Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sausage Party review

I review the much anticipated, long awaited, hallucinogenic creation from Seth Rogen and co after the juuump....

Say what you like about Seth Rogen, the guy knows how to craft a good gimmick. When the initial novelty of his stoner hits faded, he was able to reinvigorate the cinema scene in This Is the End with a group of famous actors and actresses literally playing themselves, before nearly causing World War 3 with 'The Interview'. I seriously don't know of any other film that has been so close to causing international conflict. But now, finally, he brings perhaps the strangest of them all: a Pixar-esque animation about supermarket products and their false gods.

And speaking of false Gods, this is a highly charged anti-organised religion piece from the get go. Seriously, the first scene involves a musical number with the lyrics 'dear Gods.... take us to the great beyond.... everyone else is fucking stupid, except for those that think like me (and me, and me, and me).....'. From there, it's a non-stop attack of surprising virtuosity and elegance that somehow manages to transcend the boundaries of what an R rated move about an animated sausage could aspire to, and, indeed, should aspire to.

The story focuses on frank (Rogen), a hot dog who dreams to be taken by the gods to the 'Great Beyond' and does not question the internal logic forced upon him by the collective hive mind of Shopwell's supermarket. The day before 'red and blue day' (yeah, you guessed it), a jar of honey mustard is returned to the store with a terrifying tale to tell: the great beyond isn't real. The 'Gods' actually kill and eat food - that's us by the way. Shocked, most of the other products, including Frank's girlfriend, Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig), choose to ignore the evidence, and continue to live their blissful lives on the shelf. Unfortunately for them, a savvy shopper picks up a bargain deal on sausages on buns, and fills a trolley with innocent food to be transported to the slaughter.

James Franco plays an actual person :O
After a Private Ryan-esque disaster involving a burst bag of flour, the other foods are hauled off to die, with only Frank, Brenda, and a seedy douche named douche (Nick Kroll) to find out the truth before its too late. What follows is a madcap adventure through a limitless supermarket of racial stereotypes, hardcore innuendo, and f-bombs, to convince the products that maybe they should change their minds about this whole 'Gods' thing.

They are joined on their quest by two standout performances: Edward Norton as Sammy Bagel Jr., doing his best Woody Allen impression (yes, this is racial stereotyping) and David Krumholtz as Karm El Lavash, a radicalised Muslim wrap. Indeed, the Israel-Palestine conflict has been handily summarised by two animated foodstuffs. They constantly fight over their ownership of the 'West Aisle', and Lavash dreams of gaining 72 extra virgin olive oils in the great beyond. The innovation continues with saloons housing tacos and tequila, nightclubs populated by spirits, and a very funny (edit: very inappropriate) surprise main character being introduced at around the 2/3 mark. Interestingly enough, there's a couple of layers of meta to keep everyone happy - from the dramatic irony of us being the main villains, to a very funny ending that really just flips the finger at the audience. Voice-acting wise, there's very little variation in success between all of the major characters, with each actor/actress giving their all and rally bringing immense flair to their character(s). I guess, comparing it to Pixar, I doubt I've seen a Pixar film with this many totally unique characters whom are all so colorful and interesting. Who all have completely different identities and roles, and are each as inspired as each other.

One very traumatized jar of mustard...
The animation is worth a shoutout too. One might expect that the visual appearance of the film would take a slight backseat to the profanity and storytelling, but no, there is near Pixar-level perfection on this front. Really stunning, but also featuring that same level of imagination that Pixar have been lauded for in the past. In fact, perhaps, more imagination given the target age range and intelligence of the audience. Pixar may have always explained friendship in new and unusual ways; but did it ever attempt to satirize US foreign policy, the Israel-Palestine conflict, or the entire concept of organised religion? No. It didn't.

I guess this is where the revelation comes in that actually, Sausage Party isn't dumb; nor is it wholly juvenile; nor devoid of substance. And these are things I was really expecting going into the theatre. What a pleasant surprise then, and somewhat a revelation, to see that puerile humor and dick jokes can fit so well into biting social commentary if placed in the right hands. A dissection of the most fundamental ideas of religion that could possibly stand out as an argument. The use of countless inappropriate stereotypes to drive home a uniting message of equality in society.

A 'nightclub' scene...
That said, it is filthy. Like really fucking filthy. Like sex jokes every 10 seconds followed by innuendo followed by somebody shouting fuck followed by another sex joke type filthy. And it builds up to an utterly spectacularly disgusting, cringe-worthy, satisfying, and hilarious climax (I was literally crying in the theater with laughter). The ergonomic design of the animations have been tweaked to provide the maximum visual level of innuendo possible (with sausages and buns clearly being a highlight), but the sheer demented determination of Rogen to discover every way that, say, a lavash could have intercourse with a jar, makes everything equally funny and bizarre. As if I needed to mention that: Sony have taken a huge gamble with this one, it's weird, and totally unsuited to the 15 year old audience who will probably make up its main demographic. Mainly because, from talking to some 15 year-olds after they had seen it, they don't understand the friggin jokes!

If I had to start dissecting where the movie went wrong, however, it's not hard to find where to point the finger. Perhaps most noticeably, the explicit jokes begin to wear thin long before that hectic finale takes place, leaving the film in a bit of an awkward limbo for 20 minutes in the middle. But also, in the same vein, Rogen has false ideas about what constitutes as funny in many scenarios. Simply shouting fuck repeatedly isn't enough to get a laugh from an audience which finds the actual jokes funny, and his tendency to overdo it on the just shouting fuck repeatedly front isn't really doing it for me. Hey ho, it doesn't spoil a great film.

The supporting cast!
Overall then, we have a (very) late summer hit in a pile of awful blockbusters that have befallen us. Sausage party is crass, crude, disgusting, and hilarious. But it's also imaginative, intelligent, and possessed of an unhinged magic that will carry it forward into a rare category that is appreciated commercially, critically, and has the potential to become a cult favorite. A surefire winner.
It's 4 stars for Sausage Party!

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