‘Sausage Party: Foodtopia’ Wants to Be Much More Than A Cartoon Food Orgy

Warning: Contains spoilers for the 2016 feature film Sausage Party.

There’s a pop-culture trope all of us have seen at least once: A high school English teacher wants to get a rough or rowdy class on their side, so when it’s time to teach poetry, they recite it to a hip-hop beat. (Doing so while seated backwards on their chair: optional but highly recommended.) I wonder if the creators of Sausage Party: Foodtopia had this trope in mind while developing this show; it can feel like it’s for all the teachers of civics and American history who wished they could sneak their students Howard Zinn inside some cartoon pornography.

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

What we must now term the Sausage Party franchise began with the 2016 feature film. At a supermarket called Shopwell’s, the greatest dream of all the anthropomorphic foods is to be “chosen” (purchased) by a “god” (human customer) and brought to The Great Beyond (outside the store). Hot dog Frank (voice of Seth Rogen, also a co-writer and producer) and his bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), in particular, are eager to be chosen together for “Red, White & Blue Day” so that they can, at long last, consummate their relationship. 

When a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) is purchased by mistake and returned to the store, he is traumatized by the horrible knowledge of what gods actually do with food, leaping out of a new customer’s cart rather than return to The Great Beyond and the horrors that await him. Before expiring, Honey Mustard sends Frank to talk to a bottle of Firewater liquor (Bill Hader) about what Honey Mustard had learned on the outside. 

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

Once the nonperishables — Firewater, Mr. Grits (Craig Robinson) and a Twinkie (Scott Underwood) — have explained to Frank what humans actually do with food and that the nonperishables created the myth the food all lives by to spare them the horror of reality, Frank is desperate to spread the word. No one wants to believe him until Frank’s fellow wiener Barry (Michael Cera) returns from his own Great Beyond adventure, doses all the store patrons with bath salts to allow the humans to perceive the foods’ sentience, and kicks off a revolution.

Prime Video’s sequel series Sausage Party: Foodtopia — which drops all eight episodes of its first season July 11th — picks up after the cataclysm at Shopwell’s. Food has defeated its human oppressors to become “the dominant species on planet Earth.” Frank and Brenda, the de facto leaders of the revolution, declare that all foods are equal, and everyone gets down to a celebration in their usual way: a massive orgy. 

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

Surely no one could ask for better in a post-human society, until water starts falling from the outdoor ceiling. Naturally, a rainstorm is disastrous for the softest and most yielding foods — Brenda’s at great risk! — and the foods have no concept of what’s happening. (“Even the produce, which grew outside?” Apparently so.) Even though Shopwell’s is actively collapsing, some of the foods fear the open air and return to the husk of the store, choosing the danger they know over the one they don’t. Brenda and Frank, accepting that the foods are like their children and that it’s their responsibility to look after them, take it upon themselves to understand and, where possible, solve the new problems that come with everyone’s new freedoms. 

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

Nature-based threats are so pressing and intractable that Frank and Brenda don’t really notice when some of the foods decide to create a system of currency based on human teeth (formerly a symbol of human oppression, now reclaimed); when the drive to amass more teeth creates a spike in theft, they task Barry with creating a police force. (Barry’s first three recruits: Chris Bologna, Kishke Hargitay and Iced Tea.) Yes, there’s also a power-mad food character who manipulates his fellow citizens with dirty tricks and outright lies told via mass media. Yes, he’s orange, because he is an orange. I commend Sam Richardson, who plays “the orange Julius,” for the restraint not to do it in a Trump voice.

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement
Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

The Sausage Party movie was a spoof of Disney and Pixar movies — very much not for children, which I hope parents understood before parking their precious little ones in front of a film where a vengeful douche (Nick Kroll) is a pivotal character. But whereas Finding Nemo, for example, reportedly moved some empathetic human children to flush their own aquarium-dwelling fish friends down their toilets in the hope that they would swim to freedom like the ones in the film’s dentist’s office, the Sausage Party foods’ triumph has no equivalent, even in spoof form. 

