‘Sausage Party: Foodtopia’ Review: Stale Jokes and Crumby Animation Sully Seth Rogen’s Insipid Sequel

Of all the entertainment franchises that bookend America’s twin pre-Trump eras, “Sausage Party” may be the strangest. When the original film was released in the summer of 2016, the culture was still throwing cash at the alternately shocking and sweet shenanigans of Seth Rogen’s budding bro-euvre. Sandwiched neatly between “Neighbors” (a good movie) and “Neighbors 2” (a great film), the R-rated animated comedy about anthropomorphized edibles fighting to escape their deep-fried fates felt like an innocent indulgence; a bawdy comedy of the “I can’t believe this really exists” variety that was made all the more endearing by its crude jokes and cruder animation. Plus, seeded among the mountain of puns and literal food-fucking was a religious allegory that gave the big-screen adventure enough of an existential piquancy to keep it from tasting like total junk food. (IndieWire’s David Ehrlich described it as “a feature-length Sunday school lesson for budding atheists.”)

To argue a movie that hinges on a hot dog puppeteering a human being by tugging on the inside of his asshole could tell us anything of consequence about that fall’s catastrophic election would be… insane. “Sausage Party” was a hit to an extent that seems unimaginable today — the highest-grossing R-rated animated movie ever made, cooking up $141 million at the worldwide box office — but its success didn’t signify much more than a healthy theatrical environment still capable of supporting frivolous comedies.

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Now, after one world-altering pandemic, eight more years of streaming, and an untold number of franchise extensions, “Sausage Party 2” — aka “Sausage Party: Foodtopia” — arrives as an eight-part series via Amazon Prime Video. Rogen and many of his pals are back. Their respective foods are just as horny (and violent) as ever, and there’s another topical moral to balance out the gleefully obscene narrative. And yet, enough has changed to spoil the experience. It’s not new (obviously). It’s not clever (or at least not clever enough). But worst of all, it’s not fun. Part of that can be chalked up to how the culture has shifted over two presidential terms, but as much as I’d like to blame Trump for ruining yet another one of life’s presumptive joys, he’s only tangentially accountable here.

“Sausage Party: Foodtopia” fails on its own merits. Its creators care too much about infusing an absurd sex comedy with real-world parallels, instead of focusing on making the rowdiest, dumbest, best time possible, and they don’t care enough to ensure even those low-brow aspects are enjoyable on their own. The end result proves just as forgettable as the original feature, but without any of the flavor that makes comfort food so comforting.

The first season (and yes, this is made to be one of at least two seasons) picks up shortly after the film’s finale. The food has escaped. They’ve conquered their human “oppressors,” and they’re basking in their success. “We birthed this,” Frank (the hot dog voiced by Rogen) says. “I know!” replies Brenda (the bun played by Kristen Wiig), gazing out at the happy candies, cookies, and condiments. “It’s like they’re our children, and now all our children are fucking each other!” Given how quickly their victory celebration turns sexual, it’s worth remembering: Prior to the revolution, foods didn’t fornicate. They were worried about sullying themselves before their deities (aka humans) chose them (aka purchased them) and carried them away to a better place (aka their stomachs).

A hot dog and a bun sit on a man's shoulder in 'Sausage Party: Foodtopia' on Amazon Prime Video
“Sausage Party: Foodtopia” Courtesy of Prime Video

“Foodtopia” doesn’t strain itself trying to explain rules like these which make up its world. It just delights in a grocery aisle orgy… until the rain comes and sends our perishables into a panic. Donuts disintegrate with every drop. Breads break apart. A wall of water threatens to sweep the entire supermarket stock into a sewer. Those that survive the chaos are divided by it. Some want to go back to their shelves, even though they’re slowly collapsing. Others turn to humans for answers, despite the imminent threat of their insatiable appetites. Leaders are appointed. Task forces are formed. Judges hold court to settle disputes, and suddenly, “Foodtopia” looks a lot like western civilization …complete with all the problems we’ve only begun to wrestle with: rigged elections, judicial bribery, and wealth’s corrupting reach, which touches everything from the police to the media.

“Foodtopia” doesn’t simply introduce a new problem per episode for Frank and Brenda to solve, but it does trot out each “unexpected” issue with a weary inevitability. Even before a human captive (voiced by Will Forte) points out that this new society looks a lot like their old one, the comparisons are obvious, and other than a hefty helping of puns, there’s little done to make history repeating itself any more exciting than it sounds.

When “Sausage Party” does go for it, the results are as lackluster as honeydew melon. Multiple episodes stop everything to parade out food-related wordplay, and even as a helpless pun enthusiast, I struggled to appreciate half-baked efforts like “A-dill” (instead of Adele) and “Megan thee Scallion.” Some of the voice work still sings (Edward Norton’s Jewish bagel, Sammy Bagel Jr., is practically melodic, while Michael Cera and Sam Richardson give their dark yet silly turns an amusing edge), but new additions like Wiener Hotsdog (woof) don’t merit their screentime. “Foodtopia” soon curdles from perishable to perished when Forte’s human and Frank the hot dog participate in “a scene so graphic that Amazon asked that we issue a warning” ahead of the episode. A warning, truly, was not enough. That scene, like so many others, should’ve been scrapped.

Beyond the hallmarks of societal collapse, “Sausage Party: Foodtopia” carries more unmissable signs of the times. Don’t expect to hear James Franco’s voice among the celebrity cast this time out. Ditto for Nick Kroll (too busy) and Jonah Hill (too serious). The animation, which was already ugly enough to upend the film’s short-lived Oscar campaign, has taken a noticeable step down for the small screen, veering into “Cocomelon” territory, and the unrelenting sex jokes feel less like filthy fun and more like vapid desperation, left in mainly to prop up each 20-something-minute episode. Is “Foodtopia” another feature-length idea stretched into a streaming series? Probably, but it’s also too aware of the era to which it belongs. The aforementioned timeliness is tied to a plot about rebooting a crumbling capitalistic society being dismantled by a power-hungry real estate titan turned politician… embodied by a literal orange.

Escapism isn’t an option in “Foodtopia,” and given the surface-level nature of its satire, that doesn’t leave a lot of fun to be had. Instead of saying “I can’t believe this exists,” you’ll likely be wondering, “Why am I watching this?”

Grade: D+

“Sausage Party: Foodtopia” premieres Thursday, July 11 on Prime Video. All eight episodes will be released at once.

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