluid animation that’s pleasant to watch. If you didn’t know any better you might think it was a children’s film at first glance. The anthropomorphic food items mostly have big, adorable eyes, gloved hands, and cute little shoes on their feet. However, the film appropriately changes its lighting and colors when darker aspects of the film are revealed, presenting new hues with these shifts in tone. The last fifteen to twenty minutes of this film are, no pun intended, balls-to-the-wall outrageous. Some of the most shocking acts in animation ever put into wide release (in the U.S., anyway) happen during this span, and it is glorious. It absolutely makes you wonder how they got away with it. If you’re curious Rogen lays out what the MPAA made them cut in a Howard Stern interview (Link- mild spoilers after the jump).
It would be remiss of me, in light of all the praise I’ve heaped upon the film, not to mention the controversy behind the film’s success. It’s also worth noting, that the film’s writers and stars, Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, Evan Goldberg etc., did not have anything to do with the controversy. The issue I’m referring to stems from the treatment of the animators by Canadian animation studio, Nitrogen Studios. Studio head, Greg Tiernan, said in an interview with Cartoonbrew.com that:
“...We knew damn well that we could deliver a movie that looks like a $150 million movie for a fraction of the cost. That’s about as close as I can get to confirming or denying that figure. In general, that’s the whole reason we started the studio 13 years ago. After working in the L.A. industry for many years, I could see so much money just needlessly thrown down the toilet in making a lot of these movies. It doesn’t have to cost that much money when you’re well organized, and you have your mind set on the goal of what you want to do, and you get the job done with a small, determined crew. But yeah, let’s just say it was a lower budget movie.[Amidi]
This response drew significant backlash in the comments section by anonymous animators who worked on the project, alleging that Nitrogen Studios routinely overworked and refused to pay overtime to animators or provide food [Variety]. If they tried to leave early they were threatened with being uncredited for the project, terminated, or worse, blacklisted [Merry]. If the animators had any complaints they were told to take them to Nicole Stine, Greg Tiernan’s wife [Rainey]. In fact, over thirty animators were left off of the credits because of these labor disputes [Rainey].
The animators who issued complaints wished to remain anonymous for fears of being blacklisted in the industry [Merry]. The unnamed animators said that once Annapurna Pictures interceded, they made sure that they were fed and paid proper overtime [Rainey]. Nitrogen Studios denies all allegations and it should be noted that several animators said their time working for Nitrogen was just fine [Rainey]. Animators generally do work long hours to meet deadlines, even at the top animation studios like Pixar, but are typically credited for their work and paid for their overtime [Rainey]. While it is routine for animators to work long hours, the fact that Nitrogen was able to exploit these workers is most likely due to the fact that Canada doesn’t have an Animators Union, like the Animation Guild in Hollywood [Rainey].
Despite some underhanded labor tactics by the Canadian animation company, there isn’t much about the film itself to complain about. If you don’t like crude, stupid, racist, sexist, offensive humor this is not the movie for you. Otherwise, Sausage Party is a really funny film that makes the most out of its weird, unique idea and pushes the envelope as far as it can. The film’s mature themes such as questioning blind religious dogma, finding your place, and accepting who you are in a potentially brutal and indifferent universe were very unexpected but welcome. Sausage Party is another smashing success for Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Co. It is, however, not a movie to show your kids. As of January 1, 2018, Sausage Party is available on Netflix Streaming.
TLDR: Sausage Party is a hard, R-rated animated film with obscene, raunchy, debauched humor. Yet, beneath the filth is a surprisingly earnest attempt at social and religious commentary. 4/5 Stars.
-Edited by Austin Toner
Amidi, Amid. “'Sausage Party' Directors Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan On Making 2016's Most Outlandish Animated Film.” Cartoon Brew, Cartoon Brew, LLC. , 12 Aug. 2016, www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/sausage-party-directors-conrad-vernon-greg-tiernan-making-2016s-outlandish-animated-film-142425.html.
Goldberg, Matt. “Writer Evan Goldberg and Executive Producer James Weaver Talk R-Rated Animated Film SAUSAGE PARTY; Pixar Movies Will Get ‘Ripped Apart.’” Collider, COMPLEX MEDIA, INC. , 9 Feb. 2015, collider.com/sausage-party-story-details-evan-goldberg/.
Kelly, John. “Once Upon a Time, a Sausage Party Was Just a Party With Sausages.” Slate Magazine, The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company, 8 Sept. 2016, www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2016/09/07/the_history_and_origins_of_the_phrase_sausage_party_revealed.html.
Merry, Stephanie. “The Working Conditions for Some 'Sausage Party' Animators Were Pretty Terrible.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 17 Aug. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/08/17/for-audiences-sausage-party-was-a-laugh-riot-for-some-animators-it-was-a-nightmare/?utm_term=.419c0534a1ab.
Rainey, James, and Brent Lang. “'Sausage Party' Animators Allege Studio Used Unpaid Overtime.” Variety, Variety Media, LLC, a Subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC. , 16 Aug. 2016, variety.com/2016/film/news/sausage-party-animators-unpaid-overtime-1201838425/.
Setoodeh, Ramin. “SXSW: Seth Rogen's 'Sausage Party' Is the R-Rated 'Inside Out'.” Variety, Variety Media, LLC, a Subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC. , 15 Mar. 2016, variety.com/2016/film/news/seth-rogen-sausage-party-sxsw-raunchy-animated-comedy-1201730320/.