I’ve seen a number of work-in-progress screenings at SXSW over the years, but one rarely gets the impression that big changes will be made, possibly because those films were so close to completion, but also likely because they were live-action pieces. Having the opportunity to see an animated work-in-progress, however, was an enlightening experience. Even though there were a number of shots in Sausage Party that were unlit and very much unfinished, it had almost no effect on the entertainment value of the film, which goes to show how far you can go with with a clever and very well executed concept.
The movie is set in a supermarket where the shelves are stocked with food items that are convinced that when they’re picked, purchased, and carried through the automatic doors that they’re entering the paradise-like “The Great Beyond.” In an effort to get there and live happily ever after, a sausage named Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen) and a bun named Brenda (Kristen Wiig) stay in their packages and on their best behavior to ensure that they’re fresh enough to be selected. With “Red, White and Blue Day” on the horizon, their chances are looking good, but when a jar of honey mustard is returned and re-shelved, the guy starts blabbing about what really goes on beyond those doors – slicing, dicing, boiling, cooking, and eating. Which, essentially, is a vicious massacre from the perspective of anthropomorphic supermarket products.
You think that basic premise sounds a little crazy? How about that first image revealing some suggestive character design? Or maybe that new red band trailer teasing a food slaughter session really blew your mind? All of that’s in there, and it’s just as shocking as it appears in the promotional material, but the full feature goes so above and beyond what you’ve seen thus far that it’s a wonder the MPAA isn’t bending the rules to restrict what animated food is allowed to do on screen.
As far as the story goes, Sausage Party isn’t deep but it is incredibly creative, and the silly premise has absolutely no trouble sustaining a feature length film. A South Park-like opening number quickly conveys the basics of the world Frank and Brenda live in and then as soon as you fully understand their situation, the film launches into a deluge of big and small twists on familiar food items that will keep you astonished and laughing all the way through. There are jokes at the expense of Frank’s friend and package mate, Barry (Michael Cera), who’s a bit short and stubby compared to his sausage brethren, a number of cracks at popular food-related idioms, and a brilliant – and mildly disturbing – implementation of a douche voiced by Nick Kroll, just to name a few.
The most jaw-dropping part of the film is how it just goes to town with delicate topics like race, sex and murder. Almost immediately after that opening number, Sausage Party goes straight for the relationship between Frank and Brenda, cracking one joke after the next about how a sausage and bun “come together.” Along the way, they cross paths with some unleavened flatbread (David Krumholtz) and a bagel (Edward Norton), which opens the door to a plethora of sociopolitical jokes that, sure enough, the script digs right into and never lets go. And then there’s the murderous twist on what happens when food goes home and is prepared to be eaten, which is surprisingly mortifying considering it features digitally created anthropomorphic characters. Every minute of Sausage Party is brimming with wildly inappropriate jokes and situations, but I can assure you, nothing will blow your mind quite like the movie’s big finish. No spoilers here of course, but brace yourself for something unprecedented that will undoubtedly have your jaw hit the floor.
Sausage Party isn’t for everyone one (and definitely not for kids), but that’s the risk you run when you go to such extremes. Rogen, Goldberg and the rest of the team behind the film don’t hold back in the least and often tread into inappropriate, disturbing and mortifying territory, but they get away with it thanks to the super silly concept, and also because they approach the material with such unabashed fervor and determination to ensure that they make use of every possible opportunity. Sausage Party is radiating with the sheer joy Rogen, Goldberg, and co. likely had putting it together and that quality makes it feel natural and right to be having so much fun with such inappropriate material.
As far as the state of the feature goes, as the filmmakers warned, it is very much a work in progress. The cut we saw had a number of unfinished shots and a small handful of moments weren’t even fully animated, and were just comprised of sketch-stage reference visuals. But that never took away from the fun or momentum of the film. The story is rock solid, the extent of the world-building is astonishingly clever and the large majority of the humor is shockingly hilarious. If Sausage Party sparks such a big response in this state, I can’t even begin to imagine the reactions it will elicit when it’s finished and unleashed upon the world in August.
Sausage Party hits theaters on August 12.
Click here to catch up on all of our SXSW 2016 coverage thus far or peruse links to our reviews below:
- Don’t Breathe
- Everybody Wants Some
- In a Valley of Violence
- Midnight Special
- Operation Avalanche
- The Trust