Superbad to Supermarket

In past blogs, I’ve argued that if one wants to find the contemporary heir to Kafka’s use of animals to analogize the Jewish condition, then look no further than animated movies featuring anthropormophic animals and monsters (Madagascar, Rio, Monsters Inc., Bee Season, and so on). Now, with Sausage Party, we can add food products to the mix.

Take the movie Superbad, turn the characters into groceries, animate and anthropomorphize them, throw in the Holocaust, and the result is Sausage Party. Seth Rogen plays Frank, a sausage, yearning for the day when he will be bought by a god (a customer) and be delivered to the promised land of “The Great Beyond.” There his wishes will come true and he can (literally) enter his curvaceous bun shiksa girlfriend, Brenda (Kirsten Wiig). It has elements of Toy Story, but where that film was Goy Story, this one is firmly Jewish.

Along the way, however, Frank discovers the truth about food. Victuals are victims. Meat is murdered, sausages are slaughtered, potatoes are peeled, beetroots are boiled alive, tortilla chips are toasted. Women and children are not spared. Baby carrots are devoured whole — alive. And so on. This Holocaust subtext is signaled by the opening musical number in which, during one The Producers­-like segment, a Nazi-like mustard talks of killing “The Juice.”

Frank is not explicitly Jewish other than being voiced by Rogen. As a frankfurter, he’s presumably circumcised and possibly kosher (although the inclusion of some clearly goyish types in the same packet make that assumption suspect). But (minor spoiler alert) he discovers his true ethnicity by the end of the film and many of his companions are voiced by the so-called “Jew-Tang Clan” as found in many of his previous movies from 40-Year Old Virgin to This Is the End.

Frank embarks on an odyssey to warn his fellow foodstuffs. He is a modern-day Moses, seeking not to lead his people into the Promised Land, but to keep them right where they are, on the shelves of the supermarket, to ward off the human threat. He plays a prophet. The film’s subtitle is “A hero will rise.”

Frank partners up with Palestinian flatbread Lavash (David Krumholtz) and Jewish bagel Sammy (Edward Norton), doing a curious impression of an impression of Woody Allen, including accent, incessant hand-wringing and worrying. Lavash and Sammy spend most of the movie bickering, with Lavash complaining that Sammy and his kosher ilk have taken over most of the “West Shelf.” But, together with Frank, they learn that they’re not the enemy, but that the humans are. Yes, the stratification of the real world is preserved and reflected in the supermarket one and the film is full of stereotypes. It’s all pretty obvious.

By the end of the film, Sausage Party proposes a pretty unorthodox solution to the bagel-pitta conflict, and even a form of reconciliation between the mustard and the Juice, as well as all the other foodstuffs that have inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts. Lavash and Sammy even bond over their mutual friend hummus (but who eats hummus with a bagel, right?).