Has there ever been a film as patently conceived of while stoned as Sausage Party?
While most of us would have had a bit of a giggle at the thought of sentient food reacting with horror at the prospect of being eaten – and then probably gone and ordered some pizza – Seth Rogen went and made a movie out of it. So much for weed robbing you of initiative.
Though reportedly inspired by Disney’s habit of cutely anthropomorphising inanimate objects, Sausage Party would have Walt turning in his cryogenic tube. Essentially Toy Story meets Pineapple Express, the only thing cruder than the animation is the sense of humour; though for all the profanity, sex, and violence, it ends up being surprisingly sweet.
Frank is a hotdog, voiced by Rogen himself, whose only goal in life is, as with all hotdogs, to end up inside a bun; specifically his girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig) whose package sits next to his on the Fourth of July display in Shopwell’s supermarket. The whole store is united in a rhapsodic belief in The Great Beyond, the glorious paradise to which all good food will be transported by the Gods. To this extent, they open each day with a song of worship (sample lyric: “The Gods will always care for us, they won’t squeeze us out their butts”).
More than just a blunt (pun semi-intended) critique of organised religion, Sausage Party is also full to bursting with cultural stereotypes that could well be offensive were they not so broad and good-natured.
On their journey back to their aisle following a tragic trolley accident, Frank and Brenda are joined by Sammy Bagel, Jr. (Edward Norton – yep, that Edward Norton – doing his best Woody Allen) and Kareem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz), an intolerant lavash bread who believes that in the Great Beyond he will be bathed in 77 bottles of extra-virgin olive oil and accuses the bagels of colonising the whole west side of the aisle.
The general level of humour – co-written by writer-producers Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, as well as Rogen and longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg – rarely rises above the obvious, though the film definitely enthusiastically commits to every gag. Food puns and plentiful swearing are the orders of the day. The non-human villain is a vengeful douche named Douche (Nick Kroll) who gains strength from “juicing” – literally draining the fluid from his fellow disposables.
As the cast are variously sliced, diced, skinned, and crunched, though, the film’s ultimate goal is revealed: this is a battle for survival and it’s Food V. Man.
Sausage Party takes its concept and pushes it about as far as it can go. No rock cake is left unturned in its pursuit of laughs – or groans. There’s a lustful lesbian taco named Teresa (Selma Hayek). There’s a stubby sausage called Barry (an, as usual, endearing Michael Cera) who argues for girth over length. The film’s title is a dick joke that Rogen has been claiming as his next project Knocked Up and it all culminates – spoiler! – in the most audacious sex scene since Team America. This is literal food porn and about hardcore as you can get when dealing with animated foodstuffs, and, what’s more, it’s only a 15 certificate!
While the film leaves itself open to a fourth-wall-busting sequel that promises, if anything, even more absurdity, this may well be a pop culture phenomenon that won’t bear repeating. Its box office success – $130 million to date on a budget of under $20 million – would seem to be based in novelty value and, unlike the Shrek sequels, there’s no relying on the undemanding family audience.
Sausage Party is broad, profane, and frequently very amusing, but, when all is said and done, there’s no need to make a meal of it.