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'Sausage Party' cooks up more shocks than laughs

“Sausage Party” – Seth Rogen’s latest project has garnered enormous amounts of buzz over the last few weeks and with good reason, because it’s not every day that a Rated-R, animated movie about walking and talking grocery store food items is released to the general public. Thumbing through my internal movie rolodex, no, I cannot think of another such film.

After sitting through 1 hour and 29 minutes of “Sausage Party”, I give Rogen, co-directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon and the seven (yes, seven) writers credit for taking risks, pushing boundaries, actually scribing deceptively-smart writing to address important life concepts while delivering a completely unique picture.

On the other hand, the material was immeasurably offensive, juvenile and for the most part, generally unfunny. I believe I sat in my theatre seat in utter disbelief while rubbing my eyes to ensure I was not seeing things for 42 minutes, felt bored during the slow-moving 2nd act for another 42 minutes, and laughed during the remaining five minutes. That is my unofficial, non-scientific recollection of my time, but before we go further, let’s discuss the plot.

A fictional grocery store called Shopwells is the setting, and all of the perishable and non-perishable items in this place are alive and well. Everything from half-gallons of ice cream to bagels, honey mustard jars, juice boxes, and bubble gum are all living and breathing in this ecosystem of shelving and artificial light. The end goal of everyone in the store is to be selected by the “Gods”, who actually are customers and to be escorted through the front doors and into the “Great Beyond”!

Our hero and heroine are a hot dog in a "Fancy Dogs" package and appropriately named Frank (Rogen) and a hot dog bun in a “Glamour Buns” package named Brenda (Kristen Wiig). They are in love and desperately wish a God will choose both of them, so they can travel to the Great Beyond and live happily ever after.

As sometimes life presents hiccups for human beings, similar missteps present themselves to grocery store items as well. Frank and Brenda fall out of their respective packages and are now traveling in the seemingly endless Shopwells market. As they travel through the aisles – like the Party Central liquor aisle – Frank and Brenda begin to learn the truth about the Gods and the Great Beyond while also dodging a mean-spirited and intensely vengeful feminine hygiene product (Nick Kroll).

“Sausage Party” certainly gets creative by raising questions on the existence of God and other takes on bigger themes like the Middle East conflict by introducing two other characters, a bagel and lavash, of course. Moments like these make the film a noteworthy exercise.

Tiernan and Vernon also play with some wild visuals like a chicken noodle soup can falling from a high shelf, and his innards – in the form of noodles – spill out, like a wounded soldier on the field of battle. In another clip, a peanut butter jar cries for his girlfriend, a jelly jar who was smashed on the concrete floor, and he smears the jelly on his face in bloody remembrance.

The film presents dozens of these scenes, but along the way offers the most crass and adolescent humor that I’ve seen in ages, and visually I haven’t been this flabbergasted - during an "animated" film - since the sex scene between two puppets in “Team America: World Police” (2004).

The difference is films like “Team America” and “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” (1999) presented characters who spoke outrageous statements and cursed constantly, but the former presented massive sarcasm on the country’s fear of terrorism and military response. In 2004, the country needed a laugh on this serious topic, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone offered plenty of them. The latter featured “beloved” characters who we really wanted to hear let loose and unfiltered. Here, Frank, Carl (Jonah Hill) and others simply curse, simply because they can.

As the verbal jabs and sight gags escalated in their vulgarity, I literally imagined Seth Rogen smoking pot in a crowded writers' room and saying, “What if Carl meets a condom on a random street corner?”

With the veil lifted off the movie magic within the first 10 minutes, “Sausage Party” felt like a contrived exercise in excess, and more importantly, I did not think it was very funny. I certainly remember heartily enjoying “Team America: World Police” (2004) and “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” (1999) infinitely more than this film.

Wait a minute, those movies arrived in theatres 12 and 17 years ago, respectively. Perhaps, I am getting old. Well, that's possible, but I'd still like to think I would embrace another "South Park" film.

(2/4 stars)

Image credits: Columbia Pictures

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