There’s a part of me that really wants to thrust the twisted and imaginative “Sausage Party” into the same grade level of “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” and “Team America: World Police,” but in all honesty, while it isn’t afraid to ask some of the big questions of existence, it’s honestly just too filthy and simply drawn narratively to compare. As an animated film, it’s on par with some of the more middle-of-the-road Dreamworks films such as the ones Conrad Vernon has co-directed over the years, such as “Shrek 2,” “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” and “Monsters vs. Aliens,” but with the dirty mind of “Pineapple Express” and “This is the End.” The first 10 minutes or so are a good gauge as to whether you’re going to be all-in with this movie or not. If not-so-subtle innuendos about hot dogs sliding into hot dog buns doesn’t turn you off, you may very well survive the film. If you focus too much on the raunch of the film, though, you may miss some deep existential thought thrown in.
The focus of the film resides on Frank (co-writer Seth Rogen), a hot dog who has a relationship going with Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a hot dog bun his pack is next to on the shelves. They are part of a 4th of July cookout display at a local grocery store, and they are eagerly awaiting when the “Gods” (who are humans) select them off the shelves to meet their destiny. It’s a destiny they have waited a long time for, although they get a bit of a sneak peak by touching the tips of their fingers together outside of their packaging. We learn about their world in one of the most subversive opening songs for an animated film since “South Park” opened with “Mountain Town” back in 1999. (Please hope the Academy gives it a nod for Best Original Song.) The food is thrilled to be chosen, and to go to “The Great Beyond” and fulfill their destiny. When a bottle of honey mustard is returned to the store, though (the “God” wanted yellow mustard), it comes back with a terrifying tale that leads to chaos in the cart that Frank and Brenda are in. They get left behind after falling on the floor, though, while the rest of their friends in their respective packages are taken to their destiny, which they learn will be very different than they expected. One little hot dog, Barry (Michael Cera), gets away, though, and has to find a way to get back to Frank to warn him, although by that point, Frank and Brenda are in a race for survival from an actual douche (Nick Kroll) that feels betrayed by them when he’s thrown from the cart, and ends up broken. If that doesn’t tell you what kind of movie you’re dealing with, nothing will.
I never really talk about the animation anymore when discussing animated films. That’s mainly because, unless there is something that truly catches my eye with the technique, it feels barely worth mentioning. In terms of technical qualities, the same very much applies with “Sausage Party,” but there are a couple of sequences that do truly standout. One is when the cart that Frank and Brenda are in crashes, stranding them, and the spilled food is panicked and trying to survive. More than once, Tiernan and Vernon quote actual images from the D-Day sequence of “Saving Private Ryan,” which feels quite blasphemous, but also gives the sense of the subversive that permeates throughout the film. The next one is when Barry is trying to get back to the store, and stumbles into the house of a junkie who is shooting up bath salts. This is the type of scene you will never find Disney doing, but also wouldn’t surprise me if the animators admitted to being inspired by “Fantasia” or the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence in “Dumbo” in animating. Finally, there is the climax of the movie, in which the store devolves into a food orgy that would make Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger’s characters in “9 1/2 Weeks” or puppets from “Team America” blush. I wouldn’t be surprised if you had to revert your gaze, and it’s truly shocking they were able to get away with an R-rating for that scene alone. I guess they got it because it’s the type of stuff we see happen in the kitchen all the time during food preparation?
Wait a minute, did I say something about “deep existential thought” in this movie, you might be thinking? You would be correct, and while it’s relatively simple compared to something that might exist in a more serious movie, the film delves into profound thoughts about everything from the nature of faith vs. proof, the Isreali/Palestinian conflict, “God’s law” when it comes to homosexuality, the persecution of blacks and Native Americans, and so many other complicated issues that it feels a disservice to discuss them all here. A lot of the film’s points are hit home with some pretty ballsy and bad taste humor, but it’s impossible not to give Rogen and co. kudos for finding some subversive social commentary within the context of a story that boils down to a hot dog and hot dog bun wanting to have sex. You’ve never seen anything like this film, and trust me, you’ll never forget a lot of things you’ll see. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on your comedic sensibilities. Chances are, if you’re willingly watching this movie, it’ll be very good with a side of “What the fuck did I just watch?”