Sausage Party knows what you expect it to be. Granted, Sausage Party is a Toy Story parody with some of the most disturbing, offensive and flat-out strange things you’ll see in a film this year, as you’d probably expect the first rated-R CG film to be. But Sausage Party is also the most interesting dissections of religion, blind faith, and ignorance from the “mouth” of an animated hot dog.
For the inhabitants of the Shopwell grocery store, they long for the day when the “gods” (customers) will come to take them to “the great beyond” (their homes). With the 4th of July coming up, hot dog Frank (Seth Rogen) can’t wait for the moment when he can leave his packaging and slip into the buns of his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig). The belief of the great unknown is turned upside down when a returned bottle of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) tells the true horrors of what lies outside the grocery store: a world of consumers, cooking utensils, and certain death. After an incident leaves Frank and Brenda outside of their packages, they still search for a way to get to the great beyond, but Frank also searches for answers to these new questions that have arisen.
The added layer of how and why we believe in religion is still surrounded by some of the crudest and disgusting things you’ve ever heard and seen in an animated film. Unfortunately, Sausage Party rarely knows how to combine its offensive side with the larger discussions is clearly wants to have. Occasionally it works, such as when Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton, in the most surprising of the film’s cast) and a flatbread named Vash (David Krumholtz) join Frank and Brenda and become figureheads for the Israel-Palestine conflict. But mostly, Sausage Party’s humor comes from innuendos, lowbrow stereotyping humor, and simply having various foodstuffs curse at every possible opportunity.
For most of Sausage Party, its best jokes come from bad puns, perfect casting choices, and interesting parody fodder. The influence comes from Toy Story and follows several story beats from throughout the trilogy. For example, while in Toy Story, Buzz and Woody get trapped in the home of the maniacal toy destroyer Sid, in Sausage Party, a tiny but girthy weiner Barry (Michael Cera) gets trapped in the disgusting home of a druggie (James Franco) who is experimenting with bath salts for the first time.
That attempt to offend in every way too often leads to one-note characters and wastes the great voices actors that fill the aisles. Salma Hayek voices Teresa, a lesbian taco who wants to get into Brenda’s buns. In fact, any time our stars veer into any other culture’s food aisle, prepare to cringe with every stereotype you’ve ever seen. This is certainly the case with Bill Hader’s characters of Firewater, a giant bottle of booze that is brimming with every Native American joke you’ve ever heard, and tequila bottle Jose, who is basically every cliche of a Hispanic Warner Bros. character.
Even when the jokes aren’t racially motivated, they can feel trapped by the constraints of the one larger joke. In the film’s best casting choice, Nick Kroll revives his Bobby Bottleservice character to play a literal douche who actually feeds off of bottles for strength. Despite the jokes that yes, the villain is a douche, and the sly reference to Kroll’s characters, the douche can’t transcend into something more than the original joke.
Even though Sausage Party is incredibly uneven, its final act almost makes up for the flaws that came before it, ending the film with scene after scene of the most insane ridiculousness ever placed in a film. Considering Sausage Party is written by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, who wrote This is the End and The Interview, as well as with The Night Before writers Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, this team knows how to end their films with a literal and metaphorical bang that pays off beautifully. But maybe most disappointing is that Sausage Party teases a brilliant sequel that likely will never happen that is even more exciting than anything that comes before it. I also have to assume that this film will be called Sausage Party 2: Sloppy Seconds.
As with This Is the End and Preacher, writers Goldberg and Rogen clearly have an interest in religion and Sausage Party becomes almost like The Lego Movie or WALL-E in the way it tries to sneak a larger point into its animated film without hitting the audience over the head with their ideas. But unfortunately, it’s the promised crudeness and low-blow jokes of Sausage Party keep it from being great, while the simpler jokes almost always win throughout. Sausage Party is trying to do some brilliant things – especially in its third act – that keeps it from being completely spoiled.