“Sausage Party” gives new meaning to the term “food porn.” This cheerfully crude and raunchy comedy about the secret life of supermarket products reveals they all pretty much have one thing on their minds, and it isn’t their nutritional value.
The hot dog Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen) can’t wait to jump into Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a curvaceous bun. And she’s just as eager as he is to make a sandwich. Their big moment will come when they are “chosen” — plucked off the shelf by one of the giant creatures they refer to as gods (but we recognize as ordinary people) and whisked away to a glorious Great Beyond.
The premise of “Sausage Party” is inherently absurd. The food and other products (including a used condom, an old wad of chewing gum that used to be stuck under Stephen Hawking’s desk and an angry bottle of douche) live in an alternate reality that exists alongside our own. They can see us, but we can’t see them move or talk. Unlike “Toy Story,” in which toys were sentient beings that only pretended to be inanimate when human beings were around, “Sausage Party” is nonsensical, a setup for a long string of verbal, visual and gross-out gags, loosely wrapped around a semblance of a story.
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The movie, which Rogen co-wrote with three of his frequent collaborators (including Evan Goldberg, of “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express”), isn’t intended to be thought about too closely or to be watched with a clear, sober mind. “Sausage Party” opens with a big musical number (the score was co-written by Oscar winner Alan Menken, of “The Little Mermaid” fame) that lays out its premise and introduces its main players, all of whom anticipate the great adventures that lie outside the store.
In the film’s funniest sequence, one of Frank’s fellow wieners (Michael Cera) discovers what really awaits on the other side: a chamber of horrors — a kitchen — in which a potato is skinned and boiled, baby carrots are eaten alive and frankfurters are sliced, bisected and mutilated. The scene plays out like an alternate version of Eli Roth’s “Hostel” only starring food. It’s a funny bit of business. But like too much of “Sausage Party,” it also comes off as an idea that’s been jammed into a movie stitched together from disparate parts and slathered in raunch dressing.
“Sausage Party” was directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, who have a great time spoofing the structure and formulas of contemporary animated pictures. They just can’t justify the existence of their own film: If Pixar had never existed, neither would this movie. “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut,” released in 1999 and the last R-rated cartoon comedy released by a major Hollywood studio, was a shrewd extension of the still-thriving TV series that explored the boundaries of good taste and what constitutes “proper” entertainment. It also happened to be a fantastic musical stuffed with funny, memorable songs.
By comparison, “Sausage Party” comes off as an exercise in shock value performed by some sharp, smart actors. A bagel (Edward Norton) and a lavash (David Krumholtz) bicker about having to share shelf space. The sauerkraut sings about exterminating the juice. A bottle of “firewater” booze (Bill Hader) smokes a peace pipe loaded with pot. A lesbian taco shell (Salma Hayek) puts the moves on Brenda, undeterred by the bun’s lack of interest. “Sausage Party” gets away with being offensive by offending everybody, as if the filmmakers were checking off a list to make sure no one was forgotten. Mission accomplished. If watching cartoon characters spout four-letter words is your thing, this might well be the greatest movie ever made.
Voices: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz, Paul Rudd, Salma Hayek, Bill Hader, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Nick Kroll.
Directors: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan.
Screenwriters: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg.
A Columbia Pictures release. Running time: 88 minutes. Pervasive vulgar language, cartoon violence, graphic sexual situations, drug use, bad puns, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.