Creative, original, funny, well acted, inventive, thoughtful. If I used those words to describe a movie, you would probably be saying to yourself, “that’s a film I would like to see”. But what if I then added the following: crude, obscene, suggestive, raunchy, and perverse. Hmmm…maybe you would be reconsidering. Therein lies the contradiction of ‘Sausage Party’, the animated film from the dementedly creative minds that gave you ‘Superbad’, ‘Pineapple Express’, ‘The End’ and other films best categorized as ‘slacker comedy’. Yes, this is certainly a very funny film, and the concept of questioning the meaning of life and what lies beyond it through the minds of inanimate objects brought to life is brilliant. But I think I know my audience pretty well, and its going to be hard for me to recommend this one without a BIG warning: you will see and hear more f-bombs, sexual situations, gross images and politically incorrect language than you have in a very long time. I’m just sayin’.
‘Sausage Party’ builds from the premise that the food we so casually purchase at the grocery does, in fact, have a life of its own. Packed into the shelves, and with lots of time to kill when the store is closed at night, the food has created a mythology of what lies outside the front doors of the supermarket. That ‘Great Beyond’ is the goal of every item on the shelves – to be selected by one of the gods with shopping carts and transported into that beautifully perceived Valhalla beyond the doors. I probably don’t need to beat any horses to make it clear just what this metaphor represents, do I?
But suddenly, things begin to come undone the day before the great July Forth Rapture. Our hero, Frank the hotdog (Seth Rogen) and the partner he has yearned to settle into (get it?), Bunny (Kristen Wigg) are warned by a jar of honey mustard returned to the store by mistake that life in the Great Beyond may not be quite as they expected. And when the bootylicious housewife (hey, I warned you) takes her bags of groceries home and starts slicing everyone up in preparation for her Fourth of July picnic, the groceries are presented with a very simple choice: flee or die.
The next hour or so of the film is dedicated to the animated equivalent of a bedroom farce cum car chase, as the various foods flee for their lives, return to the grocery to warn the rest of their fellow foods, and discover ways to, literally, return the favor of being sliced, chopped, fried and boiled to their human overlords. Along the way, we are treated to assorted political and sexual perversions (often at the same time -- for example, Arab lavash having gay sex with Jewish bagels in this world); innuendo-filled sight gags; obscene rants; and drug fueled escapes into fantasy.
I won’t deny that all of this can be very funny at times. And the voiceovers are excellent, particularly Rogen, Wigg, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and many other great comic actors: everyone is here somewhere. But it begins to be a bit too much after awhile. It’s like the writers took EVERY gag, idea, or bit that they had ever written in their notebooks and decided to cram it all into ninety minutes of film time. Taking a drink from a fire hose can quench your thirst for a moment. But it quickly starts to feel like water boarding. That was my primary reaction to ‘Sausage Party’. I’m no prude, and I can enjoy bad language, gore and sex in context and in moderation – remember my fawning review of ‘Deadpool’? But like so many other things in life, too much of anything is just – too much.
So once again, you have to make up your own mind. If a constant stream of bad language and bad behavior – even from animated performers – offends you, I don’t think ‘Sausage Party’ is going to be your cup of tea. But if you love a good slacker comedy now and then, this is a very good one. As the saying goes, “you pays your money, and you takes your choice”.
P.S. Starting next Friday, I will be at the Telluride Film Festival. While I won’t have time to write my typical long form reviews for every film – I expect to see at least 15 over the 3-½ days of the Festival – I do plan to write daily updates along the way. I will particularly focus on films that will appear at ‘Telluride at Dartmouth’, so that my local readers can decide which of the six films to prioritize. Wish me luck – and really good coffee!