Movie Review: Sausage Party's shock treatment

These hot dogs are equal-opportunity offenders: funny and tedious.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Rated R. Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon.

Starring (voices) Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill,

Salma Hayek, Nick Kroll, Paul Rudd, Edward Norton, Bill Hader.

Opens Aug. 12.

Nobody’s ever called the brand of comedy pumped out by Seth Rogen and his band of co-conspirators (Evan Goldberg, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, et al.) “subtle.” A more apt description might be “obvious, profane and occasionally brilliant;” not coincidentally, this could also accurately describe a whole lot of conversations among groups of misfit teens with a penchant for getting high and starting sentences with, “Wouldn’t it be funny if?”

So an R-rated animated comedy could easily be seen as something of a final frontier/limitless playground for this crew, and its broad style of high, low and very low yucks. They could be the ultimate adult kids. They could do any number of things they could never get away with in the live-action arena (and they got away with TONS in This Is The End), and pervert a medium still at least somewhat associated with the innocence of youth in the bargain.

And they do.

Oh, how they do.

The tone and story are established in the movie’s first five or so minutes: A bunch of the anthropomorphized food and other products that populate a grocery store wake up about the time the store opens, and sing a catchy, vulgar tune about how they exist to be “chosen” (bought) by “the gods” (us) to be taken into “the great beyond” outside the store’s confines, where everthing is perfect and their dreams will come true forever and ever.

Subtle? Not so much.

Frank the sausage (Rogen) has his faith shaken, however, when a returned jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) claims that “the great beyond” is a hideous lie before committing suicide by jumping out of a shopping cart and causing Frank and his would-be girlfriend, Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig), to get separated from their respective packages. Still in their packages, their friends are “chosen” to experience the murderous reality of human consumption, while Frank and Brenda attempt to return to their display and join other packages, picking up a Wizard of Oz-style group of products along the way as the journey becomes, for Frank at least, first a Quest For The Truth and then A Mission To Save Everybody.

There’s a bagel and an Arab flatbread that can’t share the same aisle (get it?). There’s a Native American liquor bottle, and a lesbian taco. There’s a ton of drugs. There’s a scene that mirrors big-budget disaster movies remarkably well. There’s a literal douche who’s a total douche, played by an actor (Nick Kroll) who once played a character named The Douche on Parks & Recreation. There’s even a literal food orgy guaranteed to make you laugh, though it may well be the strained laughter of overload.

Is it funny? Sure. But it’s also tedious in its desire to push the limits of acceptability, with its cursing condiments and racist foodstuffs and its nonstop sexual innuendo and its close-up of a woman rubbing her crotch and lamenting that her feminine hygiene product fell out of her cart.

Sausage Party is, above almost all else, a gleeful equal-opportunity offender; there’s something here to make anybody uncomfortable who's beholden to the notion that some things are not to be mocked. Ethnic and racial stereotypes? Check. Homosexuality? Check again. The Israel-Palestine conflict? Big, bold check. Religion? Bigger, bolder check. And the list goes on. The movie “gets away with it,” if that phrase can be employed, by making the divisive nature of these topics a necessary setup, the conflict that must be resolved. But Sausage Party’s biggest problem isn’t shocking comedy. It’s that too often, it settles for the lowest-hanging shock-comedy fruit: animated characters saying “fuck,” and fucking.

Obvious, profane and occasionally brilliant, indeed.

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