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Film Review: Sausage Party Is Like An Occasionally Funny Animal Farm As Written By Stoners

Posted on the 14 August 2016 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Film Review: Sausage Party Is Like An Occasionally Funny Animal Farm As Written By Stoners

Sausage Party, an R-Rated stoner comedy about what would happen if our food was secretly alive and oddly as divided by religion and faith as humans, is in some ways a giant step forward for Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and their frequent collaborators. In other ways, though, it is a good short movie idea stretched beyond its breaking point. It has South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Team America: World Police- sized ambitions, and is easily the most purposefully tasteless comedy in a good long while. I just wish it was funnier.

Let's flash back to 2005. When Seth Rogen was on the set of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, he asked Judd Apatow why they were going with that title. To him, the title seemed so sophomoric, an inaccurate reflection of the kind of movie they were really making. Apatow reasoned his goal was to hook people with a premise and title that sounded like the best stupid comedy ever. Then, once they were in the theater they could be surprised by the actual smart comedy hiding beneath all the dick jokes and f-bombs.

This exchange really stuck with Rogen. In fact, he has used Apatow's formula as the guiding force behind his career as an actor who also writes and produces (usually in partnership with Goldberg). From Superbad to Sausage Party, Rogen continually churns out dumb, R-Rated stoner comedies which always aim deceptively higher than you anticipate. However, over the years he has fallen into a pattern of telling the same basic story about male friendship weaved into different genres, be it a teen sex comedy ( Superbad), drug buddy duo ( Pineapple Express) sci-fi apocalypse (This Is the End), Christmas movie spoof (The Night Before) or culturally insensitive spy movie spoof ( The Interview). Even the Neighbors movies, in which Rogen appeared to transition into more adult concerns over fatherhood and marriag, still featured elements of the old familiar narrative re-directed toward Zac Efron and Dave Franco.

Really, amidst all the dildo fights, international incidents and drugged-out dance sequences across Rogen's filmography, there's been an awful lot of dudes groggily assuring one another, "I love you man."

Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with any of that. It's just feels like it's time to change things up, and that's exactly what's happening. First through AMC's Preacher and now Sausage Party, Rogen is transitioning away from his norm and more toward a focus on faith and religion, after having previously used it as the butt of jokes in This Is the End and Night Before.

As Rogen told Variety:

"Theology was always a part of [Evan and I's] lives and as we got older we really became fascinated with analyzing in. You want to make movies about what you're thinking about. What's shocking, though, is how few other people seem to make movies about it. Smarter people should be doing this! This is a plea to more intelligent filmmakers. Chris Nolan should be making theological movies. He's wasting his time with time travel and s-!"

Of course, Rogen's still following a familiar formula. Sausage Party is a purposefully dumb, immature title which translates to a pun-tastic one-sheet with a familiar color pattern:

Film Review: Sausage Party Is Like An Occasionally Funny Animal Farm As Written By StonersFilm Review: Sausage Party Is Like An Occasionally Funny Animal Farm As Written By Stoners

There's an easily identifiable genre being spoofed, in this case the Pixar "What if?" features like Toy Story. Audiences are supposed to be reeled in by the promise of a raunchy comedy about a bunch of anthropomorphized food items that just want to fuck, and before they know what hits them they're watching Rogen and pals' best attempt at an Animal Farm-esque allegory using food items instead of animals and religion/faith instead of Stalinist Russia.

Here's how it plays out: various food items and other assorted products at a fictional grocery store all view humans as gods. They start each day with a massive singalong (an Alan Menken-penned tune called "The Great Beyond) reinforcing their shared believed system which states that to be purchased by one of the gods and thus removed from the store is to ascend to heaven. However, if they in any way anger the gods they will be denied their promised trip to the great beyond. As such, a horny hot dog named Frank (Rogen) and beguiling bun named Benda (Kristen Wiig, the funniest she's been in quite some time) flirt with each other from beneath their packaging but do everything they can to stay good, assured there will be as much bun-filling as they can handle once they're selected by the gods.

After a shopping cart mishap, Frank and Brenda are left behind while their friends are taken home by a shopper. Out of their packaging for the first time and further away from home than ever before, Frank and Brenda embark on what amounts to a road trip back to the hot dog and bun aisle. Along the way, Frank searches for the truth of their existence while Brenda falls back on her faith while repeatedly resisting any impure urges for fear of angering the gods.

Before you go thinking too highly of this premise just know that Frank and Brenda are pursued by an increasingly insane, foul-mouthed douche. No, seriously, a literal douche, voiced by Nick Kroll, whose presence results in multiple close-ups of the god's crotches since that's where the douche longs to be. Plus, Frank and Brenda are accompanied by knowingly offensive racial caricatures in the form of a bagel that talks exactly like Woody Allen (voiced by Edward Norton), a flatbread Muslim taking its cues from Not Without My Daughter and eventually a saucy taco voiced quite recognizably by Selma Hayek.

And, that right there, is the bizarre give and take of Sausage Party. There are some really interesting ideas in play, but it's sometimes hard to see them through the frequently literal haze of pot smoke and endless barrage of foul language and guy talk. You can practically hear Seth Rogen's signature Beavis & Butthead-esque laugh behind every line while telling his co-writers, "Oh, man, that's awesome [heh heh heh heh heh]! We'll have the grits be like a 70s black guy, and have him talk about how much he hates crackers but, you know, like literal crackers [heh heh heh heh heh]! Yes, write that shit down!"

Beyond that, even the more interesting parts of the movie grow repetitive to the point of seeming too obvious. For example, the parade of food items being depicted according to the racial stereotypes of the people who consume those items (e.g., Saurkraut jars are a bunch of Nazi's, a Tequila bottle sounds like a drunken, lazy Mexican, a potato is a kindly Irish man) starts out as vaguely clever but quickly comes off as lazy and borderline offensive. I kept imagining how the conversation must have gone when they told Selma Hayek, an Oscar-nominated actress from Mexico, they wanted her to play a racially stereotyped taco whose only progressive attribute is that she is hiding her burgeoning lesbianism.

There is an argument to made that this type of comedy is more palatable in an animated format. They're simply tweaking long-standing Disney tradition, and since these characters are anthropomorphized and thus not actual people they have more freedom to play with stereotypes. Sure, but by the time the Firewater talks like an old western Native American and a parade of fruit items are depicted as Nathan Lane in Birdcage-level gay I was fidgeting a bit uncomfortably in my seat (similar to how I felt the first time I saw Team America' s King-Jong Il sing "I'm So Ronery").

Plus, the film's best (to us, food falling on the floor is a minor hassle; to them, it's a Saving Private Ryan D-Day-esque battle scene) and worst (characters saying things like "How do you like them apples?" only for an actual apple to pop in the background and ask, "Huh. Are you talking to me?") comedy bits are repeated ad nauseum to seriously diminishing results.

Yet I didn't walk out of the theater completely disappointed. I laughed a time or two, and the climactic food orgy is definitely up there with Team America in all of its "Holy Shit!" glory. Based upon Rogen's prior films, I knew I was walking into something which would seem a tad self-indulgent, overly reliant on pot humor and drowning in obscenities, but there'd be an interesting idea behind it, something grounding everything in such a way that you could at least say, "I appreciate what you're trying to do here."

That's ultimately how I feel about Sausage Party - I appreciate the effort; I just wish it was funnier.

ROTTENTOMATOES: 83% - " Sausage Party is definitely offensive, but backs up its enthusiastic profanity with an impressively high gag-to-laugh ratio - and a surprisingly thought-provoking storyline."

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