Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures.
Sausage Party is exactly the kind of movie its title would suggest: You know what you're going to get long before overpaying for popcorn. If you were expecting something else, that's on you. Culled from the most perverse corners of the male mind, the movie is a raunchy, phallic overload, full of lowbrow wordplay and general filth. It tells the story of anthropomorphized grocery items that find out what really happens when they leave the store. A woman sitting next to me left the theater after a used condom cried out in agony on screen; I heard her muttering the word "disgusting" as she stepped into the aisle. She was not wrong. But the thing about a movie like Sausage Party is that it's up front about its goofy juvenility. The story, after all, comes from the minds of screenwriting duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who also brought us This Is the End and Superbad, and it treads the same stoner-meets-sexual-deviance path as those previous films. Except more pornographic and with characters who look like Toy Story extras and enjoy highly inventive orgies. The movie kicks off in Disney-esque style with a song — the same tune the store's stock items sing every morning before the humans (whom they call gods) come in to shop. Everyone is all psyched up for Red, White & Blue Day (bet you can guess what that is), but none more so than the buns and sausages, sitting front and center at the end of an aisle, hoping to get chosen. Frank (Seth Rogen, in cured meat form) and Brenda (Kristen Wiig, a voluptuous bun) are in side-by-side packages, just waiting for the day they can finally escape from the plastic and finally slip it in, so to speak. But on the morning they're set to leave the store, something happens that keeps them from going home with the god who chose them. Brenda thinks their fate might have something to do with breaking the rules — reaching their fingers outside their plastic wrapping and "touching tips"; Frank isn't quite so sure. In any event: It turns out that being stuck inside the store saves their lives. I'm not telling you anything that's not already in the trailer, but it becomes ever more clear that going through checkout means being brutally murdered by humans. Warning: Eating a baby carrot will never be the same again.
One thing that may potentially mitigate your enjoyment of this film: How nearly every single character finds its basis in a cultural stereotype. For example: A sneaky, drunk tequila bottle with a "Mexican" accent stumbles through the hot sauce section. A sexy taco (brought to sensuous life by Selma Hayek) wants to get in between Brenda's buns. Traditional Israeli and Armenian grains just can't seem set their differences aside no matter how much they have in common. Just like in the actual grocery store, ethnic foods are cordoned into their own sections; and just like in real life, the different cultures clash about everything from overtaking one another's territory to what they believe about the great beyond. And then there are the three nonperishable items that come up with a creation myth to control the masses: Chief Firewater (a peace-pipe smokin' Native American character in the form of a booze bottle), Grits (as in: a box of them, voiced by Craig Robinson, sounding like George Jefferson), and Twink (a Twinkie, use your imagination). Sure, it's funny. But it also, almost certainly, crosses over the line. So is Sausage Fest just plain racist — or is it an irreverent cultural satire? I'm still trying to decide myself. What I've come up with so far: It might be both. But if you can table that question for an hour and a half and just watch the movie, what you'll find is this: The grocery store as cultural tableau is actually an effective, maybe even genius conceit. The teenager who lives inside your head will giggle, while the more highly evolved parts of your brain might wonder if Sausage Party is a Trojan horse for parodying xenophobia, extremism, and sexual repression. What more could be desired from a cartoon about horny edibles? Sausage Fest debuts in theaters across the U.S. on Friday, August 12.

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