The Shithouse finally tackling an animated feature? It must really be special.
First, we’ll deal with the facts. Foodfight! was conceived over a decade ago by the gutsy team at Threshold Animation Studios. Initially, a 2003 Christmas release was announced. Red carpets, critical praise, long lines, and much more to follow. Then, in a shocking development, the film’s files, according to creator Larry Kasanoff, were stolen in a despicable act of “industrial espionage.” Apparently, this was one dangerous motion picture. Maybe Pixar was jealous. Perhaps the Hollywood elite didn’t like the young, Wellesian upstart. Or someone just lost the floppy disk one drunken evening. Still, Foodfight! might change animation forever! It was delayed until 2005. More deals and nervous wrangling pushed it back to 2007. Someone spilled coffee on the director’s lone remaining keyboard. The studio subsequently defaulted on its loans. An auction followed. Finally, a backer emerged and here we are. From a budget of $65 million to a $73,706 box office. Many were fired. Others were shot. It’s the most tantalizing tale of hubris since Heaven’s Gate.
But it was worth the wait, right? I mean, that’s one hell of a budget.
I realize Mr. Kasanoff is a tender soul who likely lost everything. His house, his family, his sanity, maybe even his life. If he survived, he’s almost certainly in Argentina. But let’s face it – Foodfight! is the worst cartoon ever made. I have to believe a vast majority of the $65 million went to legal fees and bribes, because it sure as shit ain’t on the screen. It’s a dark, spotty, clunky, painfully antiquated mess, as if someone had just gotten around to seeing that Dire Straits video. It wouldn’t even be cutting edge for 1989. There’s a sad lifelessness to the characters, with the whole thing smelling curiously unfinished. You know, as if they ran out of money and had to do something to avoid jail time. Sure, they managed to swing Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff, and Eva Longoria, but I’m fairly certain none of them were actually paid. Rumor has it, each was given 33.3% of the gross. It seemed reasonable at the time.
Okay, so it’s not Toy Story. Aren’t you being a little hard on the poor thing? It tried, dammit.
Sure, most films aimed at children are far from pure. They’re always selling something, from cheap toys to greasy cheeseburgers. If kids fall in love with a character on the screen, it’s usually because they want something plush to squeeze when they get home. Foodfight!, however, cuts to the chase. It won’t feature product placements, it will itself be a product placement. The entire fucking movie. Charlie Tuna, Mrs. Butterworth, Mr. Clean, Twinkie the Kid, the California Raisins – all will not only stop by, they’ll be the very message of the movie. A most insidious message, given the target audience. In short, brand names are the only route to happiness; to individuality, the very freedom we cherish as a people. Lock in as a child, or face disillusionment as an adult. Through the consumption of well-known goods, unending joy will ensue. Seek the foreign, the unknown, the less expensive, and you’re a rank comformist, even a Nazi. Sheen’s Dex Dogtective is pretty clear: “Doing fun things like eating donuts is what we’re fighting for!” Shit, we invaded Iraq for less. Our brave soldiers, bleeding and dying for the rights of the obese.
Oh, please. Spare me the anti-capitalist propaganda. Lighten the fuck up.
We begin in Marketropolis. After dark, all the products come alive and the fun begins. Dex, a crime-fighting pooch, is our hero, and he’s in love with Sunshine Goodness, a raisin spokesperson. She’s peppy and attractive, and I think she’s a cat. At least she has cat ears and teeth. But her body? A sexy young woman, with legs to burn. And a short skirt revealing, well, everything, if the wind is right. What’s on your mind, Sunshine? “Let’s have a picnic! We’ll have Chef Boyardee fix us a spread! We’ll play stickball with Mr. Clean!” Did I mention she has massive tits? Dex wants to get married, but the timing is off. Sunshine, however, is all about innuendo: “It warms my heart the way you love my raisins, tough guy.” The proposal can wait. Six months suddenly pass, and Sunshine has been kidnapped.
Okay, so you have a few product placements. And? That’s hardly offensive.
When we return to the story, the massive, well-oiled Brand X has decided to invade the grocery store. Their mission? Get rid of all the brand names and replace them with cheaper, less exciting knockoffs. To a product, they’re all ugly, spoiled, and unappealing, while the brand names have big tits and winning personalities. How best to accomplish this takeover? Why, use Lady X (Longoria) to seduce Dex, render him powerless, and institute martial law. First, a tango. Lady X, herself the beneficiary of incredible jugs, uses her wiles as a gymnast to distract Dex from her plot. “How about joining me in a warm rinse,” she coos. “I’m not that dirty,” he replies. He continues: “There are some stains you can never wash out.” Because Charlie Sheen should be discussing stains in a kid’s movie. Quick as a whip, Lady X sneers, “Let me scrub your bubbles, Dex.” Our hero isn’t biting, so Lady X walks off with Dex’s standard black sidekick, Daredevil Dan, instead. He’s smitten: “Dan’s your man! Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” Lady X grabs him with purpose. “What can I say,” he reasons. “Chicks dig chocolate.” Anyone else feel like throwing up?
