The long-delayed, product-placement-filled animated film has FINALLY been unleashed upon the masses, and trust me - this one is about as weird as it gets.
Now here’s a movie I thought I would NEVER get the chance to see.
For those of you unfamiliar with the “Foodfight!” back story, the ill-fated animated feature’s history goes a little something like this. There was this one guy, named Larry Kasanoff, that did a lot of stuff with James Cameron and helped manage the “Mortal Kombat” media brand. He also served as executive producer for a ton of really great, shitty 1980s B-movies, like “Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College” and one of my personal favorites, “C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud” Anyway, Kasanoff headed this outfit called Threshold Entertainment, who was responsible for a lot of amusement park videos. Perhaps realizing how easy it was to churn a profit through animated movies, Kasanoff decided to release a CGI kids’ flick called “Foodfight!,” which was to feature a couple of big name voice actors - including Hilary Duff, back when we still cared, and Charlie Sheen, back when he kept his drug problems a little less visible - while some blatant product placement helped cover the overhead costs. And give Mr. Kasanoff some credit, his idea was, at least, partially, pretty damn ingenious; why not set a cartoon inside a grocery store, with real life brand names paying to have their items featured in the flick?
The movie was originally supposed to be theatrically released by Lionsgate Films in time for the Christmas 2003 season, but it ended up getting pushed back to 2005. And then, 2006. After a mild outcry over the film’s absurd marketing strategy - hell, it literally WAS an hour and a half long ad aimed at children - the film continued to rot in cinema purgatory, up until the film was auctioned off in 2011 before FINALLY getting released as a straight-to-DVD offering…in Europe…last fall.
|Charlie Sheen, seen here not doing cocaine for a change.|
After screening the flick, I realized that I became one of the first people on this planet to experience what will undoubtedly become a pseudo-ironic pop-culture phenomenon. Forget the sardonic “admiration” of stuff like “The Room” and “Troll 2,” once the hipsters of American discover this flick, it simply HAS to result in some sort of national revolution in inauthentic fandom the likes of which this county has never seen before. “Foodfight!” is clearly a terrible movie, but it’s terrible in such a way that I just can’t imagine it NOT leading to some sort of weird-ass, “Rocky Horror”-like cult following in the ensuing years.
To begin, let’s start with the animation in the film. Long story short, it’s TERRIBLE. Not just bad, but eye-blistering, stomach-churningly atrocious. The CGI in the film is pretty much on par with a Playstation2-era cut scene, with the overall quality dipping at some points to almost Sega Saturn-esque visuals. For a film that came this close to being a nationally distributed picture, the animation here is just stunningly underwhelming, at times, looking WORSE than the pre-“Toy Story” Saturday morning cartoon “ReBoot.” No, seriously.
And then, there’s the story. Woo boy, amigos and amigas, this one may require a comfy chair and possibly a handful of muscle relaxers.
|No, this isn't a screencap from a Nintendo 64 game, it's what the movie actually looks like.|
The film begins with closing time at a nondescript super market. After the head clerk - voiced by Ed Asner, in a role that’s not quite on par with his performance in “Up” - closes shop, the store turns into this pastel-colored kingdom filled with Candyland visuals and more ethnic stereotypes than you can shake a rolled up ACLU newsletter at. So yeah, it’s sort of like “Toy Story,” only replace Mr. Potato Head and Barbie with Hormel and Spam.
As far as the humor of the film, it’s pretty much nonstop food pun after food pun, buttressed by clichéd jokes that pander to the lowest of lowest common denominators. As in, less than two minutes in, and there’s a scene in which a cartoon frog sharts all over Mr. Clean. Now, you could say that Mr. Clean was simply sprayed with mud - a recurring joke in the film is that the ad icon keeps getting dirtied up by the other characters - while the cartoon frog farted, but come on, folks. We know how to make two and two stick.
From there, we’re introduced to the two primary protagonists of the film, Dax Dogtective (voiced by Charlie Sheen) and Daredevil Dan, something of a Honeycomb monster voiced by Wayne freaking Brady. If that doesn’t tell you how dated this thing is, I don’t know what will. Anyway, Dax fights some gerbils on a hot air balloon, while he mulls proposing to his half-human, half cat girlfriend, voiced by Hilary Duff. After that, Christopher Lloyd lurches into the store as a rep for Brand X, a generic company that hawks everything from laundry detergent to, uh, everything else, I guess. Fast forward a couple of months, and Dax sits around in his office (cluttered with punny newspaper clippings and theatrical posters for “12 Hungry Men”) bemoaning the “recalling” of his girlfriend. As in, she was literally “recalled” by the parent company, because the product was dangerous or something. Trust me, this thing gets WAY more Baudrillard-ian in just a few.
|Who says product placement is too subtle these days?|
So, Daredevil Dan crashes into the Keebler Elves' hideout before asking some random Hispanic woman if she wants “some chocolate.” The number of double entendres in this film, I might add, is simply awe-inspiring. After Dax ends up fighting a drug-dealing pimp weasel, in strolls Lady X, a Brand X mascot, voiced by Eva Longoria. At this point, I think it’s necessary to tell you that half of the movie is just allusions to “Casablanca,” albeit with Mrs. Butterworth’s and the California Raisins standing behind all of the Nazis and Moroccans. A melee ensues - at one point, with the Hawaiian Punch mascot LITERALLY engaging in fisticuffs with other characters - while highly inappropriate puns get slung around the screen like a mace. At one point, a character even calls another mascot a “candy arse,” if you can believe it.
