Written by: Daniel McDonald
Interesting, the one thing I never expected to be a takeaway from Seth Rogan’s latest big name ” comedy fest ” is how many honest to God horror film tropes, clichés and atmospheric situations I would either laugh out loud or groan predictably at ( depending on how well they’re used, it’s a fifty -fifty shot).
Recently I wrote about a film, ExtraterrestrialL, mostly reviled by critics and fans for being creatively bankrupt, and falling back on or outright stealing many traditional Sci-fi tropes from other films as it had nothing to say on its own. I on the other hand felt the film was honoring elements from Sci-fi/horror classics in a very passionate, completely full disclosure way. It also managed to make a three million dollar budget look like something that cost four times that.
So why then did an animated (very accurately lampooning the current Disney/Pixar projects that seem to be coming at us monthly) film that is basically a top to bottom round up and display of many different film traditions given (the creators hope) a breathe of cinematic fresh air by the addition of three unusually rare in animation elements, a ridiculously over the top amount of graphic sexual language and situations as well as unmitigated brutality and graphic violence (hence the addition of it here on A.T.H.M.) and finally all of this strange cinematic brew being told and experienced by animated talking grocery store products.
The basic storyline revolves around the lives of these products, from their home base Shopwell grocery store where they have various relationships and interaction.
The products all hope for the day they will be purchased and taken to the wonderful “Great Beyond” where they’ll live happily ever after. After a series of introductions where the F-bomb as well as other incredibly graphic language is used to the point of saturation, the entire store breaks into an Alan Menkin tune, written with a furious acknowledgement and kick in the creative nuts to Menkin’s own Beauty and the Beast.
Through a series of shopping cart disasters we come to find out that a purchased and returned jar of Honey Mustard (an Alfred Hitchcockian paranoid Danny Mc Bride) has found out that the characters that made it into the Great Beyond were actually savagely murdered including a brutally skinned alive and boiled potato, a Jason Voorhees style slaughter (knife in the back protruding through the stomach hot dog, another hand standing Weiner split all the way in half a la Friday the 13th part 3, some very cute baby carrots who, while trying to escape are casually tossed in someone’s mouth and we get the joy of watching them scream in pain as they are chewed to death.)
One of our protagonists, a slightly disfigured Weiner Barry (Michael Cena) who is bullied much like Carrie White, escapes in the bag of a dope head (surprise! James Franco) thinking he’s going back to Shopwell, but actually ends up at the druggies house where after shooting up bath salts ( no, really!) he goes on a trip where he sees the animated products as they really are.
Back at the Shopwell we find our heroes being stalked by a malicious douche ( Nick Krall ) who was severely damaged in the shopping cart disaster caused when Honey Mustard, after filling in our heroes… couple hot dog Frank (Seth Rogan) and bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) as well as lesbian taco Teresa (alma Hayek), Mr. Gritts (Craig Robinson) and constantly bickering lavash Kareem (David Krumholz) and bagel Sammy (a very funny Woody Allen type voiced by Edward Norton)…in on the actual fate of the products once they’re purchased, leaps to his shattering, splattering demise.
We are then witness to the angry douche capturing and raping/draining/murdering a juice box and discarding his husk on a pile of drained, murdered products. Stock boy Darren (Paul Rudd) has been cleaning up/finishing off damaged products, is confronted by returning hero Barry who terrifies the stock boy by producing the severed head of Druggy. Our gang has been informed by longtime product Firewater (Bill Hader) that he had created the myth of the Great Beyond to help the products transition to the other side.
As the holiday arrives, terrified products try desperately to escape purchase (and death) in a scene out of any number of horror films. Barry and Frank get the idea to shoot bath salt tipped toothpicks into the customers infecting and turning them into drugged out zombies (28 Weeks Later meets Dawn of the Dead anyone?)
Their victory leads to a jaw dropping orgy of EPIC proportions, I seriously couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing, suffice it to say if this wasn’t an animated film the dreaded NC17 would have surely been given.
There is one more plot twist that I’ll leave for you to experience. I will say at only 88 minutes the film still seemed long. First time director Greg Tiernan and his partner Conrad Vernon seemed to accomplish what writer/producers Seth Rogan and his longtime partner Evan Goldberg wanted to accomplish. The 19 million dollar budget delivered a terrific looking product and Rogan’s entourage of quality talent did solid work. I still have little trouble with the fact that Extraterrestrial was savaged, while Sausage Party did a similar thing (perhaps a bit more cleverly and humorous) and ranked an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.
One final thought, to escape the NC17, 10 seconds of a characters pubic hair displayed had to be edited ….with everything that goes on….and on…and on during the orgy sequence being left alone I was left with the burning question” why” and “really?”… I’m just saying…