Sunday, September 18, 2016
‘Sausage Party’ is wrong on every aisle. Hell, it’s wrong on every shelf, refrigerated section, display unit and available till. It’s wrong up and down the store and right out into the car park. You could even say that it makes the entire concept of consumable goods and retail outlets seem wrong.
It’s also – when you get beyond the coarse language, the racial stereotypes, the frequently grotesque imagery and the food porn orgy that acts as the film’s literal climax – smarter than it has any right to be, as well as being genuinely funny.
(A word on the racial stereotypes: ‘Sausage Party’ deals in equal opportunity offensiveness. Every nationality gets it, from the Hitlerian German products to Great Britain’s representation as an aisle of tea bags – and, yes, they aver a preference for tea-bagging. This, then, isn’t the obvious puerile point-scoring of, say, Charlie Hebdo where the gays and the Muslims are singled out for a bashing time after time while everyone outside of the immediate hate-speak demographic gets away scot free.)
Plotwise, things begin with the unrequited passion between hotdog sausage Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen) and hotdog bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig), who are convinced that they’ll find consummation when they’re picked by some happy shopper and taken into the Great Beyond (the sun-dappled expanse outside the car park). Thanks to a Disney-esque song intoned by the comestibles just prior to opening time every morning, all the products on sale in a Walmart-like store believe something transcendental awaits. Rather than the food processor, the oven or the pan of boiling water.
The first crack in the fabric of their collective delusion occurs when a jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) is returned to the store. Suffering the food version of PTSD, it struggles to enunciate the horrors it’s witnessed. Its warnings are further detracted from by a shopping trolley collision – played out in hilariously bad taste as a spoof of the opening sequence of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ – which leaves various food products dead (the bananas who unpeel to reveal ghost faces are fucking creepier than any horror movie I’ve seen this year), injured or thrown loose from their packaging and desperate to get back to their aisle before they’re swept up and binned. It also leaves an anal douche (Nick Kroll) damaged and denied procurement by a particularly amply proportioned lady. The douche blames Frank for the collision and swears revenge.
Meanwhile, Frank’s slightly deformed fellow sausage Barry (Michael Cera) undergoes an equally onerous misadventure that takes him from the environs of the store to a middle class suburb home then across the city and into the shitty apartment of a stoner (James Franco) whose copious intake of hallucinogenic substances renders him able to see the food in its anthropomorphosised state. The half-dead pizza slice that crawls its way across the greasy box, berating him for eating its legs) proves quite the head-fuck for him. Barry witnesses human/food brutality at first hand and encounters a Stephen Hawking-like piece of gum (Scott Underwood) who provides scientific enlightenment at odds with the quasi-religious indoctrination that has kept the food happy and malleable back at the store.
In the meantime, Frank and Brenda join forces with ideologically divided Jewish bread product Sammy Bagel Jnr (Edward Norton) and Muslim lavash Kareem (David Krumholz) – “you have occupied the whole of the west aisle” the latter opines – as well as lesbian taco Teresa (Salma Hayek) who has the hot tamales for Brenda.
I sincerely apologise for typing that last sentence.
How Frank and co. and Barry and his rag-tag crew of new acquaintances reunite – Barry having surfed a character arc from chicken-livered short-arse to Guevara-like revolutionary – essentially forms a quest narrative, with both sausages essentially seeking enlightenment. Barry, as noted, achieves his scientifically (albeit with a large dollop of vengeful hatred), Frank via a trippy encounter with a bottle of firewater (Bill Hader) and a power ballad sung by a meat loaf. The meat loaf would do anything for love but he wouldn’t d--- … but you saw that one coming, didn’t you?
‘Sausage Party’ is a blunt and frequently unsophisticated movie – let’s face it, this flick offers a talking condom (post-use, I hasten to add) and a toilet roll that cringes away from Barry, declaring “you don’t want to know” what it’s been through – whose co-directors (Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon) and co-writers (Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) seem hellbent on offending just about everyone. But damned if they don’t – almost by accident – create a cluster of characters who are so winningly brought to life that you can’t help but root for them. Not only this, but they achieve the kind of pro-atheism argument that would make Bill Maher weep. Kareem’s reluctant relinquishing of the seventy-seven bottles of extra virgin olive oils waiting for him in the Great Beyond (“but my flaps will be dry! I cannot have dry flaps!”) should, on paper, be Islamophobia writ large; but between Krumholz’s performance and the fact that the same stick is applied equally to all characters, it’s an oddly poignant moment.
The final unity of the foodstuff – all belief systems scrapped in the face of a common enemy – is a thing of beauty, a Marxist victory rendered as if Leni Reifenstahl’s politics had swung to the polar opposite. The means by which the victory is celebrated, however, doesn’t so much cross the boundaries of good taste as demolish them. It makes ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ look like a teddy bears’ picnic and the hardened carnivore might find him or herself considering the hitherto unthinkable option of vegetarianism.
But even then, what happens to the carrots … Oh dear God, won’t somebody think of the carrots?!?!