Please accept this invitation to sample our meat at the Sausage Party.
In a classic episode of The Simpsons entitled Itchy & Scratchy and Marge, it tackles censorship of comedy. Marge Simpson has an issue with the violence in the kid's show Itchy and Scratchy and forms a coalition force of other offended mothers who eventually get the network to take all of the violence and comedy out of the show. Itchy and Scratchy becomes a bland shadow of its former self, and all the children lose interest in watching it. All seems well until Michelangelo's David sculpture comes to Springfield on an art tour and the same group of mothers tries to have it censored because of its nudity. Marge, being an artist herself, suddenly realizes that all art can be considered offensive to someone and that to censor one kind of art and not another type of art is hypocritical. This episode aired way back in 1990, but we still face censorship in our media and pop culture even today.
|Would you look at the size of that sausage?|
So where does Seth Rogen's raunchy comedy Sausage Party (2016) fit into all this? This film is hands down one of the most gleefully offensive films I have seen in a long time and here's the kicker--it's animated! In a world of squeaky clean Pixar, Dreamworks and Disney films, this is a breath of horrendously politically incorrect fresh air, a joyful exclamation of obscenities and raw sexual humor the likes which haven't been seen since South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (1999). Its foul and raunchy, pearl-clutching humor slaps you in the face every single second of the movie, and while some of it is silly (even stupid) for the most part the jokes stick the landing.
The main gist of the story is that anthropomorphic food items in a grocery store fantasize about being bought and taken to the Great Beyond which is actually just outside and to the customer's house. They have turned it into a religion of sorts and refer to humans as The Gods and worship them. Things go sour when a jar of honey mustard that gets returned to the store tells the others that everything in the Great Beyond is not what it seems. This prompts a hotdog named Frank (Seth Rogan) and a hotdog bun named Brenda (Kristen Wiig) to go on a journey to figure out the real truth. There is definitely an anti-religion theme running through the narrative, but it is done in a clever and unobtrusive way and for the most part is played off as a big joke.
|It's huge. Oh. My. God.|
I know that this film is going to be accused of being racist because the different types of food have racial qualities that are attributed to the type of cuisine they belong to. The Mexican food has a Hispanic accent, the bagel (voiced by Edward Norton) sounds like a Woody Allen impression, the German food are dressed like Nazis etc. It's not mean-spirited at any time though and it's just supposed to be analogous to the food representing different types of people. Are there stereotypes? Yes, but it's there to illustrate how different kinds of people (or...foods) can join together for a single cause. The writing is clever enough to back up the risks they take with the portrayal of the foods. Not that they are on the same level, but Art Spiegelman took similar criticisms for his graphic novel about the holocaust Maus (1991) in which he used different types of animals to represent the different races.
I was most surprised by the quality of animation in Sausage Party and this movie looks almost up to par with Pixar films. The textures of all the different foods are well done and everything has a bright-colored fun look that directly contrasts with the horrible things that are going on. The animation was a joint venture between Sony Pictures Imageworks and Nitrogen Studios Canada. It's obviously supposed to be a parody of the "Pixar style" and it mimics that look perfectly. It will be very appealing for kids, but I implore parents to not bring their children to see this movie. It's a hard R and almost pornographic at times. This is adults only.
So why does comedy occasionally need a film like this? Because like anything, when something becomes suitable for everyone it loses its edge. There is room for beautiful art, ugly art, surreal art and even offensive art. If everything that is deemed offensive is culled then what do we have left to compare and contrast with? Art needs to be free to be as subversive and provocative as it wants. Seth Rogen said it best: "What would it be like if our food had feelings? We very quickly realized that it would be fucked up".
Share the meat.