You'll never look at your neighborhood supermarket the same way again. The latest envelope pusher from the writing team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg — with an assist from Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir — could be described as Superbad meets Toy Story. As unthinkable as that may sound, the reality is a thousand times more improbable and profane.
There's never been an animated film like Sausage Party (and how often can you say that about something made in Hollywood?). There may have been '60s underground comics with a similarly depraved sensibility. And certainly Ralph Bakshi pioneered the adult cartoon in the '70s. Fritz the Cat was rated X. Sausage Party garnered an R. But, hey, we're talking apples and oranges. Bakshi broke new ground in the era of "The Brady Bunch." Breaking new ground today requires a whole different level of outrageousness.
Which this deliciously demented concoction has in spades. And spuds. Think the secret life of produce. The story is set in a gleaming suburban grocery store, and directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (Monsters vs. Aliens and the Thomas & Friends series — whattha? — respectively) demonstrate an undeniable flair for rapid-fire raunch.
As the movie opens, so does the store, and the inventory engages in its morning ritual of singing a hymn to "the gods" — who, the foodstuffs pray, will toss them in their carts and transport them to "the great beyond." The song is fast, clever and funny, as one would expect, given that it's the work of Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken.
July 4 is fast approaching, and this is good news for several central characters. Namely, Frank (Rogen), a hot dog who shares a package with phallic pals Barry (Michael Cera) and Carl (Jonah Hill). Likewise, the love of Frank's shelf life, Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a provocatively designed hot dog bun, dreams of the day when Frank will take his place inside her. Along with aisles of other products, they gaze hopefully at shoppers, sending out "pick me" rays. Then something horrible happens.
A jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride), returned to the store by a customer, relates tales of unimaginable terror. The great beyond, he reports, isn't a paradise as they've been taught, but a nightmare world where their kind is sliced, diced and devoured by the gods. Frank makes it his mission to enlighten the store's goods about exactly how bad things are outside, but he's met with skepticism. And food gags.
Those range from the silly to the groundbreakingly crude. A Nazi sauerkraut calls for elimination of "the juice." A bagel (Edward Norton, doing a dead-on Woody Allen) and a lavash (David Krumholtz) accuse each other of occupying too much shelf space. Craig Robinson voices a jive-talking box of grits. Salma Hayek is a taco with "crotch feelings" for Brenda. And Nick Kroll is the movie's most outlandish creation, a (literal) douche with anger management problems.
The jokes rat-a-tat for 89 delectable minutes, so, if a bit doesn't work, one needn't wait long for one that does. The writing is smart, the animation by Nitrogen Studios is a cool fusion of Pixar and Robert Crumb, and the intermingling of puerile filth with existential rumination is without precedent. Who besides Rogen, Goldberg and co. would even attempt a comedy that debunks organized religion while featuring a climactic food orgy — much less pull it off?
I'm serious. The finale is maybe the wildest, weirdest thing I've seen on screen — like Caligula with checkout clerks. I'm amazed they got a major studio to make this crazy thing. RSVP to Sausage Party without delay. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll wash your groceries more carefully than ever before.