Foodfight! is the worst theatrically-released animated film I've ever seen. I do not make that claim lightly. I have endured the likes of Doogal, Cool World, Heavy Metal 2000 and numerous Ralph Bakshi productions. Every single one of those films looks like a masterpiece in contrast. I'm not saying Foodfight! is the worst animated film ever made – it's a big world, and there are a lot of movies – but I've certainly never seen anything worse, and odds are you haven't, either.
In 1999, Lawrence Kasanoff and Joshua Wexter developed an idea for an animated movie: it would be a riff on films like Toy Story and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but featuring familiar grocery store brand mascots – Mr. Clean, Charlie the Tuna, the California Raisins, etc. - instead of beloved cartoon icons or popular toys of yesteryear. The idea is shamelessly commercial, yes, but that doesn't automatically make the film terrible. The Lego Movie was a feature-length advertisement, but it was also funny, soulful and inventive. For a while, Kasanoff and Wexter seemed to believe that they might actually be making something special (or at least something fun).
When the animation process first began, Kasanoff was aiming to create a computer-animated film employing wacky, energetic, Chuck Jones-inspired animation. Midway through the process, he decided that he wanted to add some motion-capture elements into the mix, but Kasanoff struggled to communicate his ideas to the animators at Threshold Entertainment. After nearly a decade of production delays and legal problems, the film was finally given a quiet theatrical and VOD release in 2013. The end result is nothing short of horrifying.
First, a little bit about the story. The setting is an ordinary supermarket by day, but at night it turns into the bustling city of Marketopolis – a wondrous place filled with living, breathing corporate logos. The main character is Dex Dogtective (Charlie Sheen, Two and Half Men), a canine private investigator who's passionately in love with the cat-like Sunshine Goodness (Hilary Duff, A Cinderella Story). I say “cat-like” because she's completely human from the neck down, but has faint whiskers on her face and feline ears. In a movie filled with animal characters that look more or less like animals, Sunshine looks like a young woman sporting a half-assed costume at a furry convention. Anyway, Sunshine mysteriously disappears, and Dex starts having hallucinatory nightmares about her.
Fast-forward a few months, and the supermarket is facing a serious crisis. It seems the owner has decided to start stocking products from the logo-free Brand X, and soon the evil forces of this bland brand are threatening to take over the whole store. In one of the film's many subtle touches, the Brand X products are represented in film as Nazis, complete with goose-stepping marches, oppression-themed rallies and S.S.-inspired outfits. Bizarre? Sure, but par for the course in this film.
Brand X's leader is a hypersexual gal named Lady X (Eva Longoria, Desperate Housewives), who initially tries to seduce Dex by marching into his office and grinding all over him. It's wildly inappropriate stuff for a movie clearly aimed at youngsters, and that's just the beginning: an extended shot later in the film frames Lady X in a way that makes it look as if fighter jets are bursting from her crotch, and another scene spends a solid 90 seconds watching other characters make wolf whistles and Tex Avery-style lust-eyes as she walks around the room. Plus, there's an early scene in which a flying chocolate squirrel decides to start cat-calling a random woman on the street: “You want some chocolate spread? I'd like to butter your muffin!”
Quite a lot of money was reportedly spent on Foodfight! over the course of its lengthy production, but almost none of that money can be seen on the screen: the animation is horrific. I'd compare it to a cheaply produced CG kids' TV show, but it's infinitely worse than that. Most of the scenes look unfinished, with portions of the film getting so blurry that what we're seeing on the screen is barely comprehensible. The most unnerving thing about the film's look is the abundance of character movement: almost all of the characters look as if they're suffering from some sort of seizure, dancing around and waving their arms frantically even during mundane dialogue scenes. Is this some sort of desperate attempt to cover the shoddy character design? Some of the characters – even the allegedly “lovable” ones - look so ugly that they become unintentionally horrifying.
As the title suggests, Foodfight! eventually devolves into an interminably lengthy WWII-inspired food fight between the forces of Brand X and our ragtag band of mascots. It's incredibly sloppy, though perhaps that's some sort of artistic statement: food fights are senseless, wasteful and chaotic, and so is this extended sequence. Surprisingly, the brand-name mascots that form the core of the film (and take up most of the space on the poster - see below) have very little to do, with the generic original characters getting the vast majority of the film's attention.
Does this film... this thing... this waking nightmare... have any redeeming qualities whatsoever? Well, it has jokes, I guess. The jokes come in three different flavors:
1. Gross-out jokes: Farts, farts, farts and more farts – the can't-miss way to win a child's heart. Characters are farting all over the place in Foodfight, though they're a little nastier than usual here: every single poot is accompanied by a poorly-rendered cloud of green gas. You've also got poorly-animated snot and poorly-animated vomit thrown around, too. It's a pretty disgusting little movie, but this is also the material most likely to resonate with your six-year-old.
2. Food puns: Oh, god, the food puns. They never stop, and they're uniformly terrible. Dex runs a club called the Copabanana, and more than one character cries, “Give me some sugar!” Mostly, the food puns are used for food-based swearing: “Holy fudge!” “I'm gonna get chip-faced!” “Kiss my additives!” I'm not sure if it's possible for a film this consistently terrible to have a single “worst line,” but if you put a gun to my head, I'd go with the villain shouting, “Whip them! Whip them bad!”
3. References to old movies: for no discernible reason, the filmmakers find a way to stuff visual and verbal references to an abundance of classic films into the mix. We see posters for old films like 12 Hungry Men and It's a Wonderful Lime (again with the food puns), hear Dex riff on lines from Casablanca and see a scene taken directly from Midnight Cowboy. I assume this stuff is present to amuse adult viewers, but no sane adult will sit through more than a few minutes of this film (feel free to draw conclusions about yours truly).
I went into Foodfight! expecting a shameless piece of corporate product, but I honestly didn't imagine I'd bear witness to something this disastrously terrible. A 90-minute reel of commercials produced by the companies featured in the film would have offered infinitely more entertainment value (not to mention infinitely better production value). I don't know the full story of this project's checkered history, but surely no one ever intended for the finished product to be quite this wretched. Not since the birth of Frankenstein's monster has such an act of creation gone so horribly, horribly wrong.
Rating: Zero stars (out of four)
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 91 minutes
Release Year: 2013