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Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016 12:04 am

Plenty to chew on in Sausage Party

A scene from Sausage Party.
PHOTO COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURES

 

Not only does Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party have the greatest title in the history of cinema, it also features talking hot dogs, graphic scenes of various food items having sex, scads of racial stereotypes and a timely message about the state of international relations. Who’d a thunk it? Certainly not I, as the premise and the reputation of those involved portends another juvenile exercise that revolves around sex, drugs and deviant behavior. To be sure, there’s plenty of that, but it can’t obscure the film’s surprising and thoughtful message.

It seems as though the food items at Shopwell’s grocery store have been sold a bill of goods. They’ve been told that those who shop there are gods and that their ultimate goal is to be chosen by one of them and taken to the “Great Beyond,” that mystical place beyond the sliding doors. Hot dog Frank (voice by Rogen) certainly believes in this and has a feeling that he and the other nine wieners in the plastic wrapper they’re contained in will be chosen any day. Not only is he eager to see what’s on the other side, but he’s also anxious to get to know Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig), hoping they will be chosen at the same time so that they might … well, the less said the better. However, their whole belief system is thrown out of whack by Honey Mustard (Danny McBride), a condiment that was mistakenly bought and then returned. He regales his fellow foodstuffs with tales of horror as he’s witnessed carrots being eaten, potatoes being peeled, eggs being cracked and all manners of violent deeds.

After a horrific grocery cart accident (which features a hilarious Saving Private Ryan parody), a myriad of food items are forced to find their way back to their respective aisles, which allows for Frank and Brenda to argue over matters of theology as he comes to doubt there is a God, and odd pairings of food to come together. Writers Jonah Hill, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir and Rogen go out of their way to offend as they gleefully pony out every racial stereotype they can think of. Firewater (Bill Hader) is a large bottle of liquor with the persona of a Native American, the box of grits (Craig Robinson) is of African American heritage, and don’t even get me started where the Chinese food aisle is concerned. Nothing is sacred here, and in this era of political correctness this proves to be a cathartic and welcome exercise. In doing this, Party suggests that any differences we might have should be celebrated and open to good-natured ribbing. Only in doing so can we come to see our own shortcomings.

There’s a food orgy – and I don’t mean a very large smorgasbord – during the third act that is as funny as it is tasteless, and directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon let it run too long. This and the movie’s willingness to wallow in ribald humor become so laborious that some of the jokes become tiresome and the film’s theme is nearly upended as a result.  And while Sausage Party will not appeal to all tastes, those willing to give it a go will be surprised that it isn’t the cinematic equivalent of junk food but contains enough to chew on to elevate it above most of the summer fare.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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