Grocery stores will be much more interesting thanks to Sausage Party, an R-rated, animated flashing of the secret life of shopping lists.
Not a single lewd pun or food blasphemy gets past Seth Rogen's latest friendsourced mugging of political correctness. Turns out there are reasons some foods should be washed before cooking, starting with their wee pottymouths. A cleanup on Aisle 9 might be any number of culinary fluids, outrageously expelled.
Is it funny? Absolutely. Sausage Party also gets a bit exhausting, even running under 90 minutes. We're hearing essentially the same dirty jokes over and over, in a movie saved by its brilliantly filthy finale.
Such animated outrage isn't new; Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat broke the old X rating (now NC-17) barrier way back in 1972. Sausage Party is, however, the first R-rated CGI animated movie, combining the sleekness of a Pixar flick with Rogen's groin-centric comedy. State of the art smut. Just what we need.
The hero, of course, is a wiener for easy phallic symbolism. Frank (Rogen) is part of a package on a supermarket shelf, next to a pack of hot dog buns where Brenda (Kristen Wiig) resides. They're in love, awaiting the Fourth of July when they'll be selected together, leaving the store for "the Great Beyond" where human "gods" live. There, they will make love, as wieners and buns do.
Then a returned jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) spreads word that the beyond isn't so great. Frank and Brenda are separated by a shopper, so he leads a rescue expedition into the Great Beyond, discovering the horrifying truth of what happens when groceries get home.
Standing in Frank and Brenda's way is a energy drink-raging feminine hygiene product (Nick Kroll), behaving exactly like what he is. Frank's runty package mate Barry (Michael Cera) escapes the kitchen to help his buddy. A sexy taco (Salma Hayek) has eyes for Brenda. A bottle of booze shaped like an Indian and named Firewater (Bill Hader) has clues and a kazoo for smoking pot. This is a Seth Rogen joint, you know.
In a dominant era for family-friendly animation, Sausage Party is a bold rebuttal needing more than shock laughs. Rogen and his co-writers do have smart ideas, with interesting but brief parallels to theological doubt and the Palestinian-Israel conflict solved by a bagel (voice of Edward Norton, doing Woody Allen) and a lavash flatbread (David Krumholtz).
Too often, however, the writers go for easy blush-laughs, not that much more creative than stoned frat boys riffing after a food run. Sausage Party's most genuine comedy comes in sick set pieces; a grocery store mishap patterned on Saving Private Ryan, a kitchen scene when even baby carrots are massacred, a climactic food orgy.
In between such gems, Sausage Party can get a little too crude for comfort. That's okay. After years of cuddly talking animals, space creatures and trained dragons, it's good to see CGI animation finally put to decadent use.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.