Foodfight! (2012)

A more suitable title might be ‘OH GOD…. HELP US…. J-J-JUST…. THE CREEPIEST…. WHAT AM I WATCHING!?’

Beyond the creepy half-cat, half-human upskirt shots, Foodfight (2012) is a wildly inappropriate viewing experience for the young audience it was theoretically made for. Between constant, in-your-face sexual innuendos and vulgar references, it’s not a movie any child should ever see; nor, I suspect, a movie any child would ever want to see.

With animation like this, can you blame them?

Foodfight took over ten years to make, with production running into all kinds of problems: from the footage being stolen to having an insane director who gives notes the same way Tommy Wiseau does. That’s right. Allegedly Wiseau has requested editors make a film ‘60% more positive,’ and Foodfight director Lawrence Kasanoff  has been similarly quoted instructing animators to make a shot ‘30% more awesome.’ We can conclude, therefore, that bad movie directors are not only notorious for not understanding their craft, but also that they try to hide their lack of ability and knowledge using percentages.

Eventually the film’s financial backers got so impatient with the lengthy production that the movie was rushed to completion for a straight-to-DVD release. And the studio’s return on their sixty-five million dollar investment? A whopping $72,000.

Sixty-five million well spent, I’d say.

So what’s the premise of this slapped together food-fright of a film? Before we get into that, let’s consider Toy Story, the tale of seemingly inanimate toys that come to life when left unattended. It was a groundbreaking animated film and a premise that encouraged young imaginations to flourish – what kid didn’t love the idea that their toys were secretly alive? Toy Story created a grounded world with its own set of rules that kids could play in.

Foodfight creates a similar world, only with an arbitrary and vague sense of rules and a much more confusing hook. Instead of toys coming to life, it’s food mascots that acquire a personality, and it only happens in the supermarket after dark. Product icons (or ‘ikes,’ as the movie calls them), like Mr. Clean or your favourite cereal box characters come alive at night. This in itself is confusing enough – in Toy Story, the toys just need to stand up. But in this movie, the 2D printed images on cardboard boxes and labels become three dimensional beings. Not only does it make less sense, it’s a little less tangible for kids to grasp.

The same can be said about the supermarket itself. When the manager closes up at the end of his shift, he shuts off the lights and the grocery store comes to life…. with an entirely new geography and look. The entire store transforms into a city, and it’s really unclear how or why these things happen. When the ikes populate this new world, for example, shouldn’t there be hundreds of each brand? We only see one bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup walking around, rather than an entire shelf of them. Most stores would have plenty of the big brands in stock, but in the film each brand is only represented by one ike.

So Foodfight tells the story of Dex Dogtective (voiced by Charlie Sheen), a cereal icon who dresses like Indiana Jones and goes on exciting adventures to protect the ikes in the supermarket. He’s a dog, and he’s a detective, hence the clever name. When his raisin box icon girlfriend, Sunshine Goodness (Hilary Duff) goes missing due to a sudden product recall, he gives up the detective life…. and opens a fun nightclub!

Commence gratuitous Casablanca references!

Let’s backtrack a minute though, and examine the relationship between Sunshine and Dex. It’s already weird enough knowing the age difference between the two voice actors exceeds 25 years, but it gets even creepier if you consider that in 2001, when the parts were cast, Hilary Duff was still a teenager. I guess it’s standard typecasting for Charlie Sheen though.

“It warms my heart the way you love my raisins.”

In the context of the film, the relationship gets even stranger. She’s a half-cat, half human creature, and he’s a dog. Also, as a raisin icon, Sunshine is always feeding Dex raisins, which are his favourite puppy treat. And that makes sense, because all dogs love raisins, right? It’s a great take-away for all the impressionable kids watching. Children can pretend their own family pets are dogtectives, out on a fun adventure, eating raisins for sustenance.

Thank god no kid will ever watch this gutter trash.

So when Sunshine Goodness Raisins are suddenly recalled, a depressed Dex takes himself off the case he could never solve. He turns his back on his job, and as a result there’s no one left to protect the ikes in the store. His broken heart is left to wallow in the past. With the store’s only line of defence out of commission, a new threat arrives when a human Brand X representative, known only as ‘Mr. Clipboard’ (Christopher Lloyd), brings a new product line into the store. The generic, plain Brand X begin to take over the supermarket, replacing the brand name ikes with an all-encompassing no-name product line. The lesson, kids, is that if you don’t support major corporations by buying the bigger brands, the bad guys win.

Mr. Clipboard’s parents taught him the goal of walking is to lift your foot above your head with each step.