Sexualizing children….Big deal, it’s just a part of modern life, no?
I forgot a few other Daredevil Dan bon mots. While flying above, he spies Sweet Cakes, a well-endowed Latina wearing what appears to be animation’s first tube top: “How about some chocolate frosting?” he inquires. Rebuffed, he yells, “I’d like to butter your muffin!” I’m an anything goes sort of guy, but clearly this movie should be banned.
Hmm…I guess that’s inappropriate, but that Banana Club is kind of cool.
You mean the place where the California Raisins play? Or where the Vlasic Pickle bird dances with Charlie Tuna? Or where, after Dex asks, “Got milk?”, he’s answered with, “Do I look like the Dairy Queen to you?” And what about the riot that ensues, where Paul Bunyan and some Viking bitch-slap each other? Both have lisps, in case you don’t get it. And then there’s that swishy vampire bat who keeps flirting with Dan: “With you on my back….Not that I’d mind that.” Dan even utters, “I didn’t even get a chance to play lick the icing with Sweet Cakes.” Someone needs to be arrested.
But Lady X has a killer line! Come on, admit it.
“Don’t cry for me, Charlie Tuna.” Okay, that’s cute. Because first graders will get an Evita reference.
Okay, so brand names are sacred, and kids are being exposed to more smut than a Joe Eszterhas screenplay. When does it really get bad?
How about Nazis? For the wee ones, mind you. The lead Brand X henchman speaks with a thick German accent. When the “X-obites” patrol the streets, they goose step. And use that infamous salute. The brand icons, called “ikes” (which rhymes with…), are hunted down like dogs. To use Lady X’s words, spoken atop a massive structure invoking Nuremberg, she roars, “Send the ikes to the expiration station! They are the undesirables! Exterminate them all!” A chant soon ensues: “One world, one X! One store, one X!” The crowd mindlessly shouts its approval. When the battle begins, it’s like the assault on Poland. Wave after wave of ketchup tanks, whip cream rockets, and yes, even the Luftwaffe. And in case you think I’m looking too much into this, when Lady X’s second in command is captured, he cries, “I was just following orders!” Eichmann, it seems, is alive and well and living at the Piggly Wiggly.
This war you speak of, is it successful? Does Brand X take over Eastern Europe, I mean, the grocery store?
Dex and his righteous brand names fight back, and hard (United Supermarket Defense Association). They use hot chocolate to fend off stormtroopers. Mrs. Butterworth tosses pancakes from atop a building. Fruit pies are launched like V-2’s. Morale is boosted at the Copabanana. Numerous Casablanca allusions follow, ensuring the full attention of beaming 5-year-olds. Dex finally locates Sunshine, but she’s been tortured and transformed into a shell of her former self. “Brand X turned your sweetness into something vile,” he drips. Dex confronts Lady X one last time: “You cold-farted itch!” he screams. She flees. Sunshine is rescued, and the battle hits the streets. It seems the human Brand X villain is actually a robot, and Lady X controls it from within. She’s further exposed as the recalled organic prune product, outraged that she didn’t sell because she was positioned next to unhealthy, sugary shit that everyone loved. So she skipped off to Brazil, got plastic surgery, and came back for revenge. “Are those melons real?” asks Daredevil Dan. They are. And they still have some fight left in ‘em. Sunshine “chin slaps her back to ugly,” and the ruse is over. Send her to the expiration station!
But what about all the brand name icons that were immobilized by the elixir? Will we ever get back to normal?
An antidote is found, the “ikes” are resurrected, and the store once again offers top of the line merchandise for twice the price. Balance restored! Dex and Sunshine finally get married, and to complete the circle, the groom steps on a bottle of milk covered in cloth, revealing himself as one of the chosen people. A rabbi also stands nearby for clarity. And you thought this wasn’t a Nazi parable.
A Jewish dog marries a shiksa half-cat? Oy vey.
You think you got problems. The closing credits show us a penguin with noticeable human breasts flirting with a nerdy bird. He backs off when he can’t get it up. At least that’s the implication.
What about the sequel? We’re left with more than a hint.
Wait another ten years. We’ll be ready.