MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Sony Pictures
Directed by Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan. Animated Feature
I wasn’t originally planning to review the raunchy new cartoon movie Sausage Party. But then I glanced over thumbnail reviews posted online by other critics and read comments such as these: “Nuanced meditations on theology and faith”, “Oddly theological”, “a legitimate interest in theological debate”, and “one of the funniest arguments for the non-existence of God in some time.”
So that’s why I’m weighing in on the scale by the produce section.
The film is set in a local supermarket and begins with a big production number in which the grocery store items pray to the gods of “The Great Beyond” – the place where food that is chosen reside, a land where dreams come true. And the midst of the catchy, lovely tune is riddled with profanity, anti-Semitism, and sexual innuendo. You have to give screenwriters Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg credit for letting the audience know what’s in the store for them.
The main character in Sausage Party is Frank (voiced by Rogan), a hot dog who dreams of breaking out of his shrink wrap to get inside of Brenda (Kristin Wiig), a hot dog bun. His friend Barry (Michael Cera) is the short wiener in the package and you’d better believe that this does not go unnoticed by the gag writers. And you just might gag when you discover that the villain of the story is a feminine hygiene product (Nick Kroll) who lives up to his name.
Early in the film a jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) that was chosen to go to The Great Beyond is returned to be exchanged for real mustard. But Honey Mustard has seen too much. He reports that the afterlife is a sham and nothing less than torture and consumption of those who leave the shelves.
As packages are eventually taken and ripped apart in preparation for Red, White and Blue Day, Frank leaves to explore the store while Barry escapes death only to wind up in the apartment of a Druggie (James Franco) who is going off the deep end.
It’s a crazy mash-up of two tropes from “Toy Story”: the activity of objects when we are away from them and the hopes of the alien toys to get chosen by “The Claw”.
It’s also the most blatantly offensive film in a long time. There’s a Hitler-like can of sauerkraut (Conrad Vernon) that wants to “kill the juice”, a Mexican taco (Selma Hayak) that is aggressively sexual, a Jewish bagel (Edward Norton doing Woody Allen) in conflict with a Palestinian flatbread (David Krumholtz), and a Native American bottle of firewater (Bill Hader) who is our spiritual guide.
I have had some issues with the Film Rating Board from time to time. Their R rating of Sausage Party is inappropriate since I cannot fathom why anyone under the age of 16 should be exposed to content that is developmentally unacceptable, including an orgy scene towards the end that is literally food porn.
Oh yes – that theology thing. Other critics have called this film a mix of Calvinism and Puritanism, a statement of existential dread, and an apologetic for atheism. As the film stumbled and weaved its way to its clever denouement, it became apparent to me that this is just the kind of late-night stoner God-talk that is fueled by weed and beer, aided by the arrested development of adult males who enjoy holding onto their younger, immature selves for as long as they can. My theology of grace was not threatened, but I am sure that there will be some folks who will view the profane and unrepentant hedonism of Sausage Party and believe (if only for an hour and a half) that there is no God.
One halo: A few inspired moments of animation, including a hilarious war scene as played out by perishing non-perishables.
Five pitchforks: Nonstop swearing, sexual dialogue, scatological humor, sex acts between foodstuffs, racism, ethnic stereotypes, heavy drug use (including bath salts), heavy alcohol consumption, the objectification of women, graphic violence, confused theology.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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