BY JOHN BILLINGER
Thanksgiving. A time of food, family, and questionable historical origins. And also a time of great Thanksgiving movies like…uh…I can’t really think of any outside of Planes, Trains And Automobiles. And sure, I could do a review of the newly released uncut version of that, but instead, I’ve decided to review a movie related to the one thing people always say is excellent about Thanksgiving but is always a big letdown, the food. And that movie is 2012’s Foodfight.
Foodfight had a long development. It started production in 1997 by animation studio Threshold Entertainment, was finally released in 2012 by Viva Pictures, and was directed/written by/produced by Lawerence Kasanoff. Kasanoff is best known for producing the 90s Mortal Kombat movies. He wanted this movie to be like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but instead of licensing a bunch of different cartoon characters, he decided to license the use of food company mascots.
Chester Cheetah, Twinkie the Kid, Mrs. Buttersworth, etc. were being portrayed by a bunch of famous celebrities who were all only mostly famous in the early-to-mid 2000s. People like Charlie Sheen, Eva Longoria, Hilary Duff, Wayne Brady, Chris Kattan, and more. As you would expect, this film had a sizable budget. $65 million, which is about the budget that most Illumination’s films have (the studio behind the Despicable Me series).
Production started, and a release date was set for Christmas 2003. From the beginning, its reception was mixed. Some people, for obvious reasons, had a problem with the fact that this film was basically going to shove product placement down children’s throats. Kasanoff defended it, saying it wasn’t product placement, but come on. There’s subtle product placement like a character holding a can of Diet Coke in their hands, and then there’s having the food products themselves be actual characters. Some critics, however, saw great potential in Foodfight, going as far as to boldly say that Threshold Entertainment was going to be “the next-generation Pixar.”
Then in December 2002, production hit the brakes. Kasanoff announced that somebody had stolen the footage. So, production had to start over, but by then, Kansanoff (I guess) had watched The Polar Express and decided that Foodfight must now be a motion capture animation feature.
For those that don’t know, Motion Capture is when you record the movement of an actor, and the computer turns it into a CGI image. Basically, I’m not an expert on how the technology works, but I can guess that neither was Kasanoff. Today, I only mostly see it in video game production, but back then, people tried to do full-length animated films with motion capture technology. The best example of this is The Polar Express. Kansanoff wanted to completely change the DNA of his movie to be like that, which apparently led to “he and the animators speaking two different languages,” according to people who worked on the film.
After the setback, the initial goal was to have the film get released by 2005. Then 2007. Then 2009. It kept getting delayed again and again, and I can only guess growing friction between Kasanoff and the animators was a big reason. Finally, in 2011 the investors had enough. They took control of the film and auctioned it off for $2.5 million.
In 2012, the film was released, and it only grossed $73,706. Everyone from critics, audiences, and, well, everyone gave the film negative reactions. People said that the film looked unfinished and didn’t reflect a budget of $65 million. And so ends the production story of Foodfight. And now I actually have to talk about the film itself and to be honest, the film isn’t that interesting. It’s actually insufferable.
The actual plot of this “movie” takes place inside a supermarket. During the day, it’s your standard supermarket, but at night the interior of the store transforms into a big sprawling city populated by food mascots (nicknamed in the film as “ikes”). The main character is Dex Dogtective (voiced by Charlie Sheen), who is a dog version hybrid of Indiana Jones and classic Hollywood actor Humphery Bogart (that’s a sentence I just typed).
Dex is investigating the sudden appearance of the mysterious new product Brand X, whose mascot is a woman named Lady X (voiced by Eva Longoria). Along the ride with Dex is his human/cat hybrid girlfriend Sunshine (voiced by Hilary Duff) and squirrel pilot sidekick Daredevil Dan (voiced by Wayne Brady).
You probably think that plot doesn’t make any sense. You’re right. It doesn’t. No explanation is ever given in the film to explain why the interior of the store turns into a city. Sure, there are films like Toy Story that gives no explanation as to why the toys are alive, but at least in that film, Andy’s room never turned into New York whenever he wasn’t around.