In other words, while kids could respond to anthropomorphized fish by deciding it’s unethical to keep them in tanks, the stoners who watch Sausage Party aren’t going to be convinced to stop eating. I realize how dumb this looks spelled out — trust me, I felt twice as moronic typing it as you think I must be to have done so — but this is a foundational problem with Foodtopia: It forces the viewer to think through the implications of a world in which food has consciousness. 

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

To wit: This made it into the show’s trailer, so I guess it’s not a big spoiler to say that the food doesn’t commit full genocide against the human race, and that a fragile and very secret alliance forms between some of the food and what is possibly the last person alive. 

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement
Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

The survivor, fearful of being executed like everyone else he knows, tries to adapt to the new normal. When he asks his semi-friendly food contacts for water, he struggles to understand whether his consuming water from an animate bottle is different than if he drank it straight from the tap. But as far as we see, he never does get water from any source, so since the show’s events take place over more than three days, it’s unclear how the human manages to do, well, a lot of things I’m not supposed to reveal and frankly (no pun intended) wish I didn’t know about — never mind while getting periodically dosed with bath salts, which I have to think would dehydrate him even more! 

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

Or: part of the show’s portrayal of the Foodtopia economy revolves around perishable foods’ urgency to gain access to refrigeration, in the course of which we see several of them spoiling if not outright melting. It’s not a value judgment to say that shelf-stable foods are going to last longer in this era, but eventually, they’ll pass their sell-by dates too, and then what’s the plan for propagating foods’ existence? 

The movie, with its limited scope and ambitions, didn’t really leave the viewer with a lot of unanswered questions, so continuing the story in a way that raises so many more feels like an imposition, entirely aside from the fact that the questions it raises are so ridiculous that I personally resent having to think about them.

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

Apart from logistics, some thought has evidently been given to the ways cultural norms in our reality have changed over the past eight years. It’s bad enough that an Indigenous-designed spirit called Firewater (a) made it into the movie and (b) was voiced by Bill Hader, an actor who does not publicly identify as Indigenous, including on a show about his genealogy. See also: Underwood as a super-smart wad of gum that uses a wheelchair and speaks in a computer monotone; Jewish-American David Krumholtz as an Arab-coded lavash; and Hader again as a Mexican bottle of tequila and a Mexican tub of guacamole. 

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement
Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

These ill-conceived xenophobic characters either don’t appear in the show or are swiftly dispatched in the war. Somehow making it into 2024, though: Sammy Bagel Jr., voiced by Edward Norton doing a pretty unambiguous Woody Allen impression. I can understand that once you cast an Oscar-nominated actor, you don’t necessarily want to let him go — that is, you can’t justify doing with Sammy what the Clone High revival did with Gandhi — but Sammy could have easily also died in the war and been replaced by Dave Roll or something. Sure, Sammy’s arc shows him shamelessly seeking fame by doing comedy for the other residents of Foodtopia, but call him Dave Roll and that plotline still works. This is a show in which an eclair fornicates with a banana minutes into the series premiere and somehow the choices Norton is still making with this character are even more astonishing.

Continue Reading Below
Advertisement

I can only imagine how insane this review will seem to someone who hasn’t seen the show and doesn’t know why I’m taking a show about horny cartoon food this seriously. But the Foodtopia part of the title isn’t just there to differentiate the show from the movie. As the series goes on, and the food tries to create a new society from scratch (again, no pun intended), the characters are confronted by the complexities of wage inequality, rapacious landlords, the impossibility of true justice in the carceral state and the corruption of Western democratic electoral politics. Really. 

Overall, Sausage Party: Foodtopia kind of bites off more than it can chew (pun a little intended) with the ideas it raises, and will probably leave the viewer feeling even more pessimistic about the state of the world. But of all the satires on the 2024 presidential election I’ve watched on TV this year, Sausage Party: Foodtopia is by far the filthiest — and considering that the one before this was Season Four of The Boys, that’s really saying something.