There’s an expectation when creating an “adult” cartoon to be as edgy and as raunchy as possible. Part of the joke on the medium itself is taking an entertainment geared towards children and making it so inappropriate to that younger audience. Team America: World Police is the penultimate example of uncanny valley level human puppets in a 80’s action parody filled with sex, violence and vomit. While I appreciate that film as a post 9/11 satire, I never found pleasure in its aggressively unpleasant elements. Sausage Party, the new computer animated feature from the Seth Rogen collective, goes all in on sexual innuendos, drug use and harsh language brought to life by wide eyed anthropomorphic food. What gives this film legitimacy and where it derives a lot of its humor is that it specifically subverts Pixar established tropes. It begins with innocence and reverence until the characters face the harsh realities of the world and adapt to an existence turned sour.
The movie opens (and for the most parts takes place) at mega supermarket Shopwell as all the store’s inhabitants rise at dawn to sing praises of thanks to their unknown god in hopes to be chosen by a shopper and taken away to the “Great Beyond.” You’d never expect entering this film that it would be a scathing take on religion but that is the journey of our hot dog hero Frank (Seth Rogen) and his girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig) as they get lost amongst the aisles and uncover the truth of their purpose. We bounce between the wonderment of the individual metropolises of each food isle with the appalling real world which Frank’s fellow wieners have been dropped into and immediately must escape. So many story elements coincide with Toy Story as the exploration of the store is similar to Al’s Toy Barn and the way in which wayward wienie Barry (Michael Cera) and other deformed foods utilize a shell shocked stoner to return home is quite reminiscent of an evil Sid. It never feels derivative as its partly a mash up of so many Disney/Pixar familiarities but paired with subplots of the Israel/Palestine debate personified by a Woody Allen-esque bagel (Edward Norton) and a floppy lavash (David Krumholtz) and the rape allusions from menacing super villain Douche (a literal douche voiced by Nick Kroll) as he forcible guzzles down grape juice and alcohol for his unprecedented strength.
All these big social and political choices work well in the Rogen style of comedy as its self aware enough to not be insensitive but dumb enough that you don’t have to take it too seriously. Many of the ethnic cuisines from salsa, curry to Canadian beers are presented as quirky stereotypes. It’s a lot of all equal opportunity shots at different cultures and even has Nazi sauerkraut yelling to “kill the juice” because why not! Like any movie from these guys, the primary goal is to be funny which is sourced from a plethora of food puns and as many dick jokes as you can squeeze from a hot dog. I was even more impressed with the actually shocking third act twists as the plot shifts in an unexpected direction that was thankfully never spoiled by marketing (and won’t be here).
The movie gets away with so much due to the success and trust studios and audiences have with Rogen features. He, Evan Goldberg and all the usual comedic talent collaborators consistently deliver unique and exciting content. There’s always warmth in their films and partially why the stereotypes work is because it’s not mean spirited. Even in an anti-religion movie, they still vocalize their respect for anyone’s spiritual beliefs. It’s intended for some good laughs and a few surprises. It’s the kind of sausage fest I actually don’t mind attending.