Sausage Party is what would happen if everyone at Pixar had syphilis. It is raunchy in a way that shocked even an old hand like myself, it’s non-stop funny and it takes the basic premise of all ‘talking object’ movies - what if Item X were really alive? - to an incredible philosophical conclusion that will forever shatter the way you look at the Toy Story movies. And it does it all while creating a plea for tolerance and rationality that is cloaked in an endless series of ethnic jokes, each more delightful than the last.
Seth Rogen is Frank, a hot dog who lives in a package in a supermarket. The food in the supermarket all has one goal: to be chosen by the Gods who shop there and to be taken out of the doors into the Great Beyond, where the food will live on forever in happiness. Next to Frank is a package of buns, and he’s fallen in love with Kristen Wiig’s Brenda, and he knows it’s his destiny to slide deep inside of her. But all of the happy beliefs of the food are called into question when a jar of honey mustard gets returned to the store, carrying with him a horrifying message: the Gods are monsters, and they take the foods out of the supermarket to slice, dice, rend, tear, boil, char, and eat them. Everything they believed was untrue, and there is no hope in the world.
Frank and Brenda get separated from their friends when a God chooses the two packages, and they end up on an odyssey in the grocery store, trying to get to the bottom of it all. Along the way they pick up a bickering pair of breads - Bagel, played by Edward Norton in a constant and hilarious Woody Allen impression, and Lavash, played by David Krumholtz - and a lesbian taco shell, played with sensual delight by Salma Hayek, and together they must outwit an angry bottle of douche (Nick Kroll, in full Bobby Bottleservice mode) who believes Frank and Brenda ruined his life. They also meet up with Firewater (Bill Hader), a bottle of Native American-themed booze, who may have some of the answers to the existential questions that plague them.
Sausage Party is animated in a style that reminds me of the Veggie Tales movies, and I’m sure that’s not coincidental. Where those movies preach Christian morals, Sausage Party’s script (by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir) goes for a deep atheist message - or maybe more correctly a gnostic/Satanic one. The movie posits a world where the gods are horrors, creation is inherently unfair and shitty, and the fact that we suppress our own sensual instincts because of religion keeps us in endless misery. Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, said Aleister Crowley, and I think he would have appreciated Sausage Party’s ultimate message.
But the movie isn’t a polemic (in fact, Frank has to learn that people don’t want polemics) - it’s totally fucking hilarious. What’s amazing about Sausage Party is that it manages to have this heady undercurrent while being jam-packed with really, truly dumb jokes. The jokes come at an incredible pace, with the movie throwing so many at you that if some don’t hit they simply give you a chance to catch your breath for the next big laugh. Some of the jokes are subtle, some are groaningly punny, some are deeply dopey dad jokes, and some are just absolute shockers. Most of them are treading in offensive waters, and I suspect that some younger, more sensitive audiences will find an awful lot of reasons to be outraged by the film’s Catskills comic level of dedication to ethnic humor.
But here’s the thing: people would shit themselves if Blazing Saddles came out today. Twitter would melt the fuck down over the racial comedy and commentary in Mel Brooks’ classic. Sausage Party isn’t Blazing Saddles, but it’s certainly the most Blazing Saddles movie to come down the pike in a long, long time. Like Brooks, Sausage Party directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon mix highbrow jokes with totally cheap gross-out gags, and like Brooks they’ve made a movie that steps right into dangerous territory in order to directly confront it. The ethnic jokes in Sausage Party aren’t just there because they’re funny - and holy shit are many of them unbelievably funny - they’re there because the script is directly engaging what they mean. This is a movie where all the different foods are split up into aisles, and each food has a dedication to its own aisle, and each aisle has its own beliefs and religion, and Frank travels through them all trying to bring everybody together. The movie is, in its own jokey way, celebrating the differences among nations and peoples while also reminding us that those differences are only skin deep. We’re connected on a deeper, more profound level.
So yeah, your woke Millennial friend might very well bolt out of the theater quite early (maybe even in the opening song, which has Nazi sauerkraut singing about exterminating the juice and has soy sauce talking in a real Charlie Chan accent) but they’re going to miss the whole point of the movie, which is actually pretty woke in general.
I laughed and laughed throughout Sausage Party, but more than that I walked out stunned at how smart and subversive the movie is, and shocked at how absolutely fucking bananas (no, not the actual fruit, although they do come into play) the ending is. Sausage Party is a great comedy because it’s willing to go too far to land a joke but it’s still interested in doing more than making you laugh. I didn’t see this coming, but Sausage Party might be one of the great films of the year.