Somewhere in some theater across this great land of ours, a parent is going to take a little one to see that cartoon about the cute hot dogs and buns and vegetables that all live in harmony in the grocery store, hoping and praying for the day when they’ll be plucked from the shelves and taken to the Land Beyond the Parking Lot.
That’ll be a big mistake. Big big big BIG mistake.
“Sausage Party” is an animated adventure that bears a passing, relatively low-budget resemblance to a traditional film from the Pixar or DreamWorks magic-makers — but from the first expletive through all the druggie humor to the last graphic sexual encounter, make no mistake about the hard-R nature of this film, which was probably about three deleted scenes away from getting the NC-17 designation.
This is the raunchiest, filthiest, most ridiculous and most politically incorrect movie of the year. It’s also one of the funniest — and its own very twisted and warped way, it offers some legitimate if obvious insights about our insane world, organized religion, blind faith and the never-ending animosity between cultures that often can’t even remember when, where and why the fighting started.
As in so many animated adventures, from the “Toy Story” films through “The Secret Life of Pets,” the conceit of “Sausage Party” is a parallel universe involving the stuff of life we don’t think is aware of us. Every piece of produce, every encased meat, every condiment, every packaged snack, every soft drink, every bottle of liquor, etc., etc., in the grocery store is an anthropomorphic character with arms, legs, eyes, ears and a fluent command of the English language — but of course the humans can’t see or hear them talking and walking about.
Seth Rogen (who co-wrote the script with longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg, among others) plays Frank, a happy and regular-guy hot dog living in a supermarket called Shopwell’s. Frank occupies a sealed eight-pack that includes his buddies, the diminutive Barry (Michael Cera) and the wisecracking Carl (Jonah Hill).
Frank only has eyes for Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a hot dog bun who yearns for the day when the two of them are lovingly placed in a shopping cart and taken to “The Great Beyond,” the imagined afterlife that is the cornerstone of the faith of the vast majority of items in the store. (They begin each day with a song proclaiming their faith in the “gods,” aka the humans, who come into the store every day and choose some of them for eternal happiness.)
Ah, but one day a jar of Honey Mustard returns to the store after he (yes, he) was mistakenly purchased by one of the gods. A visibly shaken Honey Mustard tells of the horrors that await all that are whisked away to the Great Beyond: They’ll be murdered and eaten!
Who to believe — Honey Mustard or years of faith in the human gods?
Thus begins the great adventure of Frank and Brenda to discover the truth. Their encounters include numerous tangles with a villainous feminine hygiene product (Nick Kroll) seeking revenge; a female taco (Salma Hayek) who has serious designs on Brenda, and a bagel (Edward Norton, channeling Woody Allen) and a Lavash (David Krumholtz) who loathe each other because their respective peoples have always loathed each other.
James Franco kills as a human slacker who ingests some bath salts and suddenly can actually see and communicate with the talking hot dogs, bags of potato chips and slices of pizza. Scott Underwood is hilarious voicing a wad of gum clearly based on Stephen Hawking, I kid you not. Bill Hader scores some of the biggest laughs as Firewater, a supposedly wise and immortal bottle of liquor.
At times “Sausage Party” plays into ethnic and gender stereotypes while making points about ethnic and gender stereotypes. Probably not everyone will find the references to “fruits” funny, for example. I did — mostly because despite all the cursing and envelope-pushing and bat-bleep crazy sexual stuff, “Sausage Party” isn’t mean-spirited. It’s just … stupid.
But also pretty smart. And funny as hell.
Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan and written by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Running time: 89 minutes. Rated R (for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use). Opens Friday at local theaters.