Seth Rogen’s Tiresome ‘Sausage Party’ Series Stretches Groan-Worthy Food Puns to Their Limit: TV Review

Raunch is its own justification. Why does an animated feature about talking food need a follow-up TV series almost a decade after its initial release? For the reason that Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted” got a seven-episode threequel that became one of the first big hits of this year, despite iffy execution and a lack of Mark Wahlberg: because people like to laugh, and because there are only so many R-rated sex jokes you can fit into an 89-minute movie.

As a result, it’s pointless to ask whether the 2016 film “Sausage Party” needs an eight-episode follow-up, subtitled “Foodtopia.” Of course it doesn’t, any more than the story has to abide by the movie’s fourth-wall-busting conclusion, in which an anthropomorphic bunch of talking foods resolve to track down their live-action creators. “Foodtopia” walks that back, but only slightly. The denizens of the Shopwell’s supermarket, led by hot dog Frank (Seth Rogen) and his bun paramour Brenda (Kristen Wiig), have still staged a bloody revolution against their “humie” oppressors; food, the opening voiceover tells us, is now “the dominant species on planet Earth.” Once the celebratory orgy subsides — “Those peppers are getting stuffed,” Frank observes in one of many groan-worthy food puns — our edible heroes must build a new society from the ashes of the produce aisle.

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The original “Sausage Party” was highly profitable, bringing in seven times its budget at the box office. But that budget was also quite low — just $19 million, just a fraction of the nine-figure totals typical of Pixar — and potentially depressed by alleged abuses of animators’ time and compensation. Such scant resources showed through in a visual style as crude as the humor. “Foodtopia” may have had more time and Amazon’s backing, but the show still looks like an unfinished computer rendering, with a blocky simplicity that extends outside of Shopwell’s and into the wider world.

Screenwriters Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir all remain involved; Rogen and Goldberg are billed as co-creators alongside animation veteran Conrad Vernon, while Hunter and Shaffir get “developed by” credits. (Rogen and producing partner Goldberg have a lucrative relationship with Amazon through “The Boys” and spinoff “Gen V,” so it’s little surprise “Foodtopia” is on the same platform.) Consequently, “Foodtopia” delivers many of the same simple pleasures, from the G-rated wordplay of a talent show that pits Pita Ora against Celine Dijon to an X-rated sequence I’m not allowed to spoil, apart from a gleeful content warning the show is “proud to say” was mandated by Amazon.

What’s new to “Foodtopia” is a downright existential concern with whether its newly liberated characters can build a society more just than the one they’ve overthrown. They’re unprepared for threats like swooping birds, gushing rain and a lack of readily available refrigeration. In the face of these collective problems, Brenda and Frank turn to Jack (Will Forte), a hostage “humie,” for advice. But in a power vacuum, opportunists thrive. An orange named — what else? — Julius (Sam Richardson) emerges as the Immortan Joe of this altered landscape, hoarding currency in the form of human teeth. “Every food loves teeth. Their symbolism is lost on no one,” an observer helpfully explains.

“Foodtopia” could certainly lean harder into this thematic substance, though that might call unwanted attention to the inherent logical inconsistencies of its premise. (Does food, itself, require sustenance? If food is a separate, sentient species, what about foods made from animals?) Instead, “Foodtopia” sticks to the basics: pop culture references (German director Wiener Hotdog), silly sight gags (a cucumber spitting “face mist”) and crass profanity (food can control “humies” like a marionette by crawling up their anus). Over eight episodes, this formula quickly wears thin. But to many, it’ll be worth the distraction. Dick jokes are an easy laugh — or a cheap one, depending on the eye of the beholder. And a show named for a dick joke has both in spades.

All eight episodes of “Sausage Party: Foodtopia” are now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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