Is Sausage Party the Most Radical Film of 2016?
By Matilda Douglas-Henry
This article contains spoilers for the film Sausage Party.
When I first heard Seth Rogen was making a film about anthropomorphic foodstuffs, I didn’t believe it to be true. Granted, I was watching Rogen discuss his upcoming film on GGN – Snoop Dogg’s Double G Network, where he invites guests to sit in front of a green screen with him and smoke a lot of weed. It’s important to note that the green screen typically depicts a surreal metropolitan city, where blimps soar past promoting Snoop Dogg’s albums, and there is marijuana in lieu of actual grass (perhaps these are superfluous details, in retrospect, but interesting nevertheless).
Considering how stoned both Rogen and Snoop Dogg were in this context, I dismissed Sausage Party as a temporary drug-induced brainchild of the actor/writer (the ‘drug-induced’ element most likely remains true). But then the trailer was released five months ago, and it looked like a salacious and goofy animated film with a killer cast that would make me laugh a lot. When I went to see it a few weeks ago, I was surprised.
The premise that is handed to you in the trailer is relatively simple. All supermarket food products spend their lives preparing for the day they’re taken home by a customer. This idyllic world outside the sliding doors is known as the Great Beyond, but it doesn’t take long for the pack of sausages who are our protagonists to realise that food’s purpose in life is to be chopped, boiled, steamed, baked, and ultimately eaten – AKA murdered. Frank, the antihero (Rogen) and his girlfriend Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig) go on a mission to reveal the truth about the Great Beyond to the rest of the supermarket inhabitants.
All this still transpires onscreen, but there is much more depth and complexity to Sausage Party than a relatively straightforward hero’s journey. The film interrogates theology quite explicitly – as Frank uncovers more about the horrific reality of the Great Beyond, many of his edible mates choose faith over the truth. But the narrative takes many more twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. Covering topics such as sexuality, racial discrimination, and the ominous nature of capitalism, Sausage Party may be the most radical commercial film we’ll see this year.
I think Sausage Party nails it best when it serves as a commentary on liberal sexuality, and by extension, an appreciation of queerness. This is most apparent with Teresa del Taco, a (you guessed it) lesbian taco voiced by Salma Hayek who is strongly attracted to Brenda. While a lesbian taco is super crass (not to mention such an obvious generalisation), Teresa’s relationship with Brenda is never trivialised. In fact, Brenda expresses her feelings to Teresa, even though she is still with Frank, and their mutual attraction reaches a climax.
I first realised this film was going to challenge my expectations with the introduction of Kareem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz) and Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton), a Middle Eastern lavash and a bagel who share a wall in the supermarket aisle and have a long-standing rivalry. The gags about the Arab-Israeli conflict oscillate between interesting political commentary (Rogen and Goldberg are wont to explore their Judaism as a comedic device) and heavy-handed, offensive one-liners. Yet the relationship between Kareem and Sammy takes a romantic turn. Much like Teresa and Brenda, the relationship lacks silliness. Although it’s between a lavash and a bagel, their connection develops in such a way that it struck a chord with me.
I am not without my criticisms. Sausage Party often descends into the predictable charade of racial stereotypes, and the arch-villain of the film is a vaginal douche whose function alone makes for a disturbing and non-consensual narrative. Ultimately, this movie is a boundary-pushing, shocking one. It throws political correctness away; out to the dark, troubling world of the Great Beyond. I am not saying it is perfect in any means – it gets a lot wrong. But I’d encourage you to see it, if only to engage in a heated dialogue with your friends, or to see a healthy exploration of fluid sexuality reach its peak in what is perhaps the most outrageous sex scene ever.
And one last thing – have a meal before the screening. You won’t want to eat afterwards.