Sausage Party (2016)
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
In the middle of a throwaway scene in “Sausage Party,” a stoner is driving a car with a bumper sticker on the back. In the iconic font of the animation giant Pixar, the bumper sticker simply reads “Dixar.” A 10-year passion project for Seth Rogen (concocted while Rogen was lending his voice to “Monsters vs. Aliens” all those years ago), “Sausage Party” takes the formula of a typical-looking animated comedy and flips it on its fucking back. (Sorry for the language, but if you’re thinking of seeing “Sausage Party” you’re gonna have to get used to it.)
On the eve of Independence Day, Frank (Seth Rogen) and his hot dog friends (including Jonah Hill) wait patiently for their chance to be grabbed from the shelf, rang up, and carried out of the Shopwell store and into the Promised Land. Well, at least that’s what they’ve been led to believe awaits them. But then Frank is told that what awaits them isn’t heaven, but instead a brutal and tragic death. So he tries to convince a skeptical grocery store, including his bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), and save all his friends from certain doom.
A 100% totally game ensemble is the first step toward making “Sausage Party” a comedy classic. Edward Norton steps up to bat as Sammy Bagel Jr., a super-Jewish bagel that helps fellow starch Brenda through the aisles in search of her home. Norton’s spot-on accent gives each hilarious line that extra punch. And then there’s Nick Kroll, lending his voice to one of the movie’s antagonists. I want to spoil his character so badly, but so much of the enjoyment of “Sausage Party” is in the unexpectedness of it. But I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you Bill Hader, voicing more than one character, strives to make each line more memorable than the last. When you’re making a good comedy, every line is important. You can’t just say your lines, you have to sell them. Hader is king of that.
If you like food puns, you’re in the right place. Just when you thought “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” used up all the good food puns (well, at least I thought that), “Sausage Party” comes along and thinks of so many things that you would have literally never thought of. I had guessed, naively, that if I had a few weeks to focus on it I could probably write this 90-minute talking food comedy. I was super wrong. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s intelligent satire had me thinking, “How did nobody think of this before?” But beyond being hysterical and clever, “Sausage Party” pushes a couple specific political and social points, and stays on message all the way through. Every joke brings you back to the driving force. It shows that Rogen and Goldberg aren’t just comedy gold miners, they’re also culturally savvy. They’re the perfect people to bring this to us.
“Sausage Party” is radically genre-changing. No one will look at animation the same again. Sure, it’s not the first R-rated animated movie. But this animation looks so typical at first glance–and sounds so typical (hell, there’s even a song from 8-time Oscar-winning Disney composer Alan Menken)–that to see it subverted for the enjoyment of a twisted audience will make you think twice about animation forever…and about eating food again.