Picture this: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Evan Goldberg sit around a house, smoking weed. They have some food, at which point, Rogen pipes up – heh heh, imagine if this sausage was like Woody in Toy Story and was really alive. Everybody says, whoa. A few minutes pass. Somebody else pipes up and says, what if God isn’t real and everybody is just blind to the truth?
While this fictional account of how Sausage Party was devised didn’t happen, it’s not hard to see that this is quite possibly the way that Rogen’s cartoon ‘comedy’ was brought in to existence.* The story of a pack of sausages and a bag of buns who sit on a supermarket shelf awaiting the holiest of holy days for their kind – the red, white and blue day (for the God’s in this story, that’s July 4th) – is told here with supreme juvenility. If dick jokes and excessive swearing has turned you off a Seth Rogen lead comedy before, then you will not find refuge within this film.
Unlike Disney’s wonderful tale of toys coming to life while their ‘owners’ are not around, Sausage Party’s characters are mostly concerned about fucking. All they want to do is fuck. Oh, and be taken to the ‘holy lands’ where everything will be right and pita breads will be rewarded with 70 bottles of virgin olive oil. These ‘holy lands’ are the supermarkets doors, beyond which lies a land of people who will eat these various foods. Of course, the sausage is unaware that he is a food item and is therefore designed for consumption by the Gods that he praises.
What ‘plot’ exists follows Rogen’s Frank as he gradually comes to the realisation that the ‘Gods’ are evil and that they are not to be believed in. In fact, what’s the point in believing in anything? Sausage Party has an agenda – and that agenda is to prove to the world that atheism is the only ‘religion’ that exists, and every other religion is stupid and stinks and doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Rogen’s real life belief fuels the theme of this film, as does his juvenile style of comedy.
Full disclosure – I am an atheist. I have never aligned myself with any religion. However, I understand the place of religion in various societies, and I respect the role that religion plays in peoples lives. If Sausage Party is any indication, Seth Rogen and co. do not care about being sympathetic to other peoples views – their belief that there is no God, and thus, no religion, is the only way of living and the way that everyone else should be perceiving the world. There is no like-for-like comparison within Sausage Party – atheism is not presented as an equal to religion, it is presented as the only option and the only way forward. Conversely, this is how many atheists perceive religion – as a steel grip on a group of people, dictating how they live their lives by a set of rules that were transcribed hundreds of years ago.
While a film can be a vessel for showcasing a creators agenda – look at God’s Not Dead as an equal comparison -, they at least need to do something creative to sell their agenda. After all, just presenting a statement as ‘all you religious people are wrong, and I’m right, so let’s go smoke some weed and fuck’ is not enough. The main issue with Sausage Party is, as mentioned at the beginning, it feels like the dream of a stoner.
Sure, there appears to be a kernel of a good idea here with the analogy of food being aware of what their final destination may be, but never aware of what the implications of that destination is. Throw in the concept that when two foods touch when they are not in the presence of a God, they become tainted and are suddenly seen as unworthy. So, when the sausage and the bun ‘touch tips’, the bun fears she has spoiled herself and will become unwanted by the Gods.
To deliver the faintest of praise on one character – Brenda (Kristen Wiig) -, a bun who questions her ability to have a sausage inside of her prior to being transported to the world of the God’s, does touch vaguely on the notion that sex and religion can cause issues for people. Their urges and desires are telling them to do one thing, but their religion dictates that they do not enact on those urges for fear of becoming tainted vessels in the eye of whatever deity they pray to. This alone is an interesting discussion – and I guess it could be considered noble of the team behind Sausage Party to attempt to discuss these themes within a cartoon film about food that just wants to fuck. However, they undercut Brenda as a character by simply making her the same sex hungry, swearing, dick obsessed being as everyone else.
The fact that none of these food items are aware of their intended destination is contradicted with the obviously annoying character of the Douche (Nick Kroll) – a literal douche. Douche is well aware of what his goal in life is and is angered when his opportunity to reach that goal is stopped short by a suicidal, truth revealing jar of honey mustard. (The honey mustard provides one of the films very few ‘hah’ moments as his sacrifice brings about a flour-strewn death scene which seems like it’s 9/11 retold by food by the way of Saving Private Ryan.) So, if Douche is aware of what he is supposed to do in life, then why are all the other food items completely oblivious to what their existence is? If a douche is self aware that his intended goal in life is to be a douche, then why does a sausage not realise that his purpose is to be eaten? Douche is never displayed as being a wiser, more enlightened character than anybody else – so how is he aware of his higher purpose?
