On its face, Sausage Party feels like an inevitable response to countless numbers of animated films we’ve seen over the years, especially in the 20+ years since Pixar came on the scene with Toy Story. You know the formula: “what really happens with _____ when we’re not around?” And yes, Sausage Party fills in the blank with food, as opposed to toys, emotions, or dogs. But even as it plays with the Disney/Pixar formula (complete with a song co-written by Alan Menken!), Sausage Party becomes more than simply a parody of those films; instead, it manages to pick up on a deeper issue and find a unique way to explore it.
As explained through the opening song, the food in Sausage Party sings in praise of “gods” who will take them into the “great beyond” (or: humans who will take them home). Among those looking forward to the great beyond is Frank (Seth Rogen), a sausage who’s waiting to be united with his girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a hot dog bun. When a jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) is returned to the store, though, and reveals the horrors of what actually lies in the great beyond, Frank’s belief system is shaken. When Frank and Brenda find themselves out of their packaging in the supermarket, they make their way through the aisles looking for answers, encountering other foods and finding themselves chased by a (very literal) douche (Nick Kroll).
Early trailers placed a heavy emphasis on the slew of “fucks” given, and while they’re certainly present (particularly early on), the film moves on to a combination of concepts that parallel religious beliefs and various ethnic stereotypes within the food world. The most prominent stereotypes come from Lavash (David Krumholtz) and Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton), whose interactions continually jab Middle Eastern conflicts. The film certainly takes plenty of swipes at faith, but it also eventually encompasses the ridiculousness of nonbelievers who try to ridicule those who have faith. It’s surprisingly heavy material, all things considered.
The film also leans heavily on the sexual innuendo, from Frank’s initial motivation to the names on most of the packages. One walking character-related innuendo, for reference: Teresa (Salma Hayek) is a taco shell who’s attracted to Brenda. And it wouldn’t be a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg film without drug references, from pot to an inspired use of bath salts. Not all of the jokes land, but there are so many of them that eventually, something riotously funny will come back up.
Compared to the previous film output from Rogen and Goldberg, Sausage Party doesn’t quite land as successfully as its live action predecessors. The animated setting, though, also allows for Sausage Party to go to some extremes in terms of violence and sex that a live action film couldn’t dare touch without begging for an NC-17 rating. It’s also just as much of a stoner film as their previous works. But in tackling a Disney/Pixar spoof, the filmmakers have created a film that ends up hitting some similar real-world points – just with a decidedly not family-friendly bent.