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Wieners gone wild - 'Sausage Party'

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R-rated animated comedy effectively offensive

I have no idea how 'Sausage Party' came to be released.

This is a film that feels like it was inspired by a stoned fever dream fugue through a grocery store, the sort of idea that begins life in a haze of smoke with a giggled 'You know what would be cool?' It's a raunchy, curseword-laden cartoon that might also be the closest thing to an art film that we've seen as a major studio summer release in years.

It is bonkers, cray-cray, cuckoo-bananas whatever adjective you'd like to use to imply utter cinematic lunacy will apply. I laughed a lot but I also felt kind of weird about laughing.

And yethere it is, with a wide release at the tail end of summer blockbuster season. But the most ridiculous thing of all?

It's actually kind of great.

'Sausage Party' the brainchild of stoner-bro savants Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg tells the story of a grocery store whose inhabitants are led to question the core of their strongly-held beliefs and the very foundation of reality.

Oh, and they're food.

Frank (Rogen) is a sausage, residing in his package with buddies like Carl (Jonah Hill, 'Hail, Caesar!') and the slightly deformed Barry (Michael Cera, TV's 'Children's Hospital') and awaiting the glorious day when he and his fellows will be taken to 'the Great Beyond' (outside the store) by 'the Gods' (grocery shoppers). Frank and the rest - including his girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig, 'Ghostbusters') who is a bun in the package next door anticipate a place of love, joy and eternal happiness.

But then the illusion is shattered.

Honey Mustard (Danny McBride, TV's 'Vice Principals') is returned to the store after being purchased and offers up a horrific, apocalyptic vision of the Great Beyond. Far from being a paradise, it is a hellscape in which all are murderedand consumed.

After a series of unfortunate events leave Frank and Brenda cast adrift in the aisles of the Shopwell's and with a newly-sworn enemy, the aptly-named Douche (Nick Kroll, 'Joshy') the two team up with a pair of bickering ethnic foodstuffs, a bagel named Sammy (Edward Norton, 'Birdman') and a lavash named Kareem Abdul (David Krumholz, 'I Saw the Light').

The pair are left at odds; Frank wants to discover the truth, while Brenda simply wants to go back to her aisle and await paradise. Frank soon encounters a group of nonperishables: Firewater (Bill Hader, 'Finding Dory'), Grits (Craig Robinson, 'Morris from America') and Twinkie (Scott Underwood in his voiceover debut) broadly-drawn stereotypes all offer the sausage a glimpse of the terrifying truth behind the deeply-held faith of the supermarket's populace.

It's up to Frank to try and find a way to let his fellow foodstuffs know the truth, but faith is a powerful thing something that will prove possible to disrupt without proof.

And the proof is in the pudding.

It's difficult to articulate just how crude and bizarre 'Sausage Party' is. The degree of profanity used is genuinely impressive (and rendered all the more effective by way of coming from the mouths of anthropomorphized food) and there's a free-and-easy subversive embrace of stereotypes that borders on the shocking. The degree of over-the-top sexuality is off the charts as well (I'm not going to spoil the climactic ending, but HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS). Long story short, they took the film's R-rated status to heart.

And yetthere's a subtle intelligence here that is as effective as it is surprising. Yes, this is a movie jammed with stupid gags and potty humor and all the other tenets of bro-comedy, yet it also manages to touch on some delicate subjects ethnic divisions, the intricate power of religious faith with unexpected nuance. Overall, the story is a good deal more sophisticated than it probably needed to be.

Directors Conrad Vernon (who has done a handful of animated movies) and Greg Tiernan (whose work is almost exclusively with Thomas the Tank Engine) do pretty incredible work in bringing to life the script provided by Rogen and Goldberg and their co-writers Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir. There's a definite parodic stylistic twist to the proceedings, evoking animation giants like Pixar and DreamWorks while also gently (or not-so-gently) mocking them.

The vocal cast is a who's who of comedic talent. Rogen does his usual growly Canadian thing, while Wiig is nicely understated as Brenda. Norton and Krumholz have a wonderfully antagonistic dynamic that is a lot of fun. Kroll goes full-bro as the lunatic Douche, while Hill and Cera are also on point.

But there are so many more. Hader and Robinson are excellent Hader in particular seems to be riffing on Johnny Depp's Tonto. Salma Hayek is great as a sassy taco, while notable like James Franco and Paul Rudd also turn up to have some fun with their buddies. And on and on and on.

In case you haven't worked it out yet, 'Sausage Party' is not for everybody. It is as not for kids as any movie animated or otherwise could possibly be. There will be plenty of adults who find it to be too much as well (and there's no shame in that, by the way being put off by this film certainly does not make you a prude).

'Sausage Party' is the kind of envelope-pushing weirdness that we rarely (if ever) see released by major studios these days. It is wrong in all of the ways that a movie can be wrong. It is offensive and line-crossing and gross. It is also cringingly funny and the smartest stupid movie we've seen in a long time.

So dig in.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:40

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