It’s just as well that Seth Rogan’s animated comedy, SAUSAGE FEST, is R-rated. That would be because the most awkward question a parent might have to answer after his or her child has seen this metaphysically dense romp wouldn’t be about the specific mechanics involved in the bonding between Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a bosomy hot dog bun, and a muy caliente Teresa del Taco (Salma Hayak). No, the really tough question will be about whether or not God exists. You see, sentient foodstuffs of various groups and relative nutrition values that populate this film aren’t worried about GMOs or biodynamic farming. They are debating what happens in the Great Beyond, which is to say what happens when the gods, that would be supermarket shoppers who drop in on them, choose them for the journey past the sliding glass doors that demarcate their world from the world to come. Like the sex, drugs, and politics that are fodder for the script, the question of what happens when we leave this world, and the implications of what that means for how we should behave in the here and now, is addressed directly, and with the same fulsome sense of mischief.
When Brenda isn’t bonding elsewhere, she’s crushing on the sweet and sex-obsessed Frank (Rogan), a frankfurter inhabiting a package of same conveniently located next to the pack of buns in which Brenda resides. They are both looking forward to the annual red, white, and blue day, when they are sure that they will finally be chosen by the gods, wheeled to the checkout stand in the sacred shopping carts, and taken to the Great Beyond. Once there, they will be able to consummate their love and live happily ever after. Until then, all Frank can talk Brenda into involves tips. Of their fingers. The dialogue, like all the dialogue, isn’t so much suggestive as declarative as they use common euphemisms and gleefully direct language, for what they want to do to one another.
When things begin to go horribly wrong for them, Brenda is sure they are being punished for transgressing against their deities, while Frank questions not only why the gods would be angry about something like that, but whether or not there really is anything outside the sliding glass doors. It’s that questioning that will lead the would-be lovers on an odyssey through the specialty aisles, the company of a bagel (Edward Norton) and lavash (David Krumholtz), energetically squabbling over who owns the shelf space in their own aisle, and a fateful meeting with Firewater (Bill Hader), who is still fuming (and sparking up) over how the newcomers pushed his people off their own shelf space.
There is nothing subtle here. This is a gleeful wallow in subversion that hearkens back to the 1960s, when nothing was off limits except being coy. Mr. Grits (Craig Robinson) rails against the crackers who done him wrong, The villain of the piece is a douche, literally, and Frank’s best friend, Barry (Michael Cera), bemoans his short stature, only to be bucked up by Frank with the cheery reminder that it’s girth, not length, that counts when it comes to filling a bun.
I can’t believe I just wrote that.
The story trots along with stereotypes being skewered (German mustard wants to kill all the juice), and some intense sequences of what happens when people bring their groceries home, including a disconcerting look at mastication from a food’s-eye view. That’s nothing to the pointed theological arguments about faith, dogma, the necessity of purpose for a fulfilling life, and an unexpectedly sweet resolution that is at odds to what happens to so many of the humans in the film, who can only see the food for what it is when stoked up on bath salts. No, not the kind we put in the tub.
Full props to Rogan and his fellow writers. They know how to write themselves into a corner, and just as deftly how to write themselves out of it with an ironic twist as original as it is puckishly ridiculous. Full of puns, explicit sex, violence, and suicide, SAUSAGE PARTY seeks to take everyone out of his or her comfort zone (the anatomical correctness of that bun is grotesquely fascinating) with a sense of fun that is both puerile and sly.