I was rather surprised by how much I enjoyed the last half…okay, the last 40 minutes of Sausage Party, which I caught last night at the big Westwood premiere. (It runs 88 minutes.) You’re presumably aware that the title refers to a festive, combative gathering among supermarket foodstuffs that leads to revolution against the humans and finally an X-rated food orgy…hot dogs, buns, pears and tacos harpooning and going down on each other like the friends of Sasha Grey or…whatever, sunglass-wearing actors in a 1950s black-and-white stag film.
Yeah, I know — idiotic and dopey but “out there,” nervy, stoned, spirited, fourth-wall-breaking, committed.
It’s the first non-indie, corporate-funded animated laugher I’ve been more or less okay with since…God, I’ve been off the animation boat for so long I can’t remember. I can’t honestly say that I laughed very much at Sausage Party. But I was more and more impressed by the audacity of it. It’s an original, and you don’t come out of animated films saying that very much these days.
I expected to half-hate it because of the ludicrous premise (packaged, corporate-processed foodstuffs with voices, personalities, emotions, lives, souls, dreams) and the bone dumb set-up about the “Great Beyond”, which is a myth among foodstuffs that something awesome and adventurous happens when food is bought and taken home by humans. The grim reality eventually settles in among the foodies, and then it becomes “are we going to take charge of our own lives and push back against the giants who want only to crush us with their disgusting teeth and jaw muscles and swallow us and turn us to stomach mush and God-knows-what-else, or are we going to fight back?”
It’s completely ridiculous but I went with it. I submitted. And then comes an orgy that might raise the staff of the 87-year-old Radley Metzger, who, yes, is still with us.
Some guy wrote that it’s “part Toy Story, part The Lego Movie, part Team America and part Book Of Mormon, all with the sheen and vigor of Chuck Jones animation.” He doesn’t mention that it devolves into flat-out cartoon porn at the end — an animated Caligula meets Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza‘s The Aristocrats (’05).
It’s no secret that I despise family-friendly animated features, but this isn’t for families. Okay, take your eight-year-old kid…fine with me. I’m sure he/she will be into an insane, gradually exhilarating squishy sex orgy + people’s revolution supermarket fantasy, dreamt up and created by stoners (producer-screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon) and definitely profane from the get-go.
Is it “funny”? Well, that’s up to you. Does it make sense as a parable of some kind, perhaps a reflection of some aspect of our own tortured existence? Definitely not. But does it go boldly into realms you’ve never seen or (heh-heh) tasted before? Yes, and it’s worth seeing for that.
Two and a half months ago I complained about what appeared to be Sausage Party‘s basic set-up. I said that in an animated make-believe realm anything can walk and talk except processed foods, which of course never had and never could have souls of their own. “The idea that foodstuffs are cute little quipsters with souls, personalities, hopes, dreams and crushes on would-be girlfriends is pathetic,” I wrote. Well, it somehow manages to not be pathetic in the film. Absurd, yes, but somehow digestible.
And somehow or other it becomes possible to process Sausage Party as a revolt against the whole corporate processed-food industry. Or against overfed humans and their appalling diets. Or against tepid, family-friendly animated features. Or perhaps a combination of all three.
The voice-acting by Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton and Salma Hayek is amusing, engaging, first-rate.
I’ve never seen a rickety old 16mm stag film but I’d like to — are they purchasable?