In an interview with Kristen Wiig on "WTF with Marc Maron" where she talks about being in Sausage Party, she says that the guys who made the film don’t overthink what they write; they just think “hey, that’s funny, let’s do it!”
It shows. Sausage Party has some funny stuff but a lot of it is concept humor: “That’s funny, let’s do it!” The problem is that the execution is off.
Sausage Party is about a sausage named Frank who cannot wait to be "chosen" by the gods to live in “heaven.” But when Frank gets told the truth, that being chosen means he’ll be eaten by the humans, he tries to convince everybody else of the truth and they don't want to go along with it.
So the film's a metaphor for organized religions, but it's a spot-on one. Frank tries to convince people of the truth, but they say if it makes them feel better, why shouldn't they believe it? Frank comes back with evidence and tells them all that they're idiots and they don't want to believe it because he's calling them all idiots. I like the metaphor and I like the way they show it.
The problem is that the movie's just not that funny.
To be fair, there were parts that made me laugh, more at the concept than the execution. Their choices of voice actors included:
-Michael Cera as a crippled sausage who gets made fun of a lot by other sausages
-Edward Norton as a Jewish, gay bagel who sounds a lot like Woody Allen
When both these characters came on screen, I laughed. Michael Cera, who gets typecast as the awkward nerdy teenager who gets made fun of gets cast as the awkward sausage who gets made fun of? Edward Norton doing a pretty good Woody Allen impression, while the character is a typical Woody Allen character? Great! And their characters continued to amuse me. All the other supporting characters are mostly forgettable.
The movie also references other films quite a bit. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. There's a great "Saving Private Ryan" nod and a mildly funny "T2: Judgement Day" nod. The only other reference I remember is one that made me roll my eyes, in which a piece of grits says "They call me MR. Grits," an obvious and lazy reference to "In the Heat of the Night."
Swearing is a prominent part of Sausage Party and it should be; these foods are going through hell. But when their life is perfect, (they sing an entire musical number!) wouldn’t it make sense that they’re not foul-mouthed food items? They start off the film saying every bad word you can think of. Their language doesn’t get any more putrid. I think it would’ve been more effective if they started swearing when their lives went bad.
The thing about this kind of humor is that it's forgettable and not subtle. My favorite comedies have jokes that you have to pay attention for, stuff you pick up on repeat viewings. I don’t need to watch Sausage Party again. It's a shame; this is a really great concept for a movie with a great metaphor that is easily accessible to most people. But the jokes are obvious and easy. There was a great opportunity for a joke in the film. In Pixar movies, the combination "A113" is hidden somewhere, a recurring Easter egg. (The combination is a reference to a classroom at the California Institute of the Arts, and alumni from that classroom like John Lasseter put it in the films as an inside joke.) The "Sausage Party" team poked fun at it. But instead of coming up with something subtle, something to think about, they made the license plate say "Dixar." I'm sure it was the first thing that came to their minds and they took it; they didn’t overthink it. There’s a Hitler clone in the movie who wants to kill all the “juice.” I’m sure it was something that came to their minds, and they didn’t overthink it. But there was a missed opportunity here, and I wish that the opportunity was truly taken instead of being half-assed and not overthought. Because 99% of the time, you truly need to overthink to make your film great. Sausage Party is fine. But it could’ve been so much better.