'Sausage Party' At SXSW: Notes From A Work-In-Progress Screening Of This Work Of Total Insanity

It's hard to believe that Sausage Party actually escaped late-night, pot-fueled conversations between writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, but the film screened at the SXSW Film Festival last night in a "work-in-progress" version. It exists. Somehow. People in positions of authority actually gave these lunatics the time of day (and a budget) and now the world is a much stranger place. A place where an R-rated animated comedy about talking food learning the shocking truth of their existence is a thing that actually exists.

And even in its unfinished form, Sausage Party is funny. Really funny. And completely deranged.

Don't consider this a proper, full-on movie review. Like with Keanu a few days ago, this movie screened in an unfinished state and there is still plenty of work to be done. Significant scenes weren't fully rendered, others were still hand-drawn storyboards, and large portions of the climax consisted of still frames – when screenwriters Rogen and Goldberg introduced the film, they properly prepared the audience for a movie that was literally not done.

However, this was a public screening projected in front of a theater filled to max capacity with 1,200 people – the filmmakers wanted a reaction and they got one. Even in its unfinished state, the SXSW audience was mostly won over by the film, if the amount of laughing, cheering and even gasping is to be believed. It's going to be interesting to watch how normal audiences respond to this film, as this is, no kidding, one of the crudest and most deranged movies ever made. It looks like a typical CG-animated film, but it's actually a vessel for nuclear-grade nonsense. This isn't the first time filmmakers have seemingly tried to adapt the stupid conversations stoned people have, but it is the first time it's been done this successfully.

As you may have seen in the trailer that was released following last night's screening, Sausage Party is a riff on the "inanimate objects come to life and have an adventure" movie. But our heroes aren't toys, they're food, and they eagerly await the day when the "gods" will choose them and take them to the great beyond, as they call the world outside of the grocery store. Then a series of unfortunate events leads to Frank the hot dog (Rogen) and a few of his friends (including a bun voiced by Kristen Wiig and a bagel voiced by Edward Norton, the latter doing a pitch-perfect Woody Allen impression) find themselves separated from their packages. Their quest home is dangerous enough before Frank starts to learn that the gods may have more sinister plans for their food than anyone imagined.

Oh, and the bad guy is a douche. Literally. He is literally a douche.

While Sausage Party is chock-full of profane language and surprisingly brutal depictions of violence against food, it's the religious element that somehow feels the most shocking. Here is a film starring a talking hot dog that is actually about how organized religion pulls the wool over the eyes of the masses. Between this and their upcoming television adaptation of Preacher (which had its world premiere earlier the same day at SXSW), Rogen and Goldberg have seemingly become the go-to guys for using dick jokes to poke holes in the very concept of belief. It's rare to see any major American film go out of its way to tear down religious institutions and Sausage Party wants to burn it all to the ground. Prepare for think pieces.

Heck, Sausage Party wants to burn everything to the ground and the results can be mixed. The film traffics in stereotypes and while some some are clever or just offensive enough to extract giggles out of you by force, others fall flat and feel a little tired (looking at you, Mexican food aisle sequence). But there are hundreds of jokes in this film – when one joke falls flat, two more quickly rise to take its place. I'd say that the successful joke percentage is about 50%, but the jokes that work are often nothing short of incredible. The film could be more disciplined, but that would mean sacrificing the film's anarchic, take-no-prisoners, constructed-by-maniacs style. You suffer through the dead air and the rough jokes to get to the good stuff and the good stuff is fantastic. And that dead air could be easily tightened up and the rough jokes fine-tuned before the film's August release.

Sausage Party is offensive and filthy and easily one of the dirtiest movies ever made. It final twenty minutes, which were mostly unfinished in this screening, may very well be the stuff of legend. In the Q&A that followed the screening, Rogen, Goldberg, and directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon seemed shocked that the MPAA had already let them get away with an R-rating. It turns out that anthropomorphized food can do stuff in an R-rated movie that human beings cannot.

I'm already looking forward to seeing Sausage Party again, not just because I found it very funny and not just because I want to see how it evolves over the coming months, but because I need to see how the audience reacts to certain jokes and moments. There is stuff here that will be branded upon your brain for as long as you live. Pity the poor, uninformed parents who bring their kids to the talking hot dog movie.