I’m not the kind of critic who walks out of movies. I’ve only left a screening twice. First, for Tusk, which was partially because my parking meter had expired and I wasn’t risking a fine for that trash. Then again for a Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival screening of Ice Poison, by which point I couldn’t handle another formally-lazy piece of ‘realist’ filmmaking. Sausage Party – the latest crude comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg – was almost my third walk out.
Admittedly, the film itself is not entirely blame for my near-departure. Our media screening was plagued by technical issues that stretched out the start time a half hour or more behind schedule (I can’t be sure of the time, because they’d cloaked our phones). If there hadn’t been free hot dogs and snacks, I likely would’ve ditched before it even started. In any case, I stayed for the entirety of the film. While I can’t recommend the film proper, at least I got to see the legitimately funny final twenty or so minutes. Shame about the preceding hour.
Sausage Party’s premise is concisely summarised in a bumper sticker glimpsed mid-film: DIXAR. This is a Pixar film, except with the family-friendly messages of respecting others and healing the environment and so forth substituted for dick jokes. The Toy Story conceit to a supermarket where every item in the story – from honey mustard to whiskey – has its own voice and personality. Directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (known up until now for Thomas the Tank Engine) inject the harmless premise with as much risqué humour as they can – to swiftly diminishing returns.
If you’re looking for crude humour, the “crude” part is present in spades, whether it’s a talking used condom or copious use of bath salts. Sausage Frank (Seth Rogen) and bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) manage to cram more sexual innuendo into the first ten minutes than a competitive eater could swallow sausages. You see, because a sausage is like a penis… you get it? If you didn’t, you’ll be given plenty of opportunities. Sausage Party’s shelves are also densely stocked with cultural stereotypes – German foodstuffs demanding the extermination of the juice, Edward Norton doing his best Woody Allen impression as a bagel while David Krumholtz offers up an offensive Arab caricature as his lavash counterpart – but all this crude humour seems to be lacking the key ingredient: humour.
The film’s first hour has maybe two or three laughs, and they’re primarily visual jokes: a spoof of Saving Private Ryan that sees a ruptured can of spaghetti struggling to hold its contents in, or Meatloaf cameoing as …well, you’ve probably already figured out that one. The plot is – likely intentionally – a cookie-cutter copy of every Pixar movie, with our foodstuff heroes trying to find their way home and learning something (ie that their primary purpose is to be cooked and eaten) along the way.
So, if you find yourself three-quarters of an hour into your screening of Sausage Party and you feel compelled to leave the cinema, I don’t blame you. But after an hour or so of relentlessly “offensive” lazy jokes, the film finally perks up in its final act. Generally once a comedy has me offside, I’m too pissed off to even laugh at the funny jokes, but Sausage Party’s closing twenty minutes had me in fits of laughter.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise too much, but it’s refreshing to see a film that plays it comparatively safe for its runtime – relying on raunch, swearwords and racial stereotypes – suddenly swing for the fences with an orgy of violence and then an actual orgy. The visual creativity and puns dominate and the film finally feels fun. Shame it couldn’t have got there an hour earlier. Anyway, what you’ve got is sixty minutes of a one-star movie and twenty minutes of a four-star movie, so here’s my attempt at a rating: