Let’s face it: If you’re food, you don’t get out much.
Take Frank, a sausage. He’s lived his entire life in a plastic package, sitting on a grocery store shelf with other sausages. Yeah. That’s it. He just hangs out. In the package. (Frankly [ha!], I don’t even know how he or the other sausages learned to speak English. Seems like even sentient sausages, blessed with thoughts and feelings of their own, would still need some sort of tutor for that.)
But Frank, being the sentient sausage he is, still has dreams. He wants to be somebody. He wants to get cozy with Brenda, the cute little bun next door. But most importantly, Frank hopes to be taken home by one of the store’s visiting “gods,” to be placed in a cart and wheeled out to the Great Beyond—a place where all worries and cares will vanish and he’ll be in the presence of some benevolent, denim-wearing deity.
This is the dream of all food, apparently. To go to the Great Beyond. They even have a catchy little song about it that they sing each morning.
But when a container of honey mustard returns from the Great Beyond, he is less than thrilled about the experience he’s had. In fact, when he and Frank wind up in the same cart, the jar of honey mustard decides to kill himself—leaping from the cart and smashing onto the tile floor below.
What could possibly turn a jar of honey mustard suicidal? Is it possible he grew confused and mistook himself for die-jon mustard? Or did he see something—something horrible, something unspeakable—that caused him to reevaluate his belief in the Great Beyond?
Frank, being an inquisitive sort of sausage, is determined to find out. Even as Brenda pleads with him to get back in his package and stop angering the gods, the hunk o’ prepackaged pork begins a quest for the truth, even if it costs him his meaty byproduct soul.
[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]
Frank, Brenda and others save each other’s lives at times—not typical behavior for foodstuffs. Two wandering bits of food—a Jewish bagel named Sammy and a chunk of thin Middle Eastern flatbread called Lavash (both the bread and the character)—get along well. Their relationship is likely intended to be an inspirational model for how to find peace in the Middle East.
Sausage Party is an anti-religious parable masquerading as a comedic sex cartoon.
Frank discovers that the Great Beyond ain’t so great. The “gods” are cruel and vicious entities who (naturally) eat food. We learn that the whole rumor of the Great Beyond was created by some imperishable, “immortal” foodstuffs (a bottle of booze named Fire Water, a box of Grits, and—naturally—an eternal Twinkie) to make things more cheerful in the supermarket.
Brenda, meanwhile, clings to her conviction that the Great Beyond is a good place. She frets that she’s being punished by the gods: She and Frank stuck their little gloved hands out of their respective packaging and “touched tips,” and she figures the gods are disappointed with her sexual exploration. (Others also confess to having “impure urges.”) When Frank rails at her for her naive faith, she defensively says she doesn’t need to explain or prove anything: “It’s something I feel,” she says.
Other bits of food express various religious beliefs on occasion. Lavash talks about how when he reaches the Great Beyond, he’ll be greeted by 77 bottles of extra-virgin olive oil. Teresa, a taco shell, prays to “St. Chimichanga.” And after food gets taken to the Great Beyond, it initially glories at the touch of the “gods,” thrilled to be washed and pampered in sparkly, heavenly kitchens. Indeed, most of the food in this supermarket is quite religious—clinging to its collective false faith with wide-eyed wonder and, in some cases, insensitivity. (We see a sign that alleges, “gods hate figs.”)
So even when Frank discovers concrete proof that the foodie afterlife is a (ahem) crock, the masses treat the sausage with skepticism and derision. It’s suggested that he initially fails because he was simply too strident (a nod, presumably, to angry atheists like Richard Dawkins), and that he needs to show his kind a “better way.”
And what is that “better way?” Well, it involves …
…. sex. Lots and lots of sex. Frank pleads for his fellow food stuffs to cast off their sexual inhibitions and run wild. And so they do, leading to an animated food orgy—as graphic as it can possibly be considering that none of the food items have any visible sexual organs. Audiences see acts that resemble heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, group sex, sadomasochism and a variety of fetishes. After the orgy is over, Brenda scolds herself for “saving ourselves for the Great Beyond when it was right in front of us the whole time.”
We learn shortly before the orgy commences that Sammy and Lavash have homosexual urges. They become lovers. We see them engaged in various acts and make crude quips about their various sexual (though invisible) body parts. Teresa the taco has lesbian leanings, and she develops a huge crush (crunch?) on Brenda—flirting with her as they travel through the grocery store and sometimes putting a hand on the bun’s buns.
There’s lots of discussion about how, exactly, sausages and buns have sex—an act that corresponds to how sausages and hot dogs normally interact with buns in the real world. Frank and Brenda talk about how much they’re looking forward to getting together. When angry, Brenda threatens to welcome other things into her carbohydrate-laden self, ranging from carrots to eggplants to messy tubes of toothpaste. A sausage is teased for being abnormally shaped. Lots of jokes riff on comparisons between sausages and the male anatomy.
The prime evil grocery product here is a personal hygiene product named Douche. It ogles the crotch area of the “god” who initially chooses him (the camera lingers on her jeans-covered privates). When he falls out of the cart and springs a leak, he essentially rapes a juicebox to fill himself up again—performing what is characterized as oral sex on a leak in the juicebox’s nether regions. He later attacks a grocery store worker’s backside, and we see his leering face through the worker’s open fly. (He and Frank fight around the crotch area of the worker, leading to some obscene imagery and allusions to masturbation.)
There’s lots of conversation regarding promiscuity and “slut shaming.” A used condom talks about his sad plight. Fruits have, apparently, the stereotypical sexual orientation you would expect. A woman pulls at the fabric over her crotch.
Animated food suffers greatly here. Sausages are stabbed and sliced. Bottles of tequila, jelly and other foods are smashed. A potato is skinned and boiled. Baby carrots are chomped up as they cry for mercy. Frank runs across a cookbook full of horrific images (or images that would be horrific for sentient food). A cataclysmic cart crash leads to what appears to be a war scene.
But humans suffer at the hands of food, too. Boiling water splashed on the face of a human sends him on a slapstick trip to the floor. He tumbles beneath an ax suspended above a doorway, which plunges and beheads the man. A food character totes the head (somehow) to the grocery store, illustrating that the “gods” can be killed.
The inhabitants of the grocery store declare war on the shoppers: First, they shoot them with toothpicks tipped with bath salts, which allows the humans to see them as they really are. Then they beat people and knock them over, sometimes knocking them unconscious. A jug of pop and a pack of Mentos sacrificially dive into the mouth of a victim, apparently blowing up the man’s head. A grocery store worker is catapulted into the air, exploding in the sky. When an eyeball falls back to earth, a bit of food holds it up as a trophy, cheering.
About 160 f-words, at least 45 s-words and three c-words. God’s name is misused at least 20 times, including four times with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused twice. Other vulgarities include “a–,” “b–ch,” “b–tard,” “h—,” “p-ss,” “pr–k,” “p—y” and “c–k.”
Sausage Party has essentially two morals: One, religion is a terrible, vile thing. And two, that drugs can show you the world as it really is.
We’re talking specifically about synthetic cathinones, a group of drugs commonly called “bath salts.” One man buys these salts on a street corner, then takes them home and injects some intravenously. (He also has a large bong on his coffee table.) He hallucinates, creating rainbow-like eddies in the air with his hands … then sees a sausage crawling across the coffee table. Later, food uses these same salts to awaken grocery shoppers to their reality.
The grocery store’s imperishables hang out in a “cave” of sorts, passing around a kazoo filled with marijuana. They encourage other foods to smoke the stuff as well, and many do. A bottle of tequila seems quite tipsy for most of its short life. There seems to be a perpetual street party in the liquor aisle.
Sausage Party engages in wholesale racial and national stereotyping, ranging from the Mexican foods all hanging out in a seedy cantina to Chinese foods walking around in a diminutive Chinatown-like area. Fire Water is a caricature of an American Indian (complete with headdress, makeup and broken English). The sauerkraut aisle recalls Nazi Germany (including a Hitler-like leader and a call to exterminate all juice). Sammy, the bagel, says that the sauerkraut wanted to move him and his kind to the barbecue aisle.
Someone runs into some feces on the street, and bits of undigested food crawl out, ghost/zombie-like. Another person later steps in the mess. A roll of toilet paper hints at the horrors he’s seen.
When I went into Sausage Party, I was prepared for an outrageously crass, foul and obscene cartoon. And while the film certainly met those dubious expectations, I wasn’t expecting it to be a sermon, too. Without question, this is the preachiest, most obnoxious, most offensive animated sex comedy I’ve seen this year.
More could be said about the movie’s anti-religious musings—more than I can really unpack here. But we really don’t need to get into the theology of sentient food here.
Because really, why bother? There’s no sweet core at play, no redeeming message in the movie’s last 10 minutes. This movie features lots of animated food having sex, doing drugs, murdering people and defaming religions of every kind.
We need about as much nuance to review this sick flick as comedian Seth Rogen used restraint in making it. If I see a movie that’s worse than Sausage Party this year, it will be a sorry year indeed.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.