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Josh Reviews Sausage Party

Seth Rogen’s animated film Sausage Party tells a story of the secret inner life had by all of the food items that together inhabit a supermarket.  Seth Rogen plays Frank, a sausage, and Kristen Wiig plays his girlfriend Brenda, a bun.  Together, Frank and Brenda — along with ALL the many other types of food living in the supermarket — yearn to someday be selected by the gods (the people shopping in the supermarket) and taken to the glorious world beyond (beyond, that is, the front doors of the supermarket).  But when a jar of honey mustard is bought and then returned to the supermarket, he comes bearing warnings that everything the food-items believed was a lie, turning Frank and Brenda’s world upside down.

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Sausage Party is a gloriously raunchy, hilarious film.  It takes a Pixar/Disney concept (what if something inanimate — in this case, food products — was actually alive?) and filters it through the dick-and-drugs sensibility that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have honed to such perfection in all of the live-action films they have created together (from Superbad to Pineapple Express to This is the End to The Interview, among others).  Sausage Party feels, in tone, just like all those other great live-action comedies.  But what gives the movie and extra twisted edge is that it’s an animated film.  With the subject matter (about food that is alive), of course animation is the only way to tell this story.  But there’s something just a little bit extra funny and extra transgressive in watching an animated character talk about the type of filthy subject matter that Seth Rogen and co. often talk about in their films.  This gives the movie an extra little frisson that I really loved.

The film boasts a spectacular cast, with many of the wonderfully talented familiar voices who you might expect to run across in a Seth Rogen-Evan Goldberg film.  First of all, the lead pairing of Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig is perfect.  Both are absolute perfection, so incredibly funny but also able to sell their characters’ genuine emotional turns.  The movie only works if you’re rooting for this couple to find some way out of their crazy situation, and Mr. Rogen and Ms. Wiig absolutely nail it.  Frank and Brenda are quickly paired up with a bickering Arab-Jew pairing, Kareem Abdul Lavash and Sammy Bagel.  This sounds like a terrible, terrible idea on paper but the characters are so funny, and the emotional journey they go on together so real, that I quickly fell in love with both characters.  David Krumholtz voices the Lavash, while Ed Norton does an impeccable Woody Allen impression as Sammy Bagel; both men deliver genius-level work.  Jonah Hill is great as Carl, a fellow sausage in the same package with Frank, but it’s Michael Cera who really hits it out of the park as Barry, another sausage who is much shorter than all his fellow sausages.  Barry’s crazy adventure in the film’s second half is a highlight of the movie, and Michael Cera absolutely kills in the role.  There are so many other great characters in the film.  Bill Hader is Firewater, an old bottle of liquor who dispenses important secrets to Frank; Danny McBride is is scarred jar of honey mustard returned to the store; Nick Kroll is douche, the vengeful feminine-product who is after Frank and Brenda; Salma Hayek is Teresa del Taco, a friendly taco shell who quickly falls in love with Brenda; Craig Robinson is Mr. Grits; James Franco voices a druggie with the munchies; Paul Rudd plays the drowsy teenager in charge of the store.  Every single one of them is phenomenal, and there are so many other great memorable characters in the film that I’m not mentioning.

The film is hilarious from start-to-finish, but it’s the staggeringly bonkers final five-or-ten minutes of the film that made me truly fall in love with this movie.  Watching the film unfold, I found myself wondering, how can this movie possible end?  Once Frank discovered the truth about his existence — as nothing more than sustenance for people — there didn’t seem to be any possible way to unring that bell, so where was the story going to end?  I never in my wildest dreams would have predicted the answer, and those crazy final minutes of the film are absolute madness, a head-first dive into complete bad taste that had me crying with laughter.  It was great.  (And I’m not even talking about the also-great revelation in the film’s last scene, in which the surviving characters learn another important truth about the reality of their existence.)

There is a lot to praise in Sausage Fest.  The film boasts some spectacular (and hilarious) original songs, as well as some note-perfect musical cues using popular music.  The animation isn’t Pixar-level sophisticated, but it works perfectly for the story being told.  In particular, I thought the character-designs for all the different food-characters was really terrific, just perfect for the film.

If you’re easily offended then this is probably a film to avoid.  But I love animation and I love comedy, so this film hit me right in my sweet spot.  Great work by directors Conrad Viernan and Greg Tiernan as well as the gaggle of credited writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir, with Jonah Hill also given a co-“story-by” credit.  I can’t wait to see it again.

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