Seth Rogen is a sentient sausage: we know where this is going…or do we?
Seth Rogen finally completes his journey from dispenser of wiener jokes into walking phallic symbol in this disgustingly inventive and unexpectedly relevant animated comedy. He stars as Frank, a sausage living amongst the other food products at Shopwell supermarket, all of whom believe that a wondrous life awaits them in ‘The Great Beyond’, a place that can only be reached when chosen by the gods (customers). Once they reach the kitchen, however, the horrifying relationship between man and meat is revealed: picture Plato’s allegory of the cave via a hot dog stand run by H.R. Giger.
Frank and the love of his life, Brenda (a suggestively yonic bread bun voiced by Kristen Wiig) set out to teach their fellow morsels the error of their beliefs, hunted by Nick Kroll’s vengeful Douche (not an insult; he genuinely inhabits a living hygiene device). They’re joined by Edward Norton’s Sammy and David Krumholtz’ Lavash, a large-nosed bagel and a bearded pitta bread constantly bickering about the other creating more settlements on their side of the aisle. Yes, the food types are arranged via the plainest of stereotypes (the potatoes are Irish, the curry paste sounds like Peter Sellers in The Party, and so on) but the cringeworthiness steadily declines as the film progresses and the reasoning for the awful broad strokes is revealed.
I’m usually the first to complain about Rogen and his buddies’ particular brand of comedy (read: smoking weed is hilarious, right?), and though there are several eye-rolling interruptions throughout as Frank and the immortal, pseudo-spiritual ‘Non-perishables’ strike up brain-addled conversations, the veil of animation helps to distract from any dips in mirth and a narrative that is linear to a fault. That’s not to say the computer wizardry is particularly striking; in fact, it’s weirdly inconsistent. The opening looks set to bring back awful memories of Foodfight, but the vibrantly explicit sequences where carrots are crunched, potatoes are peeled and sausages are sliced could give top-level studios cause for concern in both animation and horror departments, especially considering a comparatively measly budget of just $19 million.
Directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon (both animation veterans with backgrounds in everything from Shrek to Thomas the Tank Engine TV shorts) are well-versed in their field, but the writing team (Rogen and usual collaborator Even Goldberg, amongst others) keep things oddly restrained in the visual department, never quite reaching the existential weirdness of something like The LEGO Movie. At least, until the 70-minute mark, at which point the film barrels towards climax in the most excruciatingly hilarious display of excess since the glory days of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police, delivering material that caused yours truly to wonder if the audience had passed through some kind of chest-burstingly grotesque looking glass: I guarantee you will never have seen a cinema so visibly rock with laughter.
Some have questioned how on Earth something like this got approved by Hollywood higher-ups, but I think the slack-jawed disbelief is misplaced. For one, let’s not forget this is distributed by Sony Pictures, who saw fit to unleash Jack and Jill upon innocent audiences. For another, it’s not the eye-widening vulgarity that’s most audacious. That quota is surprisingly filled by the development of the various stereotypes and comments on belief peppered across the script. More bizarre than the endless food-on-food innuendo or kazoo-smoking Twinkies is the way in which a one-note stoner farce about sentient sausages slowly metamorphoses into an oddly acute treatise on the conflict between science and religion, the power of evidence, and the futility of intolerance.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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