Sausage Party ***|****

Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen in Sausage Party
Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen in Sausage Party

This raunchy and ridiculous Pixar send-up stars Seth Rogen as Frank, a hot dog who lives in the Shopwell’s supermarket along with the myriad of other sentient food products in the store, including his package-mate hot dog Carl (Jonah Hill) and his neighboring hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig). On a busy Fourth of July shopping day, a housewife selects both of their respective packages for purchase but a shopping cart accident separates Frank and Brenda from the rest of their friends. With the help of new acquaintances Teresa del Taco (Salma Hayek) and Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton), the two peruse the aisles of Shopwell’s in hopes of reuniting with their friends while also uncovering some unpleasant truths about their existence.

A rousing opening musical number (co-written by frequent Disney collaborator Alan Menken) asserts the food’s collective worldview that humans choose only the most worthy of the bunch to be taken to “The Great Beyond”, which exists outside of the store’s sliding glass doors. Ignorant of our predilection for food consumption, they’re not sure what awaits them when they leave the store but in their own words, “they’re sure nothing bad happens to food” in the outside world. When the seeds of doubt begin to creep into the minds of the characters, themes of faith and religion are tackled with more even-handedness than I expected.

So Sausage Party has a bit more on its mind than you may expect for a movie about talking food but its primary function as an R-rated animated comedy is to be as crude and offensive as it can be. I can say that it certainly achieves this goal but in doing so, it does sacrifice some comedic opportunities in the process. Some of my favorite moments didn’t involve certain four-letter words or obvious sexual innuendos but rather the film’s more clever visual touches, like a spot-on Saving Private Ryan homage that reappropriates the iconic Omaha Beach sequence to hilarious effect.

Working from a budget about a tenth the size of the Pixar films that it’s lampooning, the animation of Sausage Party obviously isn’t as sophisticated as recent efforts like Finding Dory but co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan find a visual language that spoofs the “sunny” disposition of classic Disney movies while also remaining crisp and vibrant on its own terms. Each new section of the store that our protagonists discover offers a new palette on which to introduce a fresh set of grocery characters and the culture that they’ve built up around them. In some cases, this results in some potentially ugly stereotyping that I hope is meant to satirize the food industry’s proclivity towards culturally homogenized packaging rather than serve as cheap punchlines on their own.

The voice casts also boasts the talents of Rogen regulars Michael Cera and James Franco while making room for newcomers like Nick Kroll, who steals the show as a roided-out version of a feminine hygiene product that lives up to his pejorative name. My absolute favorite, thought, was the Stephen Hawking-esque Gum, who delivers lines with the cadence of the physicist’s trademark speech synthesizer and introduces himself by his complex chemical makeup as opposed to just saying “gum”. Sausage Party has enough laughs, some more juvenile than others, to make it a worthwhile meal.