Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Sausage Party": review

Brought to you by the goofy team who gave you "Pineapple Express," "This Is The End," and "The Interview," "Sausage Party" stars Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Edward Norton, and a slew of other actors—mostly unknown to me—in a raunchy, F-bomb-laden animated comedy about the inner lives of grocery-store products.

Frank (Rogen) is a packaged hot dog who is in love with Brenda (Wiig), a packaged bun that sits on the shelf next to the hot dogs. (And why aren't the dogs being refrigerated? Story logic!) All the grocery products are convinced that human shoppers are gods who choose products that are then taken out of the store and into the glorious Great Beyond. One product, a bottle of honey mustard (McBride), gets returned to the store; he brings the terrible news that everything the groceries believe is a lie: the Great Beyond is a hell in which the gods slaughter the chosen, wrenching bottles open, skinning and boiling potatoes, throwing baby carrots into gaping god-mouths and chewing them to death. No one, except Frank, believes the mustard. Meanwhile, a douche (Nick Kroll) becomes convinced that Frank somehow did him wrong; he becomes the movie's main antagonist.

"Sausage Party" apparently got raves from critics and audiences, so maybe I was just in the wrong mood to watch it. Although I'm a big fan of creative profanity, listening to lines that are basically nothing more than "Fuck those motherfucking motherfuckers!" can get wearisome, especially when repeated ad nauseam. Only one scene made me genuinely laugh out loud, and that was when another escaped hot dog, Barry (Cera), encounters a used condom on the street, and the wild-eyed rubber tells his horrifying tale of woe. I did like the death-of-food visuals, although I felt the team missed an opportunity to satirize horror-movie torture porn.

This being a Rogen/Franco project, there is, of course, plenty of stoner humor, and the unbridled orgy scene at the end gives a whole new meaning to "food porn." The movie also isn't so subtle about some of its social messages; the talking bagel and the talking lavash, for example, eventually learn to put aside their Middle Eastern differences and just fuck each other bloody. Meanwhile, Frank and Brenda learn that true dialogue comes from a place of respect, not from calling each other idiots (although the movie makes clear that scientific skepticism is far superior to religious fundamentalism). At the same time, the movie undercuts any attempt at a social message by trafficking in some of the most offensive ethnic stereotypes I've seen in a while. Edward Norton, who plays the bagel, spends the movie doing a nebbishy Woody Allen impression; Bill Hader, who plays the wise Firewater, seems to be doing an exaggerated impression of Johnny Depp's Tonto. Salma Hayek, who must have been a good sport to play the token Latina, brings the sexy as a... lesbian taco: vagina-metaphor alert! And while we're on the subject of vaginas: Brenda is basically animated to look like a walking, talking cooter that Frank is strongly motivated to wriggle into.

Whether you'll like "Sausage Party" depends entirely on you. I suspect the movie is a lot funnier when you're drunk or high; the movie itself suggests that getting high is the doorway to a more enlightened perception of the cosmos, a contention that Tom Robbins would heartily endorse. I wasn't high, so I spent half the movie feeling as if I were wasting my time—partly because of the numbing blizzard of profanity, partly because I run hot and cold when it comes to stoner humor. Some sections of the story were genuinely funny, but overall, I was just marking time. This wasn't one of Rogen/Franco's better efforts, despite all the Pixar-tweaking love that went into the animation. Watch at your own risk.


Charles said...

Kind of disappointed to read this—the trailer showed promise.

Kevin Kim said...

Dude, I thought so, too. I laughed like an idiot when I saw the trailer: it reminded me of how I talk to myself when cooking. I'm constantly mimicking the screams of carrots as I peel them, or the begging cries of veggies as I toss them into boiling water. Those "kitcheny" parts of the film were truly funny (as was the orgy at the end), but a lot of this movie was simply too much of a good thing. It wore out its welcome for me fairly quickly.

Then again, your mileage may vary.

John from Daejeon said...

I don't know if you've seen Captain Fantastic yet (highly recommended), but I can't name a film in which Viggo Mortensen has ever been better, and that includes the "Lord of the Rings." And just thinking about what one can accomplish in life without the time wasters of media and sports is really mind-boggling as is spending so much time with one's parents without the electronic distractions of everyday life. It's one hell of a movie that stays with you on numerous levels.