Shopwell’s supermarket is full of happy groceries, waiting to go to the ‘Great Beyond’. But one day they discover evidence to suggest there is a much darker future in store for them.
In the original Shrek, the Gingerbread Man is tortured by the vile Lord Farquaad. Dunked in milk with his legs ripped off, he’s threatened with even worse bodily harm. “No, not my buttons!” he squeals. “Not my gumdrop buttons!”
It’s apt that Conrad Vernon, the man who both created and voiced ‘Gingy’, is one of the co-directors of Sausage Party. Because, like the scene described above, this unlikeliest of summer-season animations is a weird hybrid of cutesy cartoon and horror flick, a tale in which awful things happen to sentient food products. It is very, very rude. It is also very, very funny. Both are due mostly to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the originators of the project, who decide to spoof the Pixar movies they loved. What if the premise of a film like Toy Story, in which inanimate objects come to terms with the meaning of their existence, was pushed to its logical, dark-as-hell conclusion? There’s an increasing glee to Sausage Party (a tale about pork that’s more sex-obsessed than Porky’s) as it heads towards its demented denouement.
Brought to life by sub-Pixar but decent CGI, it bustles with anthropomorphic edibles. Frank (Seth Rogen) is a sausage with feelings for a hot-dog bun named Brenda (Kristen Wiig). He shares a packet with weenie buddies Barry (Michael Cera) and Carl (Jonah Hill). There’s a tomato voiced by Paul Rudd, a sultry taco with the tones of Salma Hayek, even a Hitler-esque sauerkraut who yells, “Exterminate the juice!” If you’re wondering how many puns on food names there are here, the answer is a lot. For the first stretch, in fact, it seems like that might be all Sausage Party has to offer, besides enough raunch to make a beetroot blush.
Sausage Party is a surprisingly bold piece of work, with some big ideas on its mind.
Gradually, though, it reveals itself to be a surprisingly bold piece of work, with some big ideas on its mind. The return of a panicked jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) to the store, raving about the abuse meted out to food items by humans, triggers an existential crisis in Frank, who sets out to investigate. The concept of organised religion is explored, as the lone sausage tries to convince his blissed-out companions they might be headed not for a glorious afterlife, but rather knife-assisted oblivion. Even the Israel/Palestine conflict is riffed upon, through the unlikely medium of a relationship between a lavash (David Krumholtz) and a bagel (Edward Norton, doing a big, goofy impression of Woody Allen and just about stealing the show).
But Sausage Party’s smarts are well-concealed beneath a layer of utter filth, which ramps up and up until a late set-piece that will likely make you choke with laughter: think Caligula re-enacted by condiments. Bringing to mind the go-for-broke vibe of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the final reel unleashes debauchery and mayhem of a kind that makes you wonder if a studio exec ever checked in on the production. There are barren patches — the villain, an actual douche played as a psychotic frat bro by Nick Kroll, is more loud than funny, and some of the gags have surely come directly from a pack of Christmas crackers — but Rogen and Goldberg have succeeded in cooking up something truly original. The finale, meanwhile, suggests an even more meta sequel might be on its way. We never thought we’d say this, but we’re looking forward to finding out where these sausages go.
It sounded like the dumbest movie of all time, but it’s actually smart, subversive and packed with famous voices saying wonderfully unspeakable things. In fact, it’s a banger.