By the way, the movie has ACTUAL Nazis in it, too, as the Brand X forces are clearly patterned after Hitler’s armies. And of course, all of the evil characters speak with these blatant, hackneyed “gay” voices, thus making the film mildly homophobic in addition to being borderline offensive in every other category, too.
So, Lady X tries to seduce Dax (boy, the questions this movie will have your kids asking!), but since he declines her advances, he ends up stuck in a dryer with Daredevil Dan. They escape, and encounter a sinus and flu medicine mascot with a huge honking nose, who is clearly meant to be Jewish. Eventually, the characters decide that the only way to combat the Brand X forces is to move around during the daytime, which is strictly verboten because they may be spotted by people. And here, the animation gets ridiculously bad, with the mouths of the characters not really moving when they speak for a good two or three minutes.
|Hooray for abstruse, totally-out-of-place homoerotic stereotypes!|
A tertiary member of the protagonists - a gay Count Chocula clone in disco attire - joins the fray, and Dax uses an IBM computer (why let Swiffer and Del Monte reap all the benefits here?) to find out that his girlfriend was recalled by Brand X itself! And because things just weren’t uncomfortable enough, the Brand X forces decide that it’s time to start shipping off mascots to “expiration stations,” because, holy shit, if there’s one thing more kids movies need, it’s jokes about the goddamn Holocaust.
You know that one scene in Casablanca, when all of the French dudes start singing their national anthem in front of all of those Nazis? Will, we have that parodied (with downright HORRIBLE audio to accompany the lackluster visuals), and then, get ready for a THIRTY MINUTE battle sequence involving, among other things, hot chocolate traps, snot grenades, watermelon bombs, exploding waffles, pies dropped from aircraft, ketchup rockets and whipped cream missiles. In an amazing sequence, Lady X declares war on the other mascots, as the camera pans so that it looks like war planes shoot out of her CGI hoo-ha.
People, I ain’t kidding when I tell you the battle scene takes up roughly a third of the entire movie. It’s also the most poorly animated portion of the film, with the quality of the CGI looking substandard compared to even “Conker’s Bad Fur Day.” A couple of characters get killed off by “deservatives” - basically, poisons that accelerate spoiling - while the surviving good guys erect lighting rods out of aluminum foil for…well, something.
|Hey, you know what kids these days must really like? ALLUSIONS TO NAZI GERMANY!|
Dax manages to infiltrate the Brand X stronghold, where he finds his girlfriend being held captive. Cue some jokes about being “puppy whipped” and “cold farted itches,” and Lady X and Dax’s gal have a literal cat fight, in which the animators didn’t even BOTHER animating the character’s faces when they get punched. While the late Twinkie the Kid watches on in horror, we learn that Lady X was actually Christopher Lloyd’s character (a giant robot!) and that the entire Brand X ruse was orchestrated because people wouldn’t buy her prunes back when she was a homely mascot. I guess that counts as a swerve, but what the hell ever.
And so, Brand X ends up getting foiled, the doctor with the giant nose finds a cure for the poison that killed off all of the mascots that died in battle, and Dax and his cat-friend end up getting married at a “kosher” wedding. Cue an ending theme song that sounds suspiciously like Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose,” and that’s all she wrote, fellas.
|Face it; you've always wanted to see Hilary Duff get boned by McGruff the Crime Dog. Admit it.|
Although my summary pretty much spells it out for you, this movie is weird with a capital “W.” Between the lackluster animation, the storyline that’s way too “adult” for juvenile audiences and the fact that ACTUAL actors with resumes are voicing the characters, watching “Foodfight!” is one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had watching a movie in quite some time. This is the kind of gloriously bad movie that automatically ranks up there with cinematic titans like “Mac and Me” and “The Garbage Pail Kids Movie” in the Valhalla of films so misguided and inept that you can’t help but enjoy every second of the train wreck in front of you.
Just how messed up and mind blowing is this “Foodfight!” I speak of? Hell, it might just be worth importing a copy from the U.K…or petitioning for a national midnight screening on cable TV sometime in 2013. Either way, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be hearing LOTS about this movie over the ensuing months. Just remember; good old Jimbo was in on it before all of those douchey hipsters even knew what a “Polar Penguin” was, though…