The thoughtful meditation on faith, food, and fucking that is Sausage Party

Like a high-priced dominatrix with a PhD in Comparative Literature, Sausage Party is as thoughtful as it is naughty.

Let me put it this way. It’s a film which contains a complicated and nuanced discussion of the way religion interacts with society. It’s also an animated film with a near 1:1 pun-to-joke ratio and the most graphic sexual acts ever depicted between talking cartoon foodstuffs. If you contain those kind of multitudes, this is a movie for you.

From the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, as well as the shockingly child-friendly until now animation hands of Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, Sausage Party tackles the Pixar question of “What if X had feelings?” by plugging in the variable of food. In the world crafted, food can’t wait to be purchased, as they believe that we humans are Gods, and that we will take them to “The Great Beyond,” an afterlife where all their dreams will come true.

We zero in on one such dream, that of Frank (Seth Rogen), a sausage in love with Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a sexy young bun. Frank and Brenda can’t wait to go to The Great Beyond because it means that Frank can finally slide up inside Brenda. But when a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) returns from the Great Beyond and tells our foodstuffs that they’re going off to slaughter.

Which, spoiler alert for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of eating, they are.

When Frank and Brenda are taken out of their packages and thrown into the wild world of the grocery store, Frank is sparked by the actions of Honey Mustard to investigate his claims and see if the Great Beyond really is all that the groceries think it is. There’s also a vicious Douche (Nick Kroll) running around seeking revenge on Frank and Brenda after Frank ruined his nozzle.

So, for anyone who wasn’t aware of this movie up until now, I might have just lost you. The description is undeniably…stupid. That’s kind of the mode Sausage Party has chosen to operate in. It’s a smart film wrapped in a candy coating of stupid, which is undeniably going to be part of the barrier in getting this thing in with the general public.

Now, I don’t think that necessarily should. Stupid in comedy can be a lot of fun, and Sausage Party hits stupid in a way that’s undeniably fun. The jokes fly fairly fast and furious, and the majority dance around some lizard part of your brain that can’t help but react to everything. It has the feeling of a group of wealthy teenagers playing around with what makes them laugh and it’s finding a lot of success with that. It’s a great time to see what makes funny people laugh amongst themselves, and Sausage Party leans closer to the best of alt-comedy in that respect, rather than something like “Garth and Kat” or “The Californians”.

It’s a film that probably hits as a comedy about 85% of the time, which is a great batting average. When Sausage Party hits its highs though, damn does it really hit some highs. Most jokes elicit a small laugh or a “hey, that’s fun,” but its best jokes induce near-asphyxiating laughter. The aforementioned orgy sequence is one of the most insane, depraved things I’ve ever seen in a major studio release. It’s the kind of sequence that makes an argument for adult animation as a key part of comedy and as something that can still push boundaries even so long after we still feel like it’s hard to be shocked.

Is it consistent? Hell, no. Even at 90 minutes, the film feels as though it stretches its joke capabilities to the limits and the pun-averse (those poor unfortunate souls) may find themselves rolling their eyes. And the Blazing Saddles-level of offensive humor is going to turn people off, and I don’t necessarily blame them. The defense of “It’s just jokes” or “It’s being used to make a larger point” is hard to listen to over and over again.

On the other hand, yes, “It’s being used to make a larger point” is a part of this film. I’ve discussed the candy-coating of stupid, let’s dive into the chocolatey-core of thought.

This candy metaphor doing anything for you? No? Okay, cool.

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have quietly become one of the entertainment world’s most potent commentators on faith, from an atheist perspective, with works like This is the End, Preacher, and now Sausage Party.

Yep, the movie about food with gloves that fuck really is about faith.

Specifically, it’s about what Rogen and Goldberg believe the belief in afterlife and in a moral system contingent on that reward does to society.  Their belief system is outlined in a song they sing every morning, which is revealed to be created in the hopes of hiding the horrible truth of what the “Gods” do to them.

The foodstuffs molded the song from the original, each fitting their specific tribalistic needs and beliefs. It’s created a lot of infighting and a number of rituals that essentially revolve around denying what’s ultimately wanted or needed by the food. Essentially, Rogen’s positing that religion is an ultimate symptom of an inherently tribalistic nature and part of what drives our differences.

Which yes, is why the film loves to indulge in stereotype-based humor. Deployed at its most dense at the Israel/Palestine target, or the Jewish/Muslim divide in that land more accurately through the character of Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton) and Lavash (David Krumholtz), Sausage Party essentially dives right into every stereotype (with no small amount of self-awareness that it’s doing so) in order to drive home its point of tribalism and the mutation that belief takes throughout culture. It’s reducing it down partially out of an instinct to hit the easy, stupid stuff, but partially to make that tribalism point. But it’s reducing it down to show the extreme. Besides, there’s rarely a mean-spirit to Sausage Party, which is sort of a part of its charm. It’s raunchy and naughty, not at all nasty.

The actual kind point point which informs the other side of the deeper core, which is Rogen grappling with how he as an atheist might address the faithful, but could be taken as how those of any faith or creed might address those with the “Good News.” Ultimately, Rogen argues that you can’t just bash people over the head with it, in the blind assumption that you’re right. To take aside people’s beliefs about the world, you have to make it clear that you show a better way, that you’re offering something that could ultimately mean more than the world they were living in up until then.

It’s all of this surprising thoughtfulness that makes Sausage Party worth getting over the “dirty cartoon” vibe. Which to be fair, the film does very well. Not just in the previously explained expert filthiness, but also in the fact that I think it to be a damn fine piece of animation. It’s not Pixar, but it’s rather expressive with what it does have and the cheapness almost feels in its favor. The design is a lot of fun, I’m particularly a fan of how twisted and exaggerated the “Gods” all are. It’s a film that uses ugly for a purpose.

If you’re not wanting to have your raunchy comedy trying to make points about faith and tribalism, or if you’re just not ready to watch cartoon food fucking, that’s totally fine. If you’re on the fence though, I really do encourage a watch. It’s the smartest dumb movie of the year, the kind of movie that appeals to me on a surprisingly deep level, and that’s worth watching in itself.

GRADE: B+

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