|'Because, even given all of the film's cleverness, this still feels aimed at frat boys wearing chinos and Ralph Lauren polos to get high to and laugh at, whilst missing the majority of the jokes.'|
There is a war going on at the creative heart of Sausage Party which will be all too familiar to those who have followed the writing careers of Seth Rogen and his most frequent collaborator, Evan Goldberg (here Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir also have writing credits).
The battle, which visibly plays out on screen, goes something like this. Sausage Party has very erudite, very clever, very funny ideas, which are developed by Rogen and Goldberg (and realised with wonderfully vivid direction by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon). So, in Sausage Party, a film about anthropomorphic foodstuffs, the writers manage to include this deep undercurrent of social conscience, cleverly blending the politics of the day with, erm, the inclusive politics of food. Bear with me.
Those ideas are most fully realised in the relationship between Sammy (Ed Norton doing Woody Allen), a Jewish bagel, and Kareem Abdul Lavash (Dave Krumholtz), a Palestinian flatbread. Ripe with undertone, the miss-matched pairing could have supported a film in their own right as they propose opposing ideas and mock each others culture before arriving at a conclusion approaching mutual respect and well... other things. More on that shortly.
Meanwhile, not content merely with the union of flatbread and bagel, Rogen and Goldberg's script is peppered (sorry) with foodstuff-centric socio-politicising that both gets a laugh and makes a point. 'We were driven out of our home by a bunch of Goddamn crackers!', wails Firewater (Bill Hader), a Native American alcoholic beverage. There's a recurring joke about a group of Nazi food who have interpreted the sacred words about 'the great beyond' in the wrong way and slipped far right material into otherwise 'religious' doctrine. A scene where flour doubles for the fog of war perhaps doesn't have the political points, but it is a perfectly well-observed piece of visual comedy.
There is though another side to Sausage Party, a side which feels like Rogen and Goldberg are almost daring their critics to roll out the same lines they've used to previously critique their shtick. Because, even given all of the above, this still feels like a film aimed at frat boys wearing chinos and Ralph Lauren polos to get high to and laugh at, whilst missing the majority of the jokes.
So, of course, there is a scene where Rogen's character, Frank, gets stoned for no plot-based purpose whatsoever. Barry (Michael Cera), Frank's friend, who makes it to the outside and finds out the truth about food, finds himself at the mercy of a drug-addled layabout, of course voiced by James Franco. The final scenes feature an extended Team America-esque segment of animated sex (yes, with food), funny for about a fifth of the screen time it is given.
And then, right before the film finishes, Rogen and Goldberg go meta again and, even in an animation, the former manages to find a way to get his face on the screen. This kind of meta joke has been dead a while now, but that doesn't stop the writers from sticking the blade in up to the hilt and twisting without mercy.
The feeling Sausage Party produces then is one of frustration. The war between the cleverness of Rogen and Goldberg and their continued desire to fall into tired tropes and cliches has been raging for some time now. Sausage Party suggests that it will be some time before it is over.
Sausage Party is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday December 26th 2016.