By Bob Garver
If nothing else, there aren’t a lot of movies like “Sausage Party.” I mean this both in terms of subject matter (grocery items decide they don’t want to be eaten) and tone. It’s basically an R-rated kids’ movie. So much of it is cute and chipper and it’s presented in a silly-looking animation style that screams “kid friendly.” But make no mistake, this is one of the most vulgar animated movies of all time. If you can enjoy that vulgarity, great. If you don’t want to be subjected to vulgarity, or have kids that you don’t want to be subjected to vulgarity, you’d best shop elsewhere.
The plot sees Frank the Sausage (Seth Rogen) longing to be “chosen” by a customer along with his girlfriend Brenda Bun (Kristen Wiig). Almost every product in the store equates being chosen with going to heaven. If Frank and Brenda get chosen together, it’s the equivalent of getting married as they enter eternity. Needless to say, the film is not above making countless sausage-and-bun jokes. Frank and Brenda get separated from their packages and go on an adventure to get into new ones. Along the way, Frank learns the horrifying truth about what happens to food once it leaves the store and makes it his mission to save his friends, even though they don’t want to believe that the faith they’ve always kept is a lie designed to keep them from panicking over their inevitable fates.
It turns out that the film is a scathing critique of religion, about how people will believe what they want to believe, even when confronted with evidence to the contrary, with the catchall justification of “faith.” But here’s where the film’s logic breaks down: we don’t know what happens to the food after it’s violently prepared or eaten. The characters believe in eternal life, but they’re unaware that it includes Earthly death. Every religion has prominent figures who, at some point, had to leave their bodies, often violently. Death by itself is not evidence against any respectable religion. Now if the characters were looking forward to being eaten, and then discovered that nothing was waiting for them, then the film might be clearer on its point. …And I’ve just criticized the theology of a talking sausage movie.
The main attraction of the film is of course its humor. Just about every off-color joke that can be made about sausages, buns, and a taco voiced by Salma Hayek is done here, though the sex jokes certainly aren’t limited to them. Swearing invades almost every line of dialogue, and while the words are usually spoken with grace, there were a few times where I got the impression that they were just added to remind us that these characters know swear words. There are ethnic jokes and stereotypes aplenty, from a Jewish bagel (Edward Norton) to a Muslim flatbread (David Krumholtz) to a Native American whisky (Bill Hader) to a black box of grits (Craig Robinson) to the taco again, to many others. Nick Kroll voices a villain, and I’m not comfortable revealing what kind of product he is, but it was the nickname of his character on “Parks and Recreation.” This being a Seth Rogen movie, you can probably imagine that there are a few pot jokes. There’s a celebration toward the end that is frightfully raunchy.
I recommend “Sausage Party” to the right audience – people who like boundary-pushing humor. If you don’t think you’re the right audience for this movie, you probably aren’t. Me, I’m always up for a crude cartoon. I loved the opening musical number and the shameless finale. The script is sharp and the cast has excellent chemistry and timing. The jokes almost always land, and the ones that don’t are bad enough that you can laugh at how bad they are. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat a breakfast sausage.
Three Stars out of Five.
“Sausage Party” is rated R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use. Its running time is 89 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at [email protected].
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