Even Bagels Need Religion

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Title: Sausage Party

Rating: 4 Stars

This was a film that was way more intelligent than I was planning to give it credit for. It made interesting (if obvious, in retrospect) statements regarding religion and our blind acceptance of it.

The conceit is that all of the food in the supermarket is alive, unbeknownst to the shoppers. They all eagerly wait to be purchased so that they can go to the great beyond, a bright shining light outside of the grocery store, where their gods (ie humans) will nurture and love them. In the meantime, hot dogs and buns, who are made for each other and belong together, have purity pledges to only consummate (ie insert hot dog into bun) after they leave the store.

A honey mustard jar is returned from the outside and he is horribly scared. The other foods are concerned but are still excited to get out. The honey mustard is just considered to be disturbed.

Over time, the truth comes out that their destiny is to be tortured, mutilated, and eaten by their gods.

A sausage named Frank makes this discovery and tries to educate the other foods in the grocery. His efforts go to naught. Ultimately, other foods come back from the outside with the same story and a war ensues between the foods and the human.  The food wins and a food based orgy commences (because, of course it does).

The film makes fun of stereotypes. The Middle Eastern food (eg lavash) is waging war with the Jewish food (eg bagel) over shelf space that the Jewish food has been placed (after being kicked out of the German shelf). The grits hates the crackers, who in the past has done terrible things to the grits. The taco is a sultry latina lesbian. The sauerkraut goose steps in lockstep. The hot dog and buns are in the red, white, and blue 4th of July section. And so on. This is one of those times where an animated movie can get away with so much more than a conventional movie. This liberty is used for maximum effect.

I found the slight echoes to other books and films to be clever. This is clearly a religious analogy. Frank’s journey to the truth to move from faith to disbelief is kind of a reverse journey of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. His announcement to the foods of his discovery and their initial rebellion against him reminded me of Ibsen’s Enemy of the State. The humans being shown as brutish and evil as opposed to the humanity of the food is a tip of the hat to Orwell’s Animal Farm. In the ensuing war between the food and the humans, the tying down of the human reminded me of the famous scene in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel where Gulliver is captured and tied down by the Lilliputians.

The food’s initial refusal to believe in Frank and still, despite all evidence, believing in their religion seems to be a pretty universal response. This was a point in Sartre’s existentialism, that once you give up your beliefs and face the reality that you are alone with no higher guiding power, that the feeling that you feel is not freedom but nausea and horror. The food, not wanting or willing to face that horror, initially refuse to give up their belief system.

The ending is, quite frankly, a cop-out, an almost literal deus ex machina. They tried to put a post-modern self-referential twist to it, but the fact is that there was no way to end the movie in any realistic manner. Having killed the humans in the store, the food really have accomplished nothing. It’s not as if no human would ever go to the store again. Their inevitable destiny is to be torn up and eaten or to be thrown away as trash. By shying away from that more truthful ending (which admittedly would be a big ask for a Seth Rogen comedy animated movie), much of its metaphorical power is stolen.

 

 

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