*1/2 out of ****
As everyone in the theater cackled their way through Sausage Party, an R-rated animated comedy using a Pixar-like premise for the sake of nasty jokes, I sat in silence for most of the film’s duration while anthropomorphized grocery store products engaged in incessant swearing, sex jokes, and drug use while delivering some political and religious allegories. All of these characteristics came without the natural grace of artists who have done similar subversions of family entertainment, like Matt Stone and Trey Parker or even Seth MacFarlane and his pals. After only mildly chuckling a few times in contrast to the howls and belly laughs throughout the auditorium, I began to wonder if everyone around me was stupid or if I was losing my soul.
I spent a good portion of my youth feeling frustrated with respected critics who seemed clueless whenever they reviewed a comedy. Am I becoming one of these humorless analysts? I believe that the evaluation of comedy and filmmaking can clash. In the case of Sausage Party, I’m not sure where my disapproval lies. I like the idea of the movie, but its animation is too standard-issue to play a part in adding hilarity to the film. I like the idea of the comedy, except its gags seem about as subtle as the novelty banner ads seen on a porn site.
Maybe as the disappointing summer winds down, I’m in a sour mood, but I feel like Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and their regular collaborators, looked to the talents of a couple directors (Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon) with animation experience who rendered their humor in the most superficial way. Rarely was there a moment when I felt like they put a clever spin on an animated movie cliche and I don't remember one scene where they made fun of computer animation itself.
This only seems important, because great movies usually utilize their medium to convey the message. South Park usually made fun of its crude illustration style by having its characters refer to invisible physical details about one another and the brilliant Team America: World Police got some of its biggest laughs by making puppets do things that puppets can't do very well like playing pool, fighting, or pointing directly at something.