Film Torments – Foodfight! (2012)

THIS TIME on Torments, Dan looks at a disgusting piece of awful garbage.

Much has been made of The Emoji Movie this past month. A brazen advertisement made to propagate its sponsored content with a nominal fee of your cash-money, its shit-eating conviction to pander to vapid consumerist trends has resulted in near-universal condemnation across the globe. But, really, The Emoji Movie is just another animated trainwreck designed to exploit the creeds of round-table, focus group discussions and market demographics. That’s all. There’s nothing surprising about its repulsive greed; it’s just another movie, cynical though it may be, and that’s all it will ever be. It’s not the downfall of Western civilisation; Foodfight!, however, might be.

Foodfight! is a thoroughly miserable experience. The end result of a deeply troubled production, farted out to the direct-to-video market in 2012, is a desolate, nihilistic treatise on the pointlessness of art. It’s a reason to rally up your comrades, blare ‘L’internationale’ from the rooftops and overthrow the hegemony with pitchforks and ironic T-shirts. Egregious product placement, disgusting animation and vacuous vocal performances all add up to a piece of work that alienates, subjugates then pummels its audience into bleary submission.

Part of that is down to its rancid glorification of consumerist culture, but it’s also because Foodfight! is an unfinished piece of work. Originally scheduled for a Christmas 2003 release, the film was intended to be the vanguard for director/writer/producer Lawrence Kasanoff’s Threshold Entertainment and its animation studio. With a $65 million budget and healthy backing from dozens of supermarket brands, Foodfight! was conceived, designed and marketed to rival Pixar and DreamWorks in the budding CG-animated landscape and appeal to the widest demographic imaginable: Amorphous, consumerist patsies.

The question still needs an answer: What even is Foodfight!? It’s Toy Story with food brand mascots (or ‘Ikes’). They come to life when the supermarket closes. That’s it. Said mascots include characters Cap’n Crunch, Charlie the Tuna and Mister Clean, who all go about their day under the watchful eye of Dex Dogtective (Charlie Sheen), a fedora-wearing, whip-wielding canine with a fondness for Sunshine Goodness (Hilary Duff), a neko-gaijin raisin mascot. When Sunshine is kidnapped, Dex must uncover the culprits and solve the mystery of Brand X, grappling with the seductive Lady X (Eva Longoria) along the way.

The first of Foodfight!’s legion of problems is its concession to product placement. Despite Kasanoff’s insistence that it doesn’t technically constitute product placement because Threshold weren’t paid for featuring the brands it does – itself an outright lie, as all parties stood to profit greatly from cross-promotion –  there’s no ignoring the elephant in the room. The film’s narrative explicitly rejects the facelessness of Brand X, actually going so far as rendering it openly fascistic. In the world of Foodfight!, that which is not a recognisable product is anomalous and, almost literally, akin to Hitler.

Comparisons to Nazism seem out-of-kilter for a children’s animated film, you might think, but the film’s tone is so nebulous that it’s difficult to pinpoint a target audience. The grim perversion of General X (Jerry Stiller) and the sultry wiles of Lady X might be forgiven, but then there are lines like this: “Yo, sweetcakes! Nice packaging! How about some chocolate frosting?” “You cold farted itch,” Dex snaps. “Size only counts for men,” purrs Lady X. ‘Dialogue’ like this proliferates throughout, and it warrants a drinking game: Take a shot for every pun and enjoy the coma.

Children are too clever for Foodfight! – they know crap when they see it, and Foodfight! bleeds crap from every pore. The waxwork-like character models, caught between squash-and-stretch and motion capture, awkwardly flail through static 2D environments as the camera lurches drunkenly about. There is no rhythm, pace or urgency, either to the movements or the editing, resulting in a kitchen-sink cacophony that never gives the audience time to register what the fuck is going on. Take Mr