Sausage Party (2016)
A hero will rise.
As strange as it may sound, I actually enjoyed Sausage Party without finding it all that funny. You see, although it’s billed as a comedy, the new Seth Rogen-Evan Goldberg venture comes with a somewhat deceptive carton. First and foremost, if its double-entendre title hasn’t given it away already, a word of warning, this one’s not for the kiddies. With that out of the way, Sausage Party — the world’s first adult CG animated comedy — centers on a bunch of horny anthropomorphic potty-mouthed groceries who are on a quest to discover the truth about their existence, particularly what happens to them once they leave the confines of their store, the film shrewdly commenting on more present-day issues and contemporary themes than any other live-action flick of late.
Taking its cues from Pixar’s Toy Story (1995), Sausage Party is set in amongst the shelves of a suburban supermarket named Shopwell’s. Inside, all of the products are walking, talking sentient beings who await the day they’re chosen by the trolley-pushing deities and rolled out of the shimmering heaven-like automatic doors and into the ‘Great Beyond.’ There’s the catch though. In order to make it to the ‘promised land’ they must obey the gods and remain in their sealed wrapping, fresh and unsoiled, or they’ll end up getting tossed into the abyss-like trash.
The animated foodstuffs begin their day with a ritualistic Alan Menken musical number, where they honor the gods and sing about being purchased and whisked off to paradise — we humans none the wiser. Enter Frank (Seth Rogen), a packaged hot dog frankfurt who wants to get inside of his gluten-filled shelfmate Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a shapely bun who also shares his fondness. If everything goes according to plan, the pair will be chosen on the upcoming 4th of July sale and taken to a utopian nirvana where they’ll be able to finally consummate their relationship — anyone who’s knows Christian doctrine will understand the parallels here.
All’s well in Shopwell’s until a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) is returned (after being bought by accident) with word of the true horrors that await the groceries outside of the automated doors, news of the gods being murderous giants who devour the products for sustenance — his edible friends however, aren’t buying it. Then comes the film’s first big set piece with Mr. Mustard leaping to his doom to avoid being sent back to the divine providence, his death causing a mini cart-astrophe and some horrific Saving Private Ryan-esque imagery inside of a cloud of flour smoke akin to the carnage from the 9/11 attacks. After the scuffle, Frank and Brenda find themselves out of their bags, stranded in the shopping aisles alongside a couple of bread products — a Jewish bagel who goes by the name of Sammy Bagel Jr. (voiced by an over-the-top Edward Norton trying to do his best Woody Allen impersonation) and an Arabic lavash simply named Vash (David Krumholtz), the flatbread harping on about the 77 bottles of extra-virgin olive oil that await him in the next life — the cluster eager to return to their shelves before the big Red-White-and Blue-Day sale begins. Frank on the other hand, is compelled to investigate the new claims on the ‘Great Beyond,’ breaking away from the pack to seek answers from the store’s non-perishable goods.
Contrary to it’s silly premise and juvenile wordplay, there are several sophisticated allegories in amongst Sausage Party’s deranged sense of vulgarity: from a message about people’s preconceptions regarding certain ethnic groups (the film parodying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East), to observations on blind faith, corruption in organized belief and prejudice towards progressive sexuality, Sausage Party is more than just a scrumptious cinematic feast, offering up some surprising food for thought. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg of Superbad (2007) fame, along with Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir (who penned 2015’s The Night Before), the flick is brimming with inventiveness, witty gags and pop culture references, with highlights including a sauerkraut with a Hitler mustache who threatens to ‘exterminate the juice’ and a Stephen Hawking-inspired wad of chewing gum (voiced by Scott Underwood) – trust me, this one’s unlike any animated film you’ve ever seen, its mere 89 minutes proving that size really doesn’t matter!
Directed by family specialists Greg Tiernan (whose previous credits include a whole bunch of Thomas the Tank Engine stuff) and Conrad Vernon, Shrek 2 (2004), Sausage Party is as shiny and bright as the fluff we’re used to seeing come from Disney or Pixar (every character complete with stick limbs and little Mickey Mouse type gloves on their hands), its cartoon environment providing a startling backdrop for all the perverse, sexually explicit, nihilistic shenanigans on display. The design of the grocery shop is also quite clever with each type of ‘good’ being cordoned to their own section, this causing several culture clashes in regards to beliefs as well as quarrels revolving immigration (one product taking over another’s territory) — love it or hate it, the film’s cultural representation is quite a delicious treat.
As with your typical Rogen-Goldberg fare, the cast are all tip-top. Jonah Hill, 21 Jump Street (2012), and Michael Cera, Superbad (2007), stand out as a couple of fellow sausages in Frank’s package named Carl and Barry respectively, mainly Cera’s deformed wiener who embarks on an odyssey back to Shopwell’s after finding out what really happens to groceries out in the big bad ‘Great Beyond.’ Salma Hayek, Puss in Boots (2011), is pretty noticeable as a sexy taco named Teresa who wants to get in-between Brenda’s buns. Then there’s Nick Kroll, Adult Beginners (2014), who breathes life into one of this year’s most detestable baddies, an angry vaginal douche literally named Douche, the sleazy villain being a play on those steroid-jacked gym junkies — heck, he even gets ‘juiced up.’ James Franco, This Is the End (2012), is amusing as a druggie who unmasks the ‘secret life of groceries’ after taking bath salts — this being a pretty nifty idea — while Bill Hader, Trainwreck (2015), is almost unrecognizable as a booze bottle named Chief Firewater, a peace-pipe-smoking Native American kind of non-perishable.
Sausage Party is probably at its best when it’s arguing its atheist views or being all out politically incorrect, its theological spat and real-life parallels easy enough for a child to understand. What’s more, those in-your-face atheists such as Ricky Gervais could learn a thing or two from Sausage Party’s narrative, chiefly how it reminds us that rubbing people’s noses in their own stupidity isn’t the best way to go about winning them over, even if we think they’re being overly dense.
Finishing with an over-the-top storewide orgy that redefines the term food porn, Sausage Party is a very acquired taste, however, those who have always wondered what Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009) would’ve been like if it were two-parts filthy farce and one part slasher flick, this one’s for you! With its meta conclusion opening the floodgates for a flavorsome follow-up, this is one time I could certainly go for seconds.
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Sausage Party is released through Sony Pictures Australia