A constant with all of these names is Seth Rogen, who has made a name for himself as probably the most defining version of this man child protagonist. From The 40-Year-Old Virgin to Knocked Up to more recent offerings such as This is the End or Neighbors, Rogen has established himself as the jack-of-all-trades for these types of comedies — for example, someone is ALWAYS going to be smoking pot and it usually is Rogen.
Rogen doesn’t seem to have the complete lack of ambition that someone like Adam Sandler has (or Mr. Man Child to you) because he has popped up in more mature and challenging movies such as Take This Waltz, 50/50, and Steve Jobs. There’s clearly a desire to explore more than the aging, pizza-eating pothead and his latest starring vehicle (and writing effort), Sausage Party, seems to have the ambitions to transcend the conventions that we associate with the actor and leave us thinking as much as anything.
This intention is admirable, and at times ambitious, but Sausage Party forgot to do one thing — make us laugh.
The movie takes place in a anthropomorphic world where food can talk and is very excited to be taken from its meddling home on the shelves of a grocery store and carried off to “the great beyond” or the food version of heaven. Rogen voiced Frank, a hot dog, who with his friends Barry (Michael Cera) and Carl (Jonah Hill) are anticipating a world-opening experience once they’re selected to leave the store. Frank is hoping that his hot dog bun girlfriend, Brenda (Kristen Wiig), will be along for the ride because it will finally give them a chance to join together as hot dog and bun. (What am I even writing right now?)
As a viewer of Sausage Party, you should be prepared for a much more explicit explanation of the two food products desiring to be together because the thought of two culinary items getting it on is utterly hilarious to the writing team of Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir — and they sure don’t let you forget it.
The omniscient excitement doesn’t last long as Frank is tuned into the truth about “the great beyond” — it is all bologna and the “gods” (or people) are actually taking them back to devour them. Frank attempts to alert the public of this devastating news, but most of them (Brenda included) don’t want to hear it.
This exploration into the values of faith in a higher power is admirable for the pot-smoking, f-bomb laden animated comedy, but it doesn’t seem to set in as powerfully as it wants to. We are asked to contemplate along with Frank as he dwells on the reasons why the other food wouldn’t want to heed his warning when he has gone far enough as to bring proof with him.
Even more broader cultural questions are raised while watching the film — Why follow something if you know it isn’t true? If proof doesn’t work then what reason do you have to have faith? Is there even a heaven for these delicious food groups?
The attempt is admirable and the ideas are sound, but ultimately, the film’s interest in exploring this detracts from its ultimate purpose of being funny. Most of the jokes are simmered in food-related puns or hang on cultural stereotypes of every race, religion, and creed to force a laugh out of you.
One of the subplots in the film follows Lavash (David Krumholtz), a…well you guessed it, and Sammy Bagel, Jr. (Edward Norton), a Woody Allen impression of a bagel, who recreate the central ideologies set around the real-life conflict in Israel and Palestine. Throughout the movie, we watch as the two foods throw jokes related to the conflict.
It doesn’t end there as some of the other moments include a Native America bottle of Firewater (Bill Hader), who becomes a spiritual guide for Frank, a lesbian taco named Teresa (Salma Hayek), who lusts after Brenda, and Grits (Craig Robinson), who plays up to every imaginable black stereotype. The act of going through with these racially insensitive jokes didn’t offend me, but the fact that the script leaned so heavily on them became increasingly annoying.
The jokes weren’t all that clever and it was very general, high-school level humor about these different ethnicities that didn’t seem necessary. Lacing general racist jokes around food-related puns doesn’t automatically equal a clever gag and it is one thing to take shots at different races and cultures, but it is another to just do it poorly.
I don’t think Sausage Party was the R-rated Pixar movie that it desperately strives to be — not because of its narrative attempts, but its lack of skill to remain entertaining and funny. The most effective comic moments were the scenes of the food being eaten and the horrified reactions coupled with war movie-like scenery. It was over-the-top and silly — resembling the tone the rest of the movie should’ve followed.
There are elements of Sausage Party that have things to say, but it seems more likely that Rogen should channel these issues into a much different form rather than trying to mix his more mature roles with his man child roots. In the end, the final product was just sour.