Right away, Brand X ikes begin to destroy other icons in the store using a ‘deservative’ – which is the opposite of a preservative. It’s a chemical compound that causes products to expire with rapid acceleration. Ikes everywhere are dying, and when Dex’s best friend, a squirrel named Daredevil Dan (Wayne Brady), is framed for the murders, he reluctantly dusts off his old detective’s clothes and sets out to solve the mystery.

Of course, there shouldn’t even be a mystery…. the murders all begin immediately after the Brand X icon Lady X (Eva Longoria) arrives in the store. It should be pretty obvious who’s behind everything right from the start.

Ah, the classic sexualized femme fatale. A staple of children’s films.

Dex quickly finds Daredevil Dan when both of them are kidnapped by Brand X and locked in a giant, human-sized clothes dryer. Things ‘heat up’ for our heroes when the dryer turns on, and they’re forced to escape the machine by chasing a sock – following the logic that socks always go missing from the dryer. This sequence establishes the repetitive plot contrivances that make up Foodfight. Dex will find himself in a predicament or dangerous situation, only to solve the problem in less than a minute. The entire film is a series of minor inconveniences, one after another. Each obstacle is easily overcome, without any setbacks or low points. The stakes are low and the repetition quickly becomes daunting.

After escaping the dryer, Dex and Dan discover how Brand X has been distributing the ‘deservative’ and killing off ikes in the store. At least…. I think that’s what they discover here, because again, the rules of this universe and how things work is never made clear. The Brand X icons have created an army of mosquito robots that can infect others with their toxic stingers.

The two of them travel across the store in hopes of getting to the ‘expiration station.’ They plan to use the store manager’s computer to research where Brand X came from, and order a product recall. In order to avoid Brand X on the way, they break the rules and travel across the store during the day, dodging humans on their journey.

They travel on a magic flying soda bottle.

When their plan fails, they realise there is nothing they can do but team up with the other ikes to solve the problem themselves. The best way to do that? Why, to start a food fight, of course! As you’d expect, the climactic animation is just as terrible as the entire movie has been. The icons throw different kinds of food at each other, and everything splatters upon landing, becoming either a coloured smoke or ooze.

And pies launched from from spatulas magically regenerate and multiply.

Meanwhile, Daredevil Dan leads the aerial assault on the flying mosquitoes from his biplane, along with a handful of other flying icons. As they make their attack run on the mosquitoes, Dan finds time to take a bath, hypnotise himself, and meditate, all while flying a plane.

In less than ten seconds, the sky changes colour three times.

While Dan takes to the skies, Dex infiltrates the Brand X building to confront Lady X on his own. He discovers the shocking truth that Sunshine Goodness is alive, and Brand X is behind her recall. They’ve been holding her hostage all this time inside their headquarters…. wait. Hang on. Brand X didn’t show up in the store until six months after Sunshine disappears. How could they be holding her hostage before they were even in the store?

But the twists get even stranger, my friends. After Dex rescues Sunshine, the ikes are attacked by Mr. Clipboard, the human with walking problems. This is where the rules seem to be bent even further. How can a human be interacting with the store icons?

We sort of get an answer for that one. It turns out the walkingly-challenged Mr. Clipboard was a robot the whole time, controlled by Brand X. Lady X has been operating him from inside, forcing the real-life grocery store manager to take on their new products.

The classic Scooby-Doo ending.

In the final confrontation Dex refuses to hit a ‘dame,’ so the last throw-down is a literal catfight between Sunshine and Lady X. Sunshine punches Lady X so hard that her entire body changes – she gains weight, gets a new face and reveals her true self…. I guess. We get one final plot twist that doesn’t make sense – Lady X is a former prune/raisin icon that was recalled when Sunshine’s products were more popular than hers. After getting some plastic surgery in Brazil (what?), she returned to the store with new packaging as Lady X.

There’s a lot of nonsense to unpack with Foodfight, a movie that quickly becomes too convoluted for any kid to completely understand, or any adult for that matter. I still struggle to wrap my head around it. On the one hand, it’s film-noir detective story with classic cinema references and food puns aplenty (Let’s strawberry jam out of here? What does that mean?). Then it’s also a cheap Toy Story rip off, only with way more sex jokes (and no attempts to hide them with subtlety). The visuals are terrible, the characters as lifeless and dead as I feel after watching this garbage. It’s a movie with a lot of ambition, an amalgamation of way too many ideas that don’t really fit together. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, but if you ever decide to watch it, just be warned:

Foodfight may leave you “puppy-whipped, you cold-farted itch.”

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