If you enjoy comedies loaded with rude, crude, and often lewd humor, the adult-oriented, computer-generated, supermarket saga “Sausage Party” (*** OUT OF ****) qualifies as a treat that you may want to savor more than once. Seth Rogen heads a top-notch cast of voice performers, including Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, Harlan Williams, Paul Rudd, Edward Norton, and Salma Hayek, who incarnate grocery store items spouting obscenities about the validity of life after purchase. This imaginative but disconcerting Sony/Columbia Pictures’ release lives up to its R-rating with more vulgar relish than most live-action movies dare. The last time I saw a movie as potentially offensive as “Sausage Party” was “South Park” creator Trey Parker’s sarcastic “Team America: World Police” (2004) where puppets performed degrading acts of all kinds on themselves. Initially, “Sausage Party” reminded me of those popular Pixar kid comedies about cars and dolls that have acquired the power of reason and behave as if they were human. Mind you, parents should NOT take their children to see “Sausage Party” unless they want to contend with questions about theology, aberrant sexuality, and the abuse of bath salts as a recreational drug alternative. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg said that they sought to make the equivalent of a Pixar blockbuster but with a scatological spin. Actually, the whole thing looks like an extended California Raisins cartoon, right down to the white gloves that many characters wear. Clocking in at a lean 83-minutes, “Sausage Party” amounts to a clever Pixar parody from fade-in to fadeout unless its fundamentally blasphemous agenda alienates you. Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens would likely applaud it for its atheism. Not since Woody Allen has anybody tried to ponder issues about life and death and the whole damn thing as much as co-directors Greg Tiernan of the “Thomas & Friends” series and Conrad Vernon of “Shrek 2,” along with scenarists Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg. While the animated supermarket products yearn to be purchased and redeemed by the gods before their shelf life expiration date, “Sausage Party” also contains a conventional heroes versus villains narrative. Ultimately, humor and good taste unravel toward the end when the filmmakers go overboard with an orgy to end all orgies. How “Sausage Party” avoided an NC-17 rating is a mystery.
Set during the Fourth of July holiday, “Sausage Party” unfolds inside a sprawling Shopwell’s supermarket, but additional scenes occur in the suburbs, too. Everything is told from the perspective of supermarket items whether they be fruits, meats, vegetables, liquids, cookies, candies, and/or cleaning products. A hotdog named Frank (Seth Rogen of “Knocked Up”), cannot wait to snuggle up with the dame of his dreams, Brenda (Kristen Wiig of “Ghostbusters”), a voluptuous Betty Boop-type bun with lipstick and eyelashes. Frank is stuck in a Fancy Dogs’ package of frankfurters near Brenda’s package of Glamorous Buns, and these two ogle each other like hormone-addled teenagers. Indeed, “Sausage Party” is an anthropomorphic allegory where frankfurters, buns, bagels, jars of honey mustard, cookies, cleaning products, and imperishables discuss their fate as if they were human. At the same time, humans dominate this skewered universe. However, the supermarket items and the humans cannot communicate with each other, unless the humans inject themselves with bath salts. At this point, things get hopelessly absurd. Of course, nothing about abusing bath salts is remotely facetious, but “Sausage Party” uses bath salts as a gag. Predictably, actor James Franco voices the anonymous individual named Druggie who discovers to his horror that he can converse with a hotdog after he shoots up with bath salts. Meantime, what is genuinely hilarious is watching various goofy food items nestled around a campfire smoking marijuana. When was the last time that you saw a frankfurter getting stoned in a movie? Anyway, our hero and heroine live in a warped world where they believe that the humans who shop for them are actually gods. Furthermore, our hero and heroine believe that if they are ripe enough and fresh enough these hallowed gods will choose them and literally take them to ‘The Great Beyond’ where they will attain celestial fulfillment. Everything comes crashing down when a human accidentally buys the wrong kind of mustard and brings his jar of honey mustard back to exchange it for regular mustard. The jar of honey mustard surprises everybody with his shocking revelations about what really occurs after purchase. Later, we are shown what happens after these happy items arrive at homemaker’s kitchen. At this point, “Sausage Party” turns into an amusing but eerie parody of a torture-porn horror epic. Miraculously, one hotdog manages to escape this slaughter-house scene whereupon he encounters Druggie.
Unmistakably, “Sausage Party” isn’t geared for everybody. Some scenes are so outlandish that you cannot help but laugh. At the same time, you find yourself chuckling perhaps at stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily treat with such levity. The melodrama in “Sausage Party” concerns a Douche, female hygiene bottle, who dreams lustily about the woman who added him to her shopping cart. She has also chosen the demoralized jar of honey mustard, and it decides to commit suicide by jumping out of her shopping cart. Frank and Brenda struggle to save him, but fail when another shopping cart collides with them. Everything turns upside down. Frank and Brenda topple from the cart along with other food items. The scene is reminiscent of “Saving Private Ryan” with a can of noodles scraping his noodles together and tucking them back inside his ruptured canister. Before it is all over with, Frank and Brenda lead a revolt against mankind while a pink, paraplegic blob of gum imitating Stephen Hawking engineers a “Stargate” escape archway out of a toilet rim trimmed with Christmas lights to transport them to friendlier universe. As sacrilegious as it is sidesplitting, “Sausage Party” provides summer moviegoers with a drastic change of pace from the habitual Hollywood hokum.
“Your imagination can take you where nothing else can.” Van Roberts