There’s a running joke throughout Sausage Party in which Douche, who is an actual douche voiced by Nick Kroll (reviving his Bobby Bottleservice voice), says some phrase or idiom involving food only for the named food to interrupt, assuming he’s talking to them. It happens about seven times throughout the movie. Each time is great. Here’s an example of one:
The best one of these, and for my money the funniest moment in the movie, comes about halfway through, when Douche corners a group of the good guys to “beat on them most viciously and, in my opinion, appropriately.” After a pause, he starts a sentence, “Okay, so,” only to be interrupted with “Did someone say ‘queso’?” by a jar of queso. “That’s soooooo dumb,” you might be thinking, and you’d be right. It is a dumb joke, but these were the sort of dumb jokes sorely missing from the rest of the script. The biggest problem with Sausage Party is that somewhere along the way, Seth Rogen and his co-writers got so wrapped up in trying to make a point (about, of all things, belief or disbelief in a higher power) that they forgot they were making a stupid movie.
Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with stupid movies. Some of the best comedies of all time are stupid. From The Jerk through Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, these are movies where stupid people do stupid things in stupid worlds. They are movies that thrive on childlike exuberance and idealism. It’s not that the people who made them don’t take their comedy seriously, but that their goal is to create a sense of fun, wonder, and stupidity.
Sausage Party is not the dumb movie it advertised itself to be. That would be less of a condemnation if it ended up being a smart movie, but it’s not that, either. Sure, Sausage Party waxes allegorical about the existence (or nonexistence) of God, but for a film so anti-religion, it sure gets preachy. It doesn’t help that at times it plugs along laboriously like it was a homework assignment to make a full-script version of a silly idea.
Sausage Party’s self-seriousness is even more baffling when you remember that this is an animated movie, a medium basically designed for childlike silliness. While one might argue that an R-rated movie is meant to be a bit more adult-friendly, that shouldn’t come at the expense of fun. Contrast Sausage Party with the South Park movie, a film packed with gleeful music numbers and silliness: One of the reasons the latter — and the show in general — works is that it ultimately stars children with silly voices. The main protagonists of Sausage Party — played by Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, and Michael Cera — talk like Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, and Michael Cera, respectively. And they curse so much. I’m not prudish about cursing; if anything, I’m the opposite, but profanity should be a means to an end, rather than the punch line itself.
The South Park movie was able to balance its desire to make points with fun. Sausage Party, on the other hand, doesn’t do much in either department. Going into Sausage Party I was hoping it would be like going grocery shopping with a stoned friend, but it was more like hearing a stoned friend talk about philosophy after they watched Religulous and had someone explain the Allegory of the Cave to them. Satire is the opposite of stupid comedy. And Sausage Party is bad satire, opposed to good stupidity.
Rogen told the L.A. Times that the movie started as a joke he and Jonah Hill would tell reporters when they asked what they were working on, mocking the sort of movie people expect them to be making. Eventually, he says, he and Hill just started talking about what a Sausage Party movie would actually be about if they made it. I kept thinking while watching the movie that footage of those conversations (assuming Rogen and Hill were high) — just them saying whatever stupid idea came to mind, without concern about how to make it fit over a classic hero’s journey narrative — sounds more fun to watch than the movie that came to be. There are glimpses of that in the film, whether it’s the Douche’s jokes or the truly ridiculous last scene, but they’re not enough. They only give flashes of the stupid movie that could’ve been.