Writing about film is a privilege, a gift I don’t take lightly. Of course all readers decide for themselves, but I see my role as a gatekeeper to recommend or condemn based on my knowledge of cinema.
But when something like “Sausage Party,” the raunchiest film of the decade thus far, presents the viewing public with an adult “VeggieTales” story, my understanding of right and wrong, high and lowbrow, love and lust converge with the same gusto as the actual food orgy that transpires during a rather scarring and very lengthy sequence.
That might be a spoiler, but I feel obligated to warn you all that “Sausage Party” – I pray the name serves as a hint by itself – is a computer-animated film no child or young teen should see.
I imagine most adults might do well to stay away too. But that’s to be expected from most films written and produced by Seth Rogen, featuring his team of comic misfits: Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd and Nick Kroll. Along for the ride: the vocal talents of Salma Hayek, Edward Norton and David Krumholtz.
Have you ever taken a kids’ film literally? After all, children began flushing their fish after “Finding Nemo” premiered, unaware that doing so leads to certain death for those cold-blooded pets. “Sausage Party” explores what personification means in a violent world.
Life seems fine in the grocery store. Meat, produce and boxed products sing a happy song about their desire to be chosen by the gods to go into the Great Beyond (i.e. purchased and taken home by customers). Frank (voiced by Rogen), a hotdog sausage, dreams of the day he and his girlfriend Brenda (Wiig), a bun, will enjoy the Great Beyond together, outside their plastic wrappings. Just imagine the innuendo.
But those poor little groceries don’t know the horrifying truth: all that awaits them is death, not heaven. After all, food isn’t created to sing cutesy songs, it’s meant to be eaten. Of course there’s a problem. Once Frank sees the light at the end of that dark cave, no one believes him. How could they? The idea that the gods would eat them all is a thought too horrifying to comprehend.
The grocery products find themselves in the midst of a platonic dilemma. Once you leave the store, you know the truth, but if you return, you are deemed mad. It’s peculiar that the most philosophical film of the year would also feature a bottle of firewater (Hader) smoking weed out of a kazoo. And let’s not forget the film’s central villain, Douche (Kroll), whose accent would be all too at home in a deleted scene from “Jersey Shore.”
I can’t stress this enough: this is an R-rated film that no children should see. Don’t let the animation or food-based characters confuse you. This makes all those hidden sexual innuendos in Disney cartoons seem completely unworthy of mention.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, few films include more laughs. It’s one of the most ridiculous experiences at the movies all year. But unlike other films by Rogen, Franco, Hill, etc., this one is actually funny the whole way through. It doesn’t rely on a couple jokes, but relentlessly oppresses audiences with escalation upon escalation of lunacy.
Perhaps one of the most genius and offensive parts of the film is how every piece of food is overly stereotyped. These might seem like cheap, irresponsible gags, but “Sausage Party,” perhaps accidentally, stumbles upon one of the most ludicrous things you find at any supermarket. Food is and has always been racially coded in awful ways from Aunt Jemima syrup to Band-Aids that said, “Flesh color.” (Think about that one, there’ll be a test later.)
That said, if you want a visual experience that’s both offensive and nihilistically provoking, 1972’s X-rated “Fritz the Cat” is still a better option. At best, “Sausage Party” takes the ideas of Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the “South Park” guys) and turns them into more polished, F-word laden experiences overflowing with drug references and fratboy humor.
I might sound critical at points here, but I must admit – with a tinge of shame – I laughed my way through near every scene. Even at the end, that moment when most comedies fizzle out, this one doubles down. I can’t say I’d recommend it during a cocktail party, but for readers who I might never meet, go for it. The carpal tunnel-like pain from an 89-minute dropped jaw just might be worth it.
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