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Sausage Party (2016)

The food products in a supermarket dream of the day that they are chosen by "the gods". One fateful day, a hapless sausage named Frank learns the horrible truth about the relationship between humans and food. Can he get the rest of the Store to believe him?

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldgerg's creation Sausage Pary was directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan. It opened in cinemas in the US in August 2016, and went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated animation released to date.

Reviewing comedy is a tricky prospect. There are few things as subjective as what is or isn't funny, so of course, I can only speak of my own experience with the film. Your mileage may well vary.

How funny do you find the idea of a sausage saying "shit"? This is an important question going into this movie, as it makes up the majority of its schtick-it's literally the first line of dialogue of the movie.  So, if you don't find it funny you're going to have a rough time. The script is littered with swears from the off- much like any film from Rogen, Goldberg and co.

This is one of the key issues with Sausage Party. The creators seem to think that the novelty of animated characters swearing or talking about sex (or dying horribly) is enough to carry the film on its own. In a world where South Park and Family Guy have been on air for nearly 20 years though, that's old news.

It's true that we've not seen a CGI adult animation quite on this scale before, and that deserves some credit at least.  Their aim is clearly to make a Pixar-style movie for adults. If that's the case though, their influences seem muddled- why would you feature an opening musical number? That's not something you'd find in a Pixar film. The best parody usually comes from a place of love. Films like Shaun Of The Dead can poke fun at a genre, while simultaneously being a great example of it. Yet for all their claims of loving Pixar, this seems to be made by people with only the most superficial knowledge of what makes them great.

The secret of Pixar films is never the set-up. Toy Story doesn't work because it's about toys- it works because the story and the characters are so brilliantly brought to life. Sausage Party, meanwhile is so preoccupied with being outrageous and controversial it's arguably at the expense of everything else.

Beyond the near-constant cursing, there's a more troubling use of stereotyping. Hiding behind a "we make fun of everyone" approach there's lazy racial stereotyping that is as tired as it is offensive. Then there's the depressingly sexist designs on the female characters. Not only the infamous design of the buns, but in the human female characters too.

The designs that aren't actually offensive are either bland (most of the food characters) are downright ugly (in the case of the humans) And it's typically muddled again- if these are supposed to be Pixar characters, why give them Disney style white gloves?

It gives the impression that this is made by people who think that animated films are all the same. Disney and Pixar are basically the same thing, right? Bringing in people from outside the animation world can often bring a fascinating new perspective- take a look at Fantastic Mr Fox or Anomalisa. But in this case, the results are disastrous. It could be a lack of respect for the medium or mere ignorance- but it's clear they don't really get it.

The animation itself is just fine. It does the job it's supposed to, and nothing much more. There's a Saving Private Ryan-syle sequence early on and an admittedly audacious climatic sequence that show some flare, but otherwise it never really stands out. But perhaps that's a consequence of how the production (allegedly) treated its animators...

Rogen and Goldberg have produced films in the past like Superbad that manage to be both hilarious and surprisingly sweet-natured. In the TV series Preacher too, they showed considerable talent. Why then does Sausage Party feel like a failure on every level? Ultimately though Sausage Party's biggest failing is a much simpler and more fundamental one. It's not funny.

The jokes fall flat constantly and rely much too much on the shock factor. The swearing sausage thing gets old really quick and the 90-minute run-time feels much longer. And with Rogen involved, or course there's some drugs jokes thrown in there too.

The film reaches for something more by positioning itself as a religious allegory (or more specifically, an atheist tract), that never really goes any further than letting you know that it thinks "religion is stupid ". Back in 1999 South Park The Movie proved that a potty-mouthed cartoon could be deceptively smart. Sausage Party meanwhile really isn't half as clever as it thinks it is.

It, in the end, feels like a hugely wasted opportunity. The concept of an adult Pixar homage, is a fun one, it's just a shame it falls down the trap that so much adult animation has, that "adult" has to mean "edgy".

Some people will find this gut-bustingly hilarious (and more power to 'em). If the trailer did nothing for you however, then do yourself a favour and stay away, the movie will not change your mind. The film's climax sets up a sequel- we can only hope this turns out to be an empty threat.

1hr 29m