Produced by: Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler, George Johnson
Written by: Brent Friedman, Rebecca Swanson, Sean Catherine Derek (screenplay) Lawrence Kasanoff (screenplay & story), Joshua Wexler (story)
Edited by: Ray Mupas, Craig Paulsen, Ann Hoyt, Sean Rourke
Production Design by: Jonathan A. Carlson
Music by: Walter Murphy
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Wayne Brady, Eva Longoria, Hilary Duff, Larry Miller, Chris Kattan, Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Stiller, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Lloyd, James Arnold Taylor, Edie McClurg
Starting production all the way back in 2001, it’d be tempting to call Foodfight! the Duke Nukem Forever of animated movies – with that game’s developer-hopping, financially constrained, 14-year-long development cycle from c. 1997 all the way to its miraculous resurrection and yet disastrous release in 2011 already something of a legend worthy of its own film adaptation – but that would imply that anybody who doesn’t work in marketing actually anticipated this corporate mascot-infested Toy Story rip-off’s release.
Despite its being in development for longer than a decade, I can honestly say that the first and only time I ever actually paid enough attention to the film’s existence for longer than a minute or two was thanks to the post-release teardown over on The A.V. Club earlier this year, though I do have faint memories of reading about it here and there on other sites as it spent its gestation in development hell. I’ll tell you now that, while my review may repeat a lot of what Nathan Rabin states in his article, it’s almost impossible for any right-minded person to come out of experiencing the full on assault of this movie without the same sort of resentment toward the film for stealing those 90 minutes of your life.
Foodfight!, first of all, is indeed a blatant excuse to march corporate mascots (both real and fictional) across the screen in varying capacities in what is the most misguided attempt to build brand awareness via – well, to be honest, I’m not entirely certain what they thought was going to work here. Perhaps they hoped that Stockholm syndrome would set in. The story takes place entirely within a grocery store owned by a befuddled old man who we can only assume is beloved by his customers. When the store closes, a city inhabited by icons – “ikes,” they call themselves – magically materializes, and the ikes go about their rather hectic but apparently happy lives.
Unlike the toys from Pixar’s film, the ikes suffer no existential quandaries regarding their lives as corporate mascots and, in a shockingly shortsighted move on the marketing departments’ part, as a result, they apparently feel no loyalty toward the customers who buy their products, though they’re certainly concerned about the tarnishing of their good brand name. Ripped off though it may have been, borrowing such an idea from Toy Story was apparently too intricate for the people who worked on Foodfight!
Our hero is Dex, a detective in the same vein as Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, only dressed up like Indiana Jones, and who is also a dog – hence his incredibly specific title of “dogtective,” leading one to question whether these ikes have any laws about hiring discrimination. Perhaps a sequel, due out in 2024, would have them taking on the UCLA? Anyway, Dex rounds up the baddies while frequently pointing directly at the screen and dispensing punny, condiment-based quips. Naturally, none of the bad ikes he rounds up are real life corporate characters, though that’s certainly a missed opportunity to feature the Trix rabbit, Sonny the Cocoa Puffs bird, the Cookie Crisp burglars, and the kids from the Lucky Charms commercials among a surely hilarious lineup shot reminiscent of The Usual Suspects. Again, probably too complex and imaginative for this movie.
After a hard days’ work, Dex plans on proposing to the love of his life, Sunshine Goodness – a mascot for a raisin company that apparently was founded by a furry fetishist – but one day, she just disappears. Depressed and lovelorn, Dex consoles himself by opening up a nightclub that now allows him to take on the persona of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, complete with an African American caricature sidekick, Daredevil Dan, the chocolate squirrel. That’s the kind of thing you’d imagine voice actor Wayne Brady would’ve made fun of, but apparently his part was recorded prior to Let’s Make a Deal and right after Whose Line is it Anyway?, when a paycheck was a paycheck. Perhaps he… relished the idea of saying some of the surprising sexual innuendos he delivers here? Hoho! But since Dex is still a detecti—er… “dogtective,” you bet they brought in the femme fatale, too – in this case, Lady X, a newcomer who hails from the shady Brand X line of products.
Quite honestly, I could get more in depth regarding the story, but needless to say, Brand X and its mascots are basically not nice, hailing from a brand that aims to take over all the grocery stores and either destroy the competition or assimilate them into their fold, and Lady X is its sexy, though Hitler-esque corporate mascot, who has kidnapped Sunshine Goodness and leads her army of fascist icons into battle. This essentially makes the ensuing warfare that makes up the movie’s last 30 minutes or so some kind of metaphor for… an attempted monopoly, I guess?
Frankly, as hypocritical as the movie is, its attempts to get your kids to buy loads of cleaning product and pancake syrup is far less offensive than pretty much everything else in the movie. Consider the phoned in voice acting from Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff, Eva Longoria, Wayne Brady, Christopher Lloyd… Chris freaking Kattan! And there’s the unfinished, hideous, spastic animation that was already incredibly outdated even back in 2001 – When was the last time you saw a CG animated movie that suffered from frame rate issues? ReBoot, the first computer animated TV series from 1994, remains far more visually appealing. This movie looks like it was created using the Second Life engine on a computer from 1995. (Which would actually explain the furries and other disturbing sexual references in this family movie.)
Foodfight! also alternates between cartoonishly slapstick, squash-n-stretch violence to full on mascot-on-mascot assault and torture, never even attempting to transition between or balance the two. As a result, it takes a while to register that, yes, at one rather sudden moment, a familiar character has, in fact, been murdered right before our eyes while in combat. And would you believe that they created multiple protest songs for the characters to sing, one of which is sung by an auto-tuned band of dried fruit?
All these are far more distracting than the half-assed corporate synergy and that inspired the movie’s creation in the first place. It can’t even really market on behalf of its corporate sponsors, as the majority of these brands’ characters are relegated to blink-and-miss cameos, save for Mr. Clean, Mrs. Buttersworth, and Charlie the Tuna, whose peddling of products made from members of his own species are probably more ghastly than any of the atrocities committed by the movie’s actual villains, I might add.
It’s rather stunning that so much time and money went into creating what basically amounts to a large commercial with as storyline. If this had been shorter and more of a long form Super Bowl commercial in the mid-90s, then, yes, maybe this would’ve been a bit more impressive. As a film released 9 years after its intended goal of 2003, I’m left wondering what the point of even releasing this was all about. Delusion obviously went into the decision to create the movie in the first place, so perhaps delusion made them think they would recoup the losses of both time and money that had been poured into this travesty to both marketing and film making. Yes, Foodfight! is, quite simply, one of the most impressively awful movies I have ever seen in my life.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 0 / 5