After writing and producing hilarious, raunch-filled comedies like Pineapple Express and This is the End, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are back with Sausage Party, an R-rated CG-animated story about sentient grocery store items that long to be “chosen” and taken to the “great beyond” that lies outside the walls of the supermarket. The film’s bright colors and goofy character designs may look suspiciously like something that Dreamworks or Pixar would have cooked up, but the script (co-written by Rogen, Goldberg, Ariel Shaffer and Kyle Hunter) is stuffed to the gills with an exhausting amount of adult content that will be guaranteed to offend just about everyone.
Sausage Party establishes its tone immediately, opening with a cheery Alan Menken number that quickly devolves into a barrage of F-bombs and features a goose-stepping bottle of sauerkraut with a Hitler mustache who threatens to “exterminate the juice.” We’re then introduced to Frank (Rogen), a sausage whose only desire is to get inside a bun – in this case, the sweet and shapely Brenda (Kristen Wiig), whose package resides next to Frank’s on a massive 4th of July display. When they’re both selected by one of the “gods” (humans who shop in the store), it seems like Frank and Brenda will finally be together – until a jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride), recently returned by a customer, tries to warn them of the true horrors that await outside and then hurls himself out of the shopping cart to his death on the floor below.
In the ensuing chaos (which resembles a battle scene from Saving Private Ryan, where a mangled can of soup frantically tries to stuff its noodles back into its body), Frank and Brenda are separated from their packages, forced to wander the aisles while listening to a bagel (Edward Norton, doing a spot-on Woody Allen impression) argue over territory with a lavash wrap (David Krumholz) who dreams of the 72 bottles of extra-virgin olive oil awaiting him in the Great Beyond. And just in case these exaggerated stereotypes aren’t enough, keep an eye out for a box of grits (Craig Robinson) harboring a nasty hatred of crackers, and a sleepy-eyed bottle of tequila with a sombrero and a thick Mexican accent.
There’s plenty about Sausage Party that doesn’t work, as the film seems intent on constantly reminding the audience of its R-rating by peppering in an unnecessary amount of vulgarity that rarely manages to be generate laughs. But when the film stops trying so hard, it boasts some truly standout moments, including a perfectly timed reference to an iconic rock musician and an homage to Terminator 2 that elicited a round of applause from our theater. Also worth mentioning is Nick Kroll’s brilliant performance as the film’s primary villain: a swaggering, roided-out douche, both literally and figuratively.
Buried deep within Sausage Party‘s nonstop swearing and perpetual fascination with sex between food items also lies an interesting, if not fully realized, question about the merits of blindly following one’s faith. When Frank discovers the truth about the “gods,” he tries to warn his fellow grocery store residents, but even when presented with unequivocal proof, they refuse to even consider the idea that story they’ve been telling themselves for so long might actually be a lie – believing in “happy thoughts,” even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary (not to mention dire consequences) seems much easier than being faced with difficult questions about the true nature of the world. Unfortunately, this concept isn’t really explored beyond surface level, leaving the whole idea feeling a bit half-baked. There’s also a tepid message about being respectful of everyone’s beliefs, even when they differ from your own, but it’s not really given enough weight to be effective because the film is far more interested in getting back to the profanity.
Even when Sausage Party misses the mark, there’s no denying that it’s Rogen and Goldberg’s most ambitious effort yet. Working in a new medium has obviously stoked their creative fire, and there are moments in this film that are among the most outrageous I’ve ever seen on a theater screen. Spectacularly offensive and undeniably funny, it’s unlike any animated film you’ve ever experienced, and when it finally reaches the third-act climax (trust me, that’s the best possible descriptor) you’ll have no idea whether to laugh or cringe, and those images will stick with you long after the credits roll.