Love animation: always have, always will. Probably my first hero was Bugs Bunny, and his most famous quotes still form the boundaries of my life. “What’s up, doc?” “Of course you know this means war.” “This calls for a little stragedy (sic).” And the single finest expression of “well, duh” logic: “Don’t go up dere … it’s dark.”
I also submit that the most consistently satisfying films — in the classic sense: make you laugh, cry, thrill, and think — in the last twenty years have been from Disney/Pixar (with the occasional foray into DreamWorks): Lion King, Beauty & the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tangled, Toy Story(s), The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up, Frozen (yes, Frozen), Inside Out, Zootopia, How to Train Your Dragon, and, of course, Kung Fu Panda (wink-wink) – not even counting the Disney pioneering classics spanning eighty years.
Sausage Party is not one of those. It stands aside the best of Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat, Wizards, et al). Even so, creators Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Ariel Shaffir, Kyle Hunter, and directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, use animation in much the same way as the Disney greats before them.
Supposedly Voltaire once said, “anything too stupid to be said is sung.” The great animated movie makers might paraphrase that to something like “anything too scary/dangerous to be said can be cartooned.” There’s something about the format that’s like a sugar-coating or, dare I Mary-Poppins it: “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.”
Rogen and company use Sausage Party to address racism in a similar manner as Zootopia. Wellllllll, not exactly like Zootopia. There’s a lot of letters in between the two. Letters like G and R. Rogen was recently quoted as admitting that even he is still surprised how perverse and profane Sausage Party is. But I say delightfully so.
Having seen, and liked, most of what Rogen and Goldberg have done before (a huge exception being the abysmal missed opportunity that was Green Hornet), I was perfectly prepared for the napalming of F-bombs and dirty jokes. What I wasn’t prepared for was a long-awaited (by me at any rate) attempt to grow out of their stagnating-to-the-point-of-fossilizing arrested adolescent phase (Adam Sandler, PLEASE take note).
In addition to pumped-up innuendo and hyper-violence, Rogen’s main character – a hot dog seeking sex or redemption, whichever comes first – drives the plot by thinking outside the bun (as it were), and inspires such contentious companions as a Woody-Allen-esque bagel and a 72-virgin-olive-oil-seeking flatbread to reconsider their knee-jerk (or gluten-jerk) prejudices.
The combination of all of the above, plus a remarkable voice cast that includes Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, Salma Hayek, James Franco, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Edward Norton, Nick Kroll, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and many others, made the 89 minutes spurt by. I laughed aloud several times, never stopped smiling, and used up-raised eyebrows for designating being impressed as well as “oh no you didn’t.” That’s a grade A fresh in my book.
There’s a proverb that states “a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Who would have thought that Seth Rogen’s brain is through his?
PS BTW: I went to the movie with two employees of a fairly major animation studio, and they informed me that the recent rumors of terrible working conditions and low pay seemingly came from post production staffers. According to the movie’s main animators, things were just fine.