Starring: voices of Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Nick Kroll
Directed by: Greg Tiernan (debut) and Conrad Vernon (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Seth Rogen (“Neighbors 2”), Evan Goldberg (“This is the End”), Kyle Hunter (“The Night Before”) Ariel Shaffir (“The Night Before”)
Ever since the arrival of “Toy Story” two decades ago, computer animated films have routinely included jokes that were arguably just meant for the inevitable adults in the audience. Essentially this is to keep parents entertained while the kids enjoyed whatever Pixar or DreamWorks pumped out, occasionally catching a joke lobbed over the heads of the children in the audience—nothing outright offensive ever makes the cut, but something slightly naughty isn’t off the table.
Perhaps sensing an opening in the market, Sony and frequent collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg set out to fill the void (heh!) and have whipped out (giggle!) an animated movie that adults with a hankering for something filthy they could come to (chortle!) in “Sausage Party,” a movie you definitely shouldn’t take your kids to. Or do, what do I care?
As the inhabitants of a grocery store, various foodstuffs, led by a hot dog named Frank (Seth Rogen) and his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), await their being chosen by the gods (read: humans) to being taken to The Great Beyond (a.k.a. outside the store) to live in paradise. With July 4th rapidly approaching, now is the prime time for hot dogs and buns to make it to eternal salvation. Frank’s faith is rattled, however, when a bottle of honey mustard (Danny McBride) is returned to the store with tales of horror from The Great Beyond. It’s not paradise, it’s a hell where food gets eaten by the gods. Frank and Brenda, along with some Palestinian flat bread (David Krumholtz) and a Jewish bagel (Edward Norton), set out to enlighten the food in the supermarket that the afterlife isn’t like the tales they’ve been told.
While undeniably laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, “Sausage Party” is never quite as funny or quite as edgy as it thinks it is. Viewers could be excused for thinking the film would feature wall-to-wall food sex, thanks to the marketing, but that stuff is saved for after the climax (ha!). What we get instead is vulgar language coming from the mouths of anthropomorphic food and, most unexpectedly, a commentary on the societal dangers of both blind faith and militant atheism—which is a little jarring if you thought you were just coming to watch a movie where a hot dog fucks a bun, you know?
That aside, even at just around 90 minutes, “Sausage Party” starts to drag thanks to a limp (resigned chuckle!) second act that finally gives way to all out weirdness and brutality in a subplot featuring Michael Cera’s Barry, a deformed hot dog who finds out firsthand what happens in The Great Beyond. It’s during a sequence involving a burnout human, a ragtag bunch of junk foods, and the hallucinogenic power of bath salts that the film really turns into the naughty version of a Pixar film promised all along. This sensibility informs the rest of the movie, thankfully, turning the third act into a gleefully demented battle before petering out into some weird stoner shit. That a movie exists where animated grocery items curse, have sex, and engage in racial stereotyping (from a major studio!) is amazing, frankly. With a little more stamina leading up to the climax (heh—wait, used that one) “Sausage Party” could have been legendary.