SAUSAGE PARTY – Review
So… we’ve seen what our playthings do while we’re away in the TOY STORY trilogy. And just a few weeks ago we saw what our animal companions do when we’re off to work and school in THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS. Well, what’s left? Ya’ ever wonder what happens at the grocery store once the lights are out and the doors are locked? No, seems that Seth Rogen and his pals have been curious about everything on the shelves and in the bins. And, no big surprise, their imaginations have come up with something more than a touch adult. With their help, animation will burst through the confines of “all ages” entertainment, which has happened several times in the last five decades. Feature adult animation’s first big hit was the 1972 Ralph Bakshi adaptation of R Crumb’s underground comic FRITZ THE CAT. A sequel quickly followed as did a Bakshi follow-up, the autobiographical HEAVY TRAFFIC, along with some quickie rip-offs. Nothing could equal that feline’s smash, so a few other flicks popped up sporadically over the years like 1978’s WATERSHIP DOWN and 1981’s HEAVY METAL. Those were all in traditional 2D “cell” animation. Last year the “stop motion” puppet-style feature HELL AND BACK fizzled into multiplex limbo. Now it’s time to test those waters once more, now with 3D, computer animation (Pixar territory) as we join Rogen and the gang for a lewd, crude SAUSAGE PARTY.
It’s the start of another glorious day at the mega market “Shopwell’s” as surly manager Darren (voice of Paul Rudd) opens its doors to the public. The Fourth of July holiday is just around the corner, so he’s got a big red, white, and blue decorated display with all barbecue essentials. There’s a pack of “Tuxedo Hot Dogs” that’s the home for Frank (Rogen), buddy Carl (Jonah Hill), and the short statured Barry (Michael Cera). But Franks’s only thinking about the nearby pack of buns and his desire for the lovely Brenda (Kristen Wiig). He dreams of the day when one of the gods (customers) will scoop them up and transport them to paradise, where he and Brenda will finally…ya’ know. They’re rattled a bit when a returned jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) screams about the horrors of “outside”. Brushing it off, Frank and his boys and Brenda and her gals are ecstatic when they are chosen and put in a cart. But on the way to check out, an accident occurs. Frank and Brenda are separated from their packs and are on the run from a revenge-seeking douche (Nick Kroll). Soon the lovers split up on their way back to “red and blue land”. Brenda is helped by a squabbling pair, Sammy Bagel, Jr (Ed Norton) and a Middle Eastern food wrap named Lavash (David Krumholtz) while Frank meets with the head of the “non-perishables” Firewater (Bill Hader) who admits to creating the lies about the “gods and paradise”. Barry and Frank’s pals soon learn of their true destiny at the home of their god. Will the rest of the “Shopwell” residents believe Frank’s raining on their beliefs. And will he ever get together with the beautiful Brenda?
The all-star vocal cast superbly parody their on-screen persons. Rogen as Frank is still the affable party goofball mixed with a “rom-com” leading man as he woos Brenda. As the most bountiful of the buns, Wiig conveys a yearning for her hot (and horny) dog, while unleashing the snark on her enemies. Cera’s Barry is the timid outcast (much like his many screen roles) who summons forth his inner action hero. Norton is a high-spirited, peppy sidekick as Sammy, while Krumholtz is full of bombastic bluster as the easily rattled Lavash. Krull is pure rage as the ” ‘roided-out” Douche. Bader pulls double duty, very funny as both a stereotypical, “un PC” native American liquor and a dim “bandito” beverage. McBride is perfect as the terror traumatized mustard jar. But the film’s unexpected delight is the comic turn by Salma Hayek as Teresa, a tempting taco with quite exotic tastes.
Directors Greg Tiernan (the conductor of many Thomas the Tank Engine shorts!) and Conrad Vernon (SHREK 2) keep the action rolling along at a brisk pace, knowing when to slow things down for a loopy encounter or bit of dialogue. They have collaborated with a most talented group of artists to give the film a unique look. Most of food characters have tiny “rubber-hose”-like limbs recalling cartoon shorts from the early “talkie” era, particularly the Fleischer Studios (Betty Boop) where inanimate objects would suddenly sprout legs and hands in order to sing and dance. The look of the human characters seems to be inspired by underground comix from the psychedelic era to the modern “indie” graphic novel. Darren, the store manager” would not be out-of-place in Peter Bagge’s “Hate” comic, while the Druggie (voiced by James Franco) could be the next door neighbor of Gilbert Shelton’s “Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers”. The underground comix certainly inspired the script that’s credited to five writers (Rogen and frequent partner Evan Goldberg, co-star Jonah Hill along with Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir). A barrage of near-constant “F bombs” punctuate the movie’s opening scenes, perhaps to prepare us for the next 80 minutes or so (even in the bouncy “good morning” song from Alan Menkin of Disney fame). Of course there are lots of scatological humor (a shell-shocked roll of tissue) and dope gags (Frank smokes the peace pipe, er, kazoo). Then there’s the s-e-x, hoo-boy! The animators truly “go for it” with a final act orgy that outdoes anything in the infamous 1979 CALIGULA (it could make Bob Guccione blush!). What may be even more shocking than this sequence is the movie’s hidden “message”, namely a tough, barely disguised discourse on the creation of religion (here, a true opiate of the masses) and the pitfalls of “blind faith”. For those “chosen”, there’s no heaven, just cruel painful death worse than any slasher flick or “torture porn”. Unfortunately the story stops dead in its tracks for a theology debate between Frank and Brends, but the gross-out jokes resume quickly. But gee, if you thought ZOOTOPIA had a heavy subplot, well… And much like BLAZING SADDLES, this film is an equal opportunity offender, aiming its satire missiles at every color and creed. Yes, some jokes and gags fall flat, but there are enough that decimate the target (you may want to watch it again on demand or DVD in a few months, just to hit the pause to savor the barrage of funny visual assaults). So if you’ve got a taste for the outrageous (and a tad dangerous) then you’ll want to attend SAUSAGE PARTY. And if you are shocked and upset, well (as is said in the prologue of the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN) you’ve been warned!
4 Out of 5