Sausage Party takes viewers to the world of the supermarket Shopwell’s, where various grocery items such as sausages Frank (Seth Rogen), Carl (Jonah Hill), and Barry (Michael Cera) live in hope of being purchased by the gods (humans) so they can be transported to the “great beyond” and live a full life outside of the confines of their packages. In particular, Frank is anxious to consummate his romantic relationship with Brenda the bun (Kristin Wiig), after spending most of his existence admiring her from afar. With the Fourth of July holiday approaching quickly, the sausages and buns are excited by the prospect of being chosen soon.
One day, Frank and Brenda’s packages are selected by the same human, and they start celebrating their fate. However, another product in the cart, Honey Mustard (Danny McBride), has been to the Great Beyond before and tells everyone that it’s all a lie. Frank and Brenda attempt to stop Honey Mustard from leaping out of the cart, and in the process end up separated from their friends. Curious by what Honey Mustard said before his death, Frank embarks on a quest to learn the truth about his beliefs – but could be horrified by what he discovers.
Sausage Party is the culmination of a long process spearheaded by Rogen, who worked for several years to get it green lit. The project is essentially a dark, adult riff on the now well-established Pixar formula: anthropomorphizing an inanimate object (in this case, food) and injecting some relatable themes for general audiences to connect with. Sausage Party is definitely not for everyone, but it offers an amusing blend of humor and substance, providing viewers with heady food for thought.
The film’s greatest strength is its screenplay, penned by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Rogen, and Rogen’s frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg. The quartet instill truly fascinating philosophical and religious subtext into the story, which largely plays as an existential tale about finding the meaning of life. Frank and Brenda are clear illustrations of this element, representing two contrasting ideologies (the skeptic and the true believer) that ponder the nature of the gods and whether or not people have to continuously follow the rules they’ve been taught since the beginning (at the risk of receiving punishment by a higher power). The questions posed in Sausage Party are pleasantly surprising and certainly elevate the final product.
Sociopolitical commentary is also a source of comedy, as several of the food products depicted are meant to portray a specific country or ethnicity. The conflict between Sammy Bagel, Jr. (Edward Norton) and Lavash (David Krumholtz) is the most noteworthy example of this aspect, as are the stories from the non-perishables Firewater (Bill Hader), Mr. Grits (Craig T. Robinson), and Twink (Scott Underwood). Anyone with even a passing knowledge of world history is sure to appreciate a majority of this content (though, the stereotypes start to become played out after a while). Additionally, the script is full of references and parodies of other films (Saving Private Ryan‘s Omaha beach sequence) and pop culture to give cinephiles in attendance plenty of laughs.
A subplot involving Barry traversing through the human world is also well-crafted, underlining the stakes and making the characters’ plight sympathetic. As hinted at in the trailers, these scenes are ripe for twisted dark comedy, using horror and violence effectively. Barry’s detour to the house of a druggie (James Franco) and the interactions he has there are particularly funny and inventive. While this material isn’t as thematically substantial as the religious explorations of Frank and Brenda back at Shopwell’s, Sausage Party becomes a balanced movie as a result of its inclusion. These scenes are some of the most purely entertaining in the entire film; viewers can just sit back and enjoy the proceedings.
The humor in Sausage Party lands more often than not, but there are some aspects that aren’t as funny as they could have been. Being a vehicle for Rogen and his cohorts, the film does feature a healthy amount of his typical tropes (i.e. weed smoking, a copious amount of dick jokes) that don’t always work. Also, the main villain of the piece, a juiced-up douche bag (Nick Kroll), is basically a one-note caricature that wears thin as the movie goes on, without adding all that much to the main narrative. These elements aren’t poor enough to cancel out all the good that’s in Sausage Party, but some moviegoers may not be so infatuated with them as others. As stated above, the movie isn’t trying to be for “everyone,” and audiences who are not fans of Rogen’s schtick are unlikely to be converted. Sausage Party in part goes for shock value (placing food in R-rated scenarios) and accomplishes what it sets out to do – but will certainly turn off some viewers.
In the end, Sausage Party is one of the more humorous and welcomed offerings of the summer, taking an absurd premise and actually making it work. The star-studded voice cast are all fun in their roles, and the film offers a variety of many forms of comedy to keep things feeling fresh. Adults looking to end the season with a good laugh can definitely make the trip to the theater, and anyone sitting on the fence can rest assured it’s worth the price of admission. It’s offensive at times, but Sausage Party is a treat that shouldn’t be missed.