Previous Seth Rogen offering Paul, with which Sausage Party shares some linguistic and thematic traits, opined that a well-timed swearword could be deployed to devastatingly funny effect. Sadly, Paul forgot to follow its own advice and bombarded its audience with an avalanche of f-bombs that took the sting out of the word in its entirety and more or less made it, and the practice of comedy vulgarity, meaningless.
Infuriatingly, Rogen seems not to have learned his lesson with Sausage Party, which is astonishingly foul-mouthed. Bad language isn’t a problem per se, but when the effing-and-blinding is elevated to such a level that practically every sentence is punctuated by the word “fuck”, all sense of shock is completely wiped away. Within the first twenty or so minutes of Sausage Party, you feel like the material has nowhere else to go in terms of shock value, so relentless is the onslaught of tedious crudity.
Playing out like a kind of stoner interpretation of Toy Story, Sausage Party centres on a group of anthropomorphic supermarket products awaiting purchase and ascension to what they believe is a post-supermarket paradise. Frank (Seth Rogen) is a hot dog eagerly looking forward to his day of purchase and the promise is being united with his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig). Their journey into the sweet hereafter is ruined by a shop-floor accident that sees Frank and Brenda upset from their trolley and forced to journey across the shop floor back to their shelf. On the way, word reaches Frank that the promised heaven, supposedly waiting beyond the shop doors, is a lie cooked up by the non-perishable foodstuffs in order the pacify the other foods and keep them calm, forcing him to embark on a journey of discovery to prevent himself and his girlfriend being eaten.
All the scatological absurdity, drug abuse and hysterical profanity hide an interesting, if perhaps not fully utilised, quasi-atheist (at the very least agnostic) subtext in which the supermarket products are entreated to reject the notion of a benevolent guiding hand and employ a degree of logic in their lives. Much like Paul, which deals with similar subject matter, this would all be more fascinating, and infinitely more amusing, if it weren’t quite so lazy in comedy terms. Foul-mouthed shock humour is Sausage Party’s raison d’être, but it absolutely relies on the pretext that a bunch of talking sausages calling each other cunts is inherently funny. Which it really isn’t. Funnily enough, on the two occasions when the movie attempts to cast off the shackles of weary rudeness and actually aim for something truly shocking in the form of a chewing gum character and an extended orgy, I laughed pretty hard.
The problem here is that Rogen seems to believe that relentless potty-mouthing and the mere sight of a sausage smoking a joint is funny enough. But timing is everything and Steve Martin’s rant in Planes, trains and Automobiles proves that some well-timed effing-and-jeffing can be big and clever. Rogen presumably hasn’t watched it though, or his attempts at smuttiness might be a little funnier.
★★1/2| Chris Banks
Animation, Comedy | USA, 2016 |15 | Sony Pictures | 2nd September 2016 (UK) | Dir.Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon | Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Salma Hayek, Edward Norton