If you’re a sucker for anthropomorphized household items, you’ll like Sausage Party. If you’re a sucker for anthropomorphized household items and dick jokes, you’ll absolutely love it. The CG-animated film about a group of sausages who yearn to tear off their packaging and get “five inches deep in some buns” definitely earns its R rating and then some. But what starts as a grab bag of sex-related sausage puns becomes a (very silly) meditation on religion, atheism, and genocide — pretty heavy stuff for a movie that ends with a cross-product orgy that makes the puppet sex from Team America: World Police look positively PG.
Seth Rogen — who wrote the movie along with Evan Goldberg, Ariel Shaffir, and Kyle Hunter — voices Frank, a happy little sausage who lives in a big suburban grocery store called Shopwell’s. His love interest is a shapely hot dog bun named Brenda, voiced by Kristen Wiig. The action begins the day before “red white and blue day,” i.e., the Fourth of July, when Frank and his fellow wieners are sure to be picked by one of “the gods” (humans) and finally leave the bounds of the grocery store for “the Great Beyond.”
Sausage Party — which was very obviously written by four white guys — is not without its sticky spots. Nick Kroll is the voice of Douche, an obnoxious feminine hygiene product who can’t wait to get up in the crotch of a customer with an exaggeratedly wide bottom; I’m not sure the repeated close-up shots of her camel toe were necessary, and it’s equally unclear why the hot dog buns have tits. (God, this is a fun review to write.) Who even uses douching products anymore? And who the hell buys it at the grocery store?
But jokes about “raw dogging” and “tight” buns are not all the film has to offer. It gets brutal: The garbage bin is a black hole from which no one comes back; when a customer returns a jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride), he’s a jittery, post-traumatic mess (“Nobody fucking touch me!”) who’s learned the truth about what happens to Shopwell’s inhabitants in the Great Beyond. When a shopping cart is knocked over and the food items fall out, the grocery store becomes a battlefield, a dusting of flour coating the shell-shocked products. An Oreo picks up a cookie that’s fallen off her back; an intact jar of peanut butter weeps over a broken jar of jelly. A leaking juice box is a fallen soldier, bleeding out.
The war analogy persists throughout the movie, which also leans heavily on a hodgepodge of broad ethnic stereotypes. Firewater, a wise bottle of liquor voiced with a Native American accent by Bill Hader, tells Frank that he and Grits (Craig Robinson) were kicked out of their original aisle to make room for crackers.
David Krumholtz voices a Middle Eastern flatbread named Vash (as in lavash) who dreams of the 77 bottles of extra-virgin olive oil that will surely greet him in the afterlife; he spends the movie feuding with the Woody Allen-esque Sammy Bagel Jr. (Ed Norton). They don’t appreciate having to share an aisle, although they discover they have a mutual friend in hummus. Eventually, Frank convinces the foodstuffs to band together to fight their common enemy — humans, who just keep getting fatter and more powerful with every item they consume, according to Firewater: “Every kill makes them stronger and it’s never enough!”
Some of these cultural riffs are iffy at best: A bottle of tequila speaks with a hyperbolic Spanish accent, and has a vaguely rape-y vibe when he approaches Brenda during a party in the liquor aisle. And Vash goes on a little too frequently about “loose morals.” These characters may earn some outrage in the days to come, although it’s hard to imagine anyone who paid to see a Seth Rogen film called Sausage Party being seriously affronted.
Besides, the movie has so much fun with its concept, and is so gloriously silly in its execution, it’s hard to muster up any real indignation. American grocery stores — like the country itself — are very much divided by ethnicity, so the persistent tribal categorizing makes sense in context, and becomes integral to the movie’s “make love, not war” ethos. The movie is a clarion call for sexual liberation, imploring us to tear off the confines of our packaging and be whoever we want to be. By the time Sausage Party reaches its, heh, climax with a storewide food fuck fest, any attempt at a serious critique of its interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict feels a little ridiculous.
Cleanup on Aisle Four, indeed.