The promotional poster for “Sausage Party” features a grinning animated sausage emerging semi-curved into frame—less than subtly and more than intentionally resembling an erection in profile—accompanied by the tagline: “A hero will rise.”
This sets the tone for the film. Like gristle and offal squeezed into a sausage-casing, the movie’s brief 88 minutes are jam-packed with dirty jokes.
But a feature-length production can’t rely solely on off-color humor. “Sausage Party” provides unexpectedly hard-hitting social commentary—one could call it an attack on organized religion.
The premise of the film is when foods are purchased they are taken to the “Great Beyond.” There are various expectations of what the Great Beyond entails, and each food character embodies a racial or religious stereotype, making a microcosm of the supermarket. For example, Kareem Lavash (David Krumholtz) expects the Great Beyond to feature 72 bottles of extra virgin olive oil to keep his “flaps” moist.
A jar of honey mustard, however, reveals a terrifying truth: The Great Beyond is a sham. Once food leaves the store, it is eaten. In his crazed sermon, Honey Mustard attempts shopping-aisle hara-kiri. He jumps off the cart, hoping to splat golden-brown on the hard-tile floor.
To save Honey Mustard, Frank (Rogen), a sausage, leaves his package—forbidden by “the gods”—and causes a massive grocery-spill. An exploded bag of flour creates a hazy war-zone while a tub of peanut butter mourns his wife, a broken jar of jelly—grape-guts oozing across the floor. It’s brilliantly done.
Honey Mustard’s claims haunt Frank. He seeks the wisdom of the “non-perishables”—the Native American “Fire Water” (Bill Hader), the blatantly black “Grits” (Craig Robinson) and the flamboyantly gay Twinkie—referred to as “Twink” (Scott Underwood).
The trio admits the Great Beyond is a lie. The lie snowballed, different foods developed different interpretations, they disagreed—you see the microcosm at work.
The film’s most intriguing microcosmic parallel is the post-grocery-spill relationship between Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton) and Kareem Lavash, bringing the Israel-Palestine conflict to the forefront. Their snarky remarks on sharing shelf-space become almost as frequent as the incessant low-brow jokes.
There is a poignant moment when the characters, returning to their adjacent shelves, discuss a mutual friend: hummus. There is a flicker of appreciation—almost friendship—but as they climb to their respective shelves, they fall back into habits of hate. They share a parting glance, an overt sense of loss.
With his newfound wisdom, Frank informs all foods that the Great Beyond is a farce. They are less than accepting. When faced with Frank’s facts against the long-held illusion, Curry Paste shouts, “We choose the more pleasant thing!”
This line, albeit delivered by a jar, is one of the most affecting of the film—so plainly verbalizing the human proclivity to lemming-like closed-mindedness when faced with undesirable truths.
In the Great Beyond, the movie reaches its funniest and most gruesome. While its wheelhouse is expletives and innuendos (so blatant they can’t even be called innuendos)—sausages sliding into buns, etc.—“Sausage Party” doesn’t shy away from the macabre.
We follow a group of purchased food into the Great Beyond. The first selected from the shopping bag is a potato, who shows nothing other than sheer, unadulterated bliss.
“I am the first to enter eternity!” he exclaims in Irish brogue as he’s cupped like a newborn and washed in the sink.
With the metallic sound of a sword pulled from its sheath, the lighting tints to red. We see a potato-peeler emerge and flay a hunk of skin away—then another, then another as the potato screams until he’s tossed naked into a pot of boiling water.
In the ensuing chaos, we see a sausage impaled and halved by a butcher-knife. We see cheese grated onto nacho chips and subjected to melty torture in a microwave. We get an inside-the-mouth view of baby carrots being eaten—masticated into mince while onlookers scream “They’re eating children!”
The film takes a dark turn, but the execution (pun-intended) is flawless and hilarious.
Eventually, after realizing the Great Beyond is indeed bogus, the foods unite to defeat a bath-salts-fueled (it’s a Rogen movie, after all) horde of “gods.” Upon realizing the pointless limitations they’d imposed on their lives in pursuit of the Great Beyond, the victorious foods engage—of course—in a massive, graphic and non-discriminatory orgy (which I will describe tamely).
Frank and his bun girlfriend, Brenda (Kristen Wiig), consummate their relationship. They explore what I’d characterize as a fair chunk of the Kama Sutra. Theresa Taco (Salma Hayek) acts on her lesbian urges and goes down on Brenda while onlookers masturbate. Sammy Bagel Jr. and Kareem Lavash renounce their differences and become gay lovers. They pretty much do everything under the sun–if I recall correctly, either Sammy Bagel Jr. eats Kareem Lavash’s ass or the other way around. Somebody chows on some ass. Even the undersized sausage, Barry (Michael Cera), gets his share of action with a squished bun. All are included in the carnal debauchery. All are happy in tolerance of one another, no longer bridled by the false Great Beyond.
“Sausage Party” is an unexpectedly effective vessel for its loaded message. Substantive commentary on religious intolerance and dogmatism, as well as human courage and love are made palatable when they’re delivered by an animated sausage or a lavash with a goatee.
Sometimes it takes a penis joke to make the world pay attention.