Comedies have always had a rough go in the film world, mostly because of the effort it takes to become successful. There are usually one of two roads to that success: Be extremely clever, so that the laughs almost sneak up on the audience, or just go all out and throw everything you can think of at the wall and hope for the best.
Both approaches are on display in Sausage Party, one of the filthiest animated films you’ll ever see. It also happens to be one of the funniest films of year, period. The story comes from the minds of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Evan Goldberg, so you already know that they’ll do everything in their power to get a laugh. What you can’t anticipate is how, when filtered through the lens of great animation, their twisted jokes can become even funnier.
As with most other kid-friendly animated movies, they use a simple idea — in this case, imagining food can walk and talk — to tell a larger story. Frank the sausage (Rogen) is the star of the film, and he and his fellow sausage/hot dogs have the lifelong goal of going to the Great Beyond to be with their female neighbors, the buns, led by Brenda (Kristen Wiig). But when a returned bottle of honey mustard reports that life is far from pleasant outside of the store, Frank sets out to find the truth.
The idea seems to be a one-note gag, and yet Rogen and Goldberg, along with co-writers Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, and directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, spin it off in so many unexpected directions that the film is a riot from beginning to end. They are an equal-opportunity offender, using the international variety of foods found in most grocery stores to riff on geopolitics, history, and more.
Much of what Rogen and company say and do would automatically be considered offensive — and to some, maybe it still is — but by being animated, it somehow allows them to push the envelope further than they might otherwise. Allusions to sexuality, violence, race, religion, genocide, and more make their way into the film, each of them hilarious given the context of the movie.
Another brilliant stroke is that they don’t stop with just anthropomorphizing food. A number of non-food items come to life, most notably Nick Kroll’s villain, which I will decline to name as it gives away a huge joke. Kroll’s performance, emulating a beefed-up frat bro, combined with the item he’s playing, makes every scene he’s in so funny you’ll be gasping for breath.
The animation is as top-notch as you’d find in any film that comes from a regular animation studio. Tiernan, whose previous directing work consisted almost entirely of Thomas & Friends shows, and Vernon, a veteran of Dreamworks animated movies, combine their talents to showcase everyday things in ways you’d never imagine. The great performances and jokes in the film are elevated to supreme heights because of the fantastic animation.
There’s no doubt you have to be in a certain mood to enjoy a movie like Sausage Party, but if you’re willing to join Rogen, Wiig, Hill, and their comedy friends in the gutter, you’ll be in for some of the biggest laughs you’ve ever had.