Genres in film tend to ebb and flow over time. We get obsessed with particular genres, and lose interest in others. Currently we’re fascinated with superhero action movies, but given time it will fade away to join the ranks of Westerns, Fantasy, and Adventures movies to genre-fare that will be trotted out occasionally, but never quite as beloved as it was in its heyday. But genres tend to be pretty cyclical, and the ones that fade from favor will eventually come back when a sense of nostalgia craves them once more. But there’s one genre that doesn’t seem to be coming back anymore. Parody. The parody genre used to be booming, full of great little pictures that were lovingly mocking either specific movies or whole genres. The works of Mel Brooks, The Zucker/Abrams crew, and even smaller stuff like Murder by Death created fun, weird comedies that were packed to the brim with jokes, some high-brow, some low-brow, but all with a certain amount of skill. They were intricate little films that become funnier and funnier when you become more familiar with the subject matter that it’s parodying. Because they tended to be clever. They had something to say about the subject matter, and wanted to tease it and point out flaws in the form in ways that you couldn’t do in a straight-forward addition of the genre. But lately the state of the parody-film has fallen apart. We really don’t get any of them anymore, other than the occasional train-wreck from Friedberg and Seltzer, the morons behind stuff like Epic Movie, that are little more than just middle-school humor jokes and direct references that are meant to be comedy. And yet, we may have a new entry into the genre of parody, from the twisted minds of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg. They’ve somehow crafted an insane, animated comedy in the style of Pixar films, and made it a filthy, depraved, satiric little experiment that has to be seen to believed. Sausage Party.
The premise of Sausage Party starts off deceptively simple. It has the basic structure that so many Pixar films have used to great success. The idea that things we take for granted in our world are actually conscious and much more aware of things than we would think. And the object that’s been bestowed sentience in this movie is our food. We open up in a grocery store where we’re introduced to our central characters, Frank the hotdog and Brenda the bun. The two have been awaiting the day that they will get chosen by a God (a human) who will take them from the supermarket out into the Great Beyond where everything will be happy. Their whole life is built around praising the Gods, and making sure they don’t do anything wrong or untoward in order to please the Gods and get chosen. And then, on the day before Fourth of July, they are chosen. They’re put in a cart along with Frank’s friends Carl and Barry, a unpleasant Douche, and a psychotic jar of honey mustard. And it’s the honey mustard that ruins everything, because it turns out he’s been returned to the store, and has learned the horrible truth about food. So he freaks out, and in the process of his suicide accidentally gets Frank and Brenda thrown from the cart, along with the Douche and a Jewish bagel named Sammy Bagel Jr, and an Islamic lavash called Kareem Abdul Lavash. The group crash onto the ground, and are now stranded in the store, out of their packages, and trapped in the supermarket over-night.
And thus begins the great odyssey that the rest of the movie revolves around. Our central little group starts trying to find their way back to their aisles, while trying to avoid the evil Douche, and get home before the Gods show back up. And along the way, Frank starts to have doubts about the legitimacy of the Gods. And that’s backed up when he runs into a group of nonperishable goods that have been in the supermarket for ages, and who admit to having made up the whole story. They explain that the Gods are evil, and wants to devour the food, and it’s all been a lie to keep the food placated and quiet. Bu while Frank is having that realization we see that Brenda, Sammy, and Kareem have gotten taken away by a bottle of Tequilla to the Mexican aisle of the store to be attacked by the Douche, only to be saved by Teresa the taco. Oh, and we see the truth about human being carried out with Carl and Barry, which results in a lot of food being killed, and little Barry escaping to save Frank.
Frank and the gang meet back up eventually, and he has a lot to say about the Gods. Which sounds pretty blasphemous. The rest of the food don’t want to believe Frank’s horrible reality, so they decide to leave him behind and head back to their aisles to keep their heads down, while Frank heads to a secret aisle in the back of the store that will hold the ultimate truth. And while Frank starts travelling to that aisle we check back in on Barry, who has made his way into the house of a drug addict who starts taking Bath Salts, and shockingly is able to then understand the food. This terrifies the drug addict, who promptly passes out, before waking back up and deciding it was all a dream, and that he should eat Barry. And after Barry’s seeming death we find Frank in the forbidden aisle, which turns out to be where they house the cookware. Frank finds a cookbook and finally has the proof he needed, and heads to the front of the store to get over the intercom and tell the food the truth. Which they promptly reject, deciding to stay in their own sheltered world. But the day is not lost, because Barry triumphantly returns with some of the food from the stoners house, and reveals that Gods can be killed, and shows them the power of the Bath Salts. So the next morning when the God’s show up to claim their new victims the food stage an insane battle, and start dousing them with Bath Salts, showing the food the true faces of their Gods. And once the Gods are vanquished, the food celebrate with an insane orgy, before realizing that the whole movie has been a charade, and they’re just cartoons from some other world, that they decide to go visit and free themselves from.
So yeah. That was a movie full of animated food that ends with them having a drug-fueled orgy after tearing down their Gods. Not something you see every day. And it was pretty fascinating. The movie was a pretty spot-on parody of the Pixar formula, specifically the Toy Story model, even going so far as to feature a song written by Alan Menken. And yet, it takes that formula and flips it on its head, creating a crass, dirty, blasphemous little film out of the foundation of so many family-friendly stories. It’s full of racial jokes, religion jokes, sexuality jokes, and just about everything else that seem to be “off limits” nowadays. And yet, it wasn’t just some throwback comedy that is lamenting the fact that we can’t be racist anymore, because by the end it starts to talk about how we should just get past our petty racial and nationalistic differences and just get along. At first we see all these broad racial stereotypes because the grocery store is pretty segregated by nationalities, and yet they realize that it’s all petty and stupid in the end, and that there’s more to life than these self-imposed differences.
But the real key to the movie, to me at least, was the religious statements that it was putting out. I talk about it a lot on the Lifetime of Simpsons portion of the website, but I’m not exactly a fan of organized religion. And neither is this movie. But the fascinating thing about this movie was that it wasn’t all about how people who believe in religion are wrong, or that the only purpose religion serves is to keep people stupid and not fulfilling their lives. That’s in there certainly, but the end really showed that even if you don’t personally believe in religion, and think that it’s one of the most damaging factors in modern society, it’s not your place to be an asshole and ruin it for everyone. Frank tries that, and just comes off as a jerk. Even when he has concrete proof, no one cares, because you can’t just rip that Bandaid off. Yeah, these man-made constructs that we use to belittle and hate each other, religion and nationality, are pretty damaging to the world, but we can’t just remove them, it takes time, but when they are removed, things will be better. That’s pretty deep for a movie about talking hotdogs. And it all wrapped up to a fascinating little piece of satire. Now, I will say, I didn’t really jive with some of the humor, which really turned low-brow more often than not, but the satire, the parody, and the symbolism lifted the film out of the mediocre comedy that the movie was providing to create a fascinating and deep little film.
Sausage Party was written by Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir, was directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, was distributed by Columbia Pictures, 2016.
Categories: Reel Talk