You know those movies where the premise is so out-there that you say "Wow, these guys must have been really high when they came up with THAT one!"? That's usually a sarcastic joke, but in the case of Sausage Party, it's almost certainly true. America's Stoner in Chief Seth Rogen, who reportedly worked for eight years to get this film made, gives away the secret to its creation in the middle of the second act, when Druggie, voiced by James Franco, gains the ability to communicate with inanimate objects after injecting a solution of bath salts. "Everybody told me not to do this," he says. "But I'm going to do it anyway."
One can easily imagine Rogen and his partner in crime Evan Goldberg pitching the idea of a movie about talking supermarket food items to their crew of Hollywood's Most Blunted over bong hits and nachos. I'm sure many, many people told them not to do it, because it's one of those ideas that sounds great when you're stoned but doesn't survive contact with the "real world." But these grasshoppers have pulled off an unlikely coup by bringing their bonged-out vision to the screen and making it work.
Rogen is the voice of Frank, a hot dog who, like everyone . . . I mean, everything ... in the Shopwell big box grocery store lives more or less contentedly in his cozy packaging with seven other bro-dogs. Everything the products know about the world inside and outside the supermarket comes from a song they sing ritualistically each morning, which provides the film with its first opportunity to mock animation conventions. The big opening production number delivers the same world-building information as "Circle of Life" from The Lion King, only with a lot more casual cursing. The song tells them the people shopping in the Shopwell are benevolent gods who choose the most worthy among the products and take them away into an eternal paradise. Those who are not found pure and worthy are condemned to be thrown into the trash by Darren (Paul Rudd), the pimpled stock boy who roams the aisles seeking whom he may devour.
Frank and his mates are feeling pretty good about their chances for ascension into paradise, because they're prominently placed on the 4th of July special rack next to a pack of buns that is home to Frank's would-be girlfriend Brenda Bunsen (Kristen Wiig). But the day before the big 4th of July sale, a bottle of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) is returned to the store, and he tells the foodstuff a harrowing tale of gods who mercilessly mutilate and devour the food. When Frank and Brenda try to save Honey Mustard from suicide, they cause a catastrophic cart collision that plays out like every urban disaster movie since 9/11.
Turns out, when your characters are talking food, you can skewer a lot of sacred cows. Our heroes are accompanied by two refugees from the ethnic food aisle: Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton) talks like a Woody Allen character, and Lavash (David Krumholtz) is a Persian flatbread. The quest forces the two rival carbohydrates to put aside their differences and work together. The other member of the party is a lesbian taco played by Selma Hayek. The villain is, naturally, a Douche, played with psychotic gusto by Nick Kroll.
In a year plagued by some of the worst screenwriting in recent memory, the script, credited to four writers including Rogen and Goldberg, is surprisingly tight. Co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan are two veteran animators with only a handful of directoiral credits between them. They have fun staging one hilarious set piece after another. Pixar has been the dominant animation studio for a generation, but there have been surprisingly few Pixar parodies. Sausage Party is among the first to stake out that ground, riffing on Ratatouille and Toy Story. But their ultimate achievement is a climactic pansexual food orgy that really must be seen to be believed.
Just in case the words "pansexual food orgy" didn't clue you in, this is one animated film that is not for children. Fans of the Rogen/Goldberg flavor of raunchy comedy, however, will find that Sausage Party is the duo's greatest achievement.