Movie Review: Sausage Party
By Ben Gruchow
August 22, 2016
Way back in early 2010, a horror/sci-fi/action movie named Daybreakers was released. Walking out of the theater, I thought that the ’aughts-era moviegoing audience now had their very own Blade: both movies were similarly sleek and Euro-trashy in their imagined worlds, with common thematic threads and indie-minded creative teams just getting to stretch their muscles on a studio budget. Daybreakers never materialized a franchise the way that Blade did, for some reason; the universe wasn’t as high-concept, maybe, or audience and genre affections had just changed that much.
Walking out of Sausage Party, I thought to myself something similar: 2010s-era moviegoing audiences now have their own South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut. And it is here that I’m able to gain some perspective on the earlier pair of films. These two are similar examples of utilizing mundane scenarios to spark a little political satire; in South Park it was an over-the-top R-rated cartoon to land attacks on the MPAA and on overreactive parenting, while Sausage Party crafts a mythical “beyond” for its cast of supermarket-product characters as a rather open-ended way to approach concepts of using optimism and pessimism to keep society stable. And they express these stories using the innocuous vehicle of animation - similarly primitive animation, at that. Perhaps if animated films for adults ever gain the toehold in North America that they have elsewhere, the move of utilizing a normally family-friendly medium to make a very family-unfriendly film will become less surprising.
The big difference between the earlier set of films and these two, though, is that Daybreakers didn’t have an ongoing incarnation of its spiritual predecessor to deal with; the Blade series had already flamed out quite conclusively half a decade prior. Sausage Party has to contend not only with the still-running South Park TV series, which continues to plumb newer and riskier ways to express itself, but with an entire TV industry of animated-for-adults satire that’s hardly any less bold than the theoretically greater creative freedom that the theater and an R rating grants you. All of which is a tremendously circuitous way to say that Sausage Party is notable mostly for being a shocking R-rated satire, and it is neither shocking nor very trenchant in its satire.
Put even more simply, it’s trite and boring and a lot less edgy than it thinks it is. It’s also ugly to look at, although that’s a sin that only becomes relevant once we factor in the movie’s other failings. The story takes place over a 24-hour period in the lives of various products in a supermarket called Shopwell. Every morning the store opens up, the store products - from produce to dry goods to poultry - break out in a song about the Great Beyond, that place where “chosen” food goes when it’s picked out by the “gods” that roam their world. The day in question this time is the 4th of July, when just about everyone is chosen. Our main characters are Frank (Seth Rogen) and Brenda (Kristen Wiig). Frank is a hot dog, Brenda is a hot dog bun, and the two have been placed next to each other over the course of what we assume is a lifespan of several days.