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Sausage Party.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Sausage Party
Written by
Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir
Directed by
Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Starring
Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera
Genre
Animation
Classification
18A
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2016

If Mel Brooks went insane, he would make Sausage Party. If everyone at Pixar simultaneously developed an incurable super-disease and decided to say, "to hell with it," they would make Sausage Party. If the head of a major studio wanted to burn Hollywood to the ground as revenge for some unknown slight, they would make Sausage Party. But none of that actually happened – Sausage Party was produced by allegedly rational animators, paid for by a seemingly legitimate studio, and supervised by a supposedly mentally sound and emotionally rational creative team.

All of which fails to explain how, exactly, the Sausage got made. Because this adults-only cartoon about sentient supermarket items is not only the raunchiest film of the year, nor is it simply the most shocking – it is, without a doubt, the most delirious movie to come out of a major studio in decades, perhaps ever. It is anarchic, outrageous, filthy and, for a good stretch, sublimely subversive. It is all manner of berserk in concept and tone and execution that it's a wonder it was let out the door. But does its unbridled madness mean it's a good movie, too? The answer, like the film itself, is problematic.

First, there's the conceit, which immediately divides its potential audience: Either you're cool with the idea that hot dogs and tacos and baby carrots can talk (and have feelings and sexual urges and bouts of extreme violence), or that strikes you as irredeemably stupid. Okay, fine, there's the exit. But for those willing to go along with Seth Rogen (and his many co-writers') surely pot-enhanced idea, the rewards are plenty. Because this isn't just a movie about anthropomorphized Twinkies dropping F-bombs or endless wiener-in-bun jokes (though, yes, it is that, too) – Sausage Party is an exercise in extremes, in just how far a big-budget film can push the limits of religion, politics, sex, ethnicity, everything.

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The insanity begins at Shopwells, a suburban grocery store whose denizens begin each day with a cheery Alan Menken-esque tune (shockingly, by Alan Menken) about achieving salvation via "The Gods" – the fat and frumpy humans who, it is believed, will bestow eternal happiness upon whichever foodstuffs they take home. Eager for this rapture are hot dog Frank (Rogen) and disconcertingly sexy bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig). Once they've been chosen and let loose from their packaging, so the gospel goes, they will be united both spiritually and, um, sexually.

But then one day along comes a jar of honey mustard, returned to the store after being mistaken for Dijon. And he has terrible tales to share – the Gods, they are crazy. They only want death and destruction, to fuel their insatiable hunger. There is no great beyond, and life, essentially, is a lie. So, pretty heavy stuff for a comedy that's mostly marketed itself as an R-rated barrage of genital jokes – and as the film goes on, Rogen and company only dig deeper into what it means to lose faith, and question one's purpose.

Yet Sausage Party is not here to just tease existential quandaries – it is determined to mix those concepts into a messy stew of outrageous humour and shocking vulgarity. Thus we get jars of sauerkraut singing about eliminating "the juice," a box of grits holding a grudge against literal crackers, and a piece of lavash flatbread baiting a Woody Allen-sounding bagel over "disputed aisle territory."

Oh, and there is a subplot about synthetic bath-salt drugs, a gory sequence of food-on-human violence, not one but two Meatloaf/Bat Out of Hell jokes, a hilariously disgusting riff on Saving Private Ryan, and a massive, bewildering sex scene that goes further than anything you might dare imagine. (Yes, even that. And that, too!)

From one moment of Sausage Party to the next, it's unclear whether you're supposed to laugh or shudder or vomit or take to the streets in wild, fervent protest. The film mixes its remarkable highs with bewildering lows, and the end result is a blunt sense of aftershock. This – how did they make this? We may never know.

But by the time a stoned Frank turns to Brenda and asks the previously unimaginable question of, "Are you ready to get baked with me and walk through Gum's Stargate?", you'll be glad they did.

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