There’s not even any consistency as to how this world works. You might be familiar with the film Night at the Museum. That film follows a similar logic to this film. During the day, the exhibits in the museum are just regular exhibits, whereas, at night, the exhibits in the museum come to life. But it’s consistent. No caveman is walking around during the day.
In this film, at first it seems like Night at the Museum, where during the day they’re just mascots on a box of cereal. But then it takes a nosedive, and there’s a scene that takes place during the day, and Dex and Dan are in the store while there are people in the store. They’re about the size of toys though, so it’s not like they’re actually seen by anybody, but it still makes no sense.
The film also has quite a bit of product placement, but not as much as they originally wanted. Obviously, after the footage was stolen, some companies backed out, so characters that were originally intended to be included, like Chester Cheetah, the Coca-Cola Polar Bears, and the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, do not appear.
They did however, still did manage to include characters like the Vlassic Stork and the Twinkie Kid, and they also mention some in the dialogue of the film, with lines like “How about we get Chef Boyardee to make us a huge feastumongus dinner?” and “Do I look like the Dairy Queen to you?”
The animation is also pretty evidently the worst offense that this film has to offer. I can’t understand how this film was in development for over a decade, and it still came out with this unfinished quality. There’s even audio in the film that at times, sounds professionally recorded, but then at other times, it sounds like it was recorded using the worst microphone ever. Sure the film’s original animation was stolen but you think that at least…actually, no. Let’s talk about the claim that this film’s animation was stolen.
Kasanoff claimed that this was an act of industrial espionage. Like, someone in the animation industry viewed this thing as a threat and stole it. First off, assuming that the original early 2000s animation was decent, it still would’ve had an awful script. This film still would’ve been seen as terrible by most standards. Second off, what studio stole this? Kasanoff never said who stole it, and the United States Secret Service never found out who it was.
But why would a rival studio really steal this? Like, let’s say Disney stole it. If Disney stole this, then why didn’t they also steal the animation for the Dreamworks film Antz? Antz, a film that was actually a stolen idea from Disney by former Disney employee Jeffrey Katzenberg (the film that Antz was a rip-off of was Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, originally titled Bugs). Why didn’t Disney steal that? That’s a stolen idea that conflicts with their own. That’s a way bigger threat than “Product Placement: The Movie.”
If any studio was ever found out to have stolen this film, it would’ve permanently ruined their brand. So I’d place more bets that no one stole the footage. But that begs the question: What happened to it? Well, before we get a possible answer, let’s talk about the film’s real villain.
Lawrence Kasanoff. Regardless of the fact that the original footage was lost, Kasanoff was the real obstacle to the film’s completion. Kasanoff, despite being the director of an animated film, had no prior experience in animation. Thus, his comments to his teams of animators were vague comments like “make this shot look more awesome” or “30 percent better.” Exactly what an animator wants to hear from their director.
Then, after the original footage was lost, he decided to go all motion capture, which as I said earlier, no doubt caused growing friction between him, the animators, and later the investors, which caused the film to be delayed again and again. Oh, and what happened to the original footage if it wasn’t stolen?
Well, this might be a completely bogus source, but an anonymous Reddit user who apparently worked on the film claimed that none other than Kasanoff himself deleted the original footage. Don’t know how accurate that statement is, but when you take into account how much of an incompetent idiot Kasanoff is, I think it’s fair to believe it.
And if he actually did delete it, then he should be canonized as a saint. It pains me to think what this world might’ve been like had this film been released in 2003 as originally intended. What would its impact be? It probably would’ve made the world population dumber than any Adam Sandler or Rob Scheider film that’s come out in the last 20 years.
Foodfight is, without a doubt, one of the most painful film experiences I have ever had to endure. I just stared at my tv for an hour and a half, and contemplated my life choices. Unlike Howard the Duck, which I found enjoyable in a weird way I couldn’t describe, this was just pain.
I do not recommend it.
I do not recommend it for children. I do not recommend it for adults. I don’t even recommend it for prison inmates on death row. Don”t give this film any attention.
In any case, Happy Thanksgiving. If you can’t think of anything to be thankful of, just be thankful you didn’t have to watch Foodfight as I did.
If you have any films suggestions to torture me with, please email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org