Is the question ‘where did we come from?’ not a more intriguing question than ‘where will we go when we die?’ Sausage Party never suggests that the foods feel that their move from the supermarket to the outside world is a move into the afterlife, nor is it an attempt to answer what the purpose of life is, it is just a journey the food goes on. Most religions provide a narrative that explains away the existence of humans as being part of a sweep of (a) God’s hand as he/she created the universe. Arguably, most atheists would subscribe to Darwin’s theory of evolution. If Sausage Party questioned where the food actually came from, rather than where it is going, that could have provided a more intriguing narrative thrust. As it is, Sausage Party moves through its caustic narrative with gleeful abandon as it displays ridiculous, harmful stereotypes as flag flying examples of different religions.
This leaning in to stereotypes further drags religion down as being a wholly negative endeavour, with the Germans being displayed as tired Nazi-esque characters. Sure, they’re not a major character, however it’s obvious that the intention here was to display religion as something that can warp minds and bend people into doing horrific acts. If Rogen and co. were going to be more courageous with their slander, they would no doubt have opted to go for a raging army of ISIS-esque hummus. Of course, as someone with Jewish heritage, it’s easy for Rogen to vilify the maliciously skewed aspects of German history, but that then doesn’t make it ok for the story to then vilify other cultures simply for their beliefs. Not to invoke Godwin’s Law, but that level of antagonism is a just a few notches away from what fuels hate culture.
Where Team America: World Police managed to create biting satire, Sausage Party fails completely at providing anything that resembles a worthy satire of religion. Excessive swearing, non-stop fucking jokes, rampant homophobia (although, the food orgy that concludes the film does negate this to an extent), there is little that actually resembles a genuine comedic moment. Where Seth Rogen’s stoner comedy tones have worked to great effect in his previous films (Pineapple Express, Knocked Up are prime examples), he was portraying a genuine character within those films. Here, each character is simply a fantastical idea in the form of a piece of food.
As one final nadir for this turgid piece of cinema, there is the expected inclusion of mind altering drugs as a major plot point of the film. While the use of marijuana as a positive influence on characters is fine as the world gradually grows to understand the pharmaceutical benefits of the drug, it’s the placement of a socially damaging drug like bath salts as a major plot point that causes concern. At no point is the use of bath salts ever presented as a negative thing – in fact, it’s displayed as being one of the gateways for people to see the ‘true world’ they live in. Yes, people have used mind altering drugs to attempt to reach a higher level of awareness, but to suggest that a real world drug such as bath salts is a possible gateway to achieving that awareness is a harmful notion to implant within a film.
As a finale, Sausage Party has one of the most confusing, dumbfounded endings in recent memory. A sudden appearance of both Seth Rogen and Edward Norton as sky-born effigy’s who exist to appear to display to the characters that in fact, they are not even food, but instead are simply a cartoon character voiced by real humans. Feeling like a last minute comment that the minds behind films are Gods for creating characters that would never exist otherwise comes off as misguided and self-congratulatory. Great, you created a film about sentient sausages, you’re not a genius – that shit has been played as a trailer for the candy bar at the cinema your film is being shown at for decades.
End of Spoiler
Is there anything redeemable about Sausage Party at all? Sort of – the animation is good. It’s a disappointment then that the animators worked overtime and were severely underpaid for their efforts. The quality of the animation aside, there is simply nothing to recommend within this obnoxious, repugnant and most heinously, unfunny, waste of digital space. As a piece of atheist propaganda, it’s misguided and most importantly, a prime example of why atheism as a belief system can be read as another way to reject inclusivity, rather than embrace all beliefs. Your life is not long enough to warrant a viewing of Sausage Party (and I say this as someone who has just written 2000 words on the fucking film.)
*(For the sake of clarity, Sausage Party was directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, and scripted by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on an idea by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill. While I usually wouldn’t pinpoint the people who conceived the story as being the main point of discussion with a film, in this case due to Rogen, Goldberg and Hill’s (Rogen and co.) involvement with the story, script and performances, I will focus mostly on their contribution. As talented the minds of Rogen and Goldberg are, I do doubt their ability to direct an animated film – the one aspect of Sausage Party that almost excels thanks to the work of Tiernan and Vernon.)
Rating: 0 (Our website doesn’t allow for ‘zero’ ratings, so that’s why it has a 0.5. Rest assured, there is nothing redeemable about this film.)
Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton
Writers: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg