There hasn’t been as obscenely ribald an animated comedy as Sausage Party to hit theatres since South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which is fitting. As South Park’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have demonstrated first hand for nearly two decades, the easiest way to get people to accept subversive intelligence and bold truths is to bury them under obscenities, innuendoes, and fart jokes.
Sausage Party is a twisted, R-rated parody of animated fare like Toy Story which posits people are oblivious to food being self-conscious, and that all food spends their time in the supermarket hoping to be chosen by a person and taken out to the Great Beyond — not knowing the horrors that await them there.
When a bottle of honey mustard (Danny McBride) is returned after a shopper mistook it for Dijon, the traumatized condiment raves like a lunatic about the gods skinning, dismembering, and eating foodstuffs once outside the supermarket, but most of the foods dismiss his wild tales. Frank (Seth Rogen), a sausage in love with hot dog bun Brenda (Wiig), is the only one bothered by it.
In short time, Frank and Brenda both find themselves chosen and in a shopping cart, with shell-shocked Honey Mustard. When Honey Mustard tries to kill himself, Frank escapes his packaging to save him, causing a cart crash that ends with Frank and Brenda — as well as Sammy Bagel, Jr. (Edward Norton), Kareem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz), and Douche (Nick Kroll) — being left behind in the store.
On their way back to their home aisles, Frank and Brenda investigate the truth behind their purpose in life, while calming tension between Bagel, Jr. and Lavash (over aisle territory) and avoiding the psychotic Douche, who blames Frank for his getting broken in the crash. Their journey takes them on a quest of self-realization that shatters their perception of life and purpose — heavy stuff for a movie with a talking condom.
While Sausage Party may look from a muted commercial like a kids’ movie, it spends every minute taking full advantage of the wonderful overlap of opportunity between animation and an R-rating. It’s hard to pin the offensiveness down to even just one area, as the 200-plus swear words are equalled by orgy sequences, gory violence, drug trips, and some truly disturbing content.
Almost all of it, though, is played for such dopey laughs that the extremes that writers Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Ariel Shaffir, and Kyle Hunter go to for them earn belly laughs and admiration more than anything. It’s not a Judd Apatow production (despite the inclusion of alumni Rogen, Wiig, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, James Franco, Bill Hader, and Paul Rudd), but it’s one of the more outrageously funny comedies since the days of Forgetting Sarah Marshall or The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Not only that, but much of the latter half of the movie deals with issues many comedies wouldn’t bother addressing, let alone animated comedies that can easily fall back on a poop joke or a swear word to get an easy laugh from an unassuming audience. Sausage Party dares to mix a little medicine in with the sugar, leaving even those who just came for Rogen’s stoner humour a little wiser.
The only real problem with Sausage Party is its screenplay’s willingness to try anything for a laugh. While the movie has a better ratio of hits to misses than most R-rated comedies are blessed with, that makes the times it stumbles all the more awkward and embarrassing. One scene, in particular, deals with content disturbing enough that extracting any comedy from it is too tricky a matter for Sausage Party to pull off, leaving a bad taste in your mouth that lasts well into the following scene.
It would be easy to dismiss Sausage Party based on its sophomoric poster or the quality of its animation, but underestimating it would be a mistake. Like South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Sausage Party’s immature exterior hides something far more clever and thought-provoking. Following Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie, The Nice Guys, and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Sausage Party shows again why 2016 is becoming for comedies what 2015 was for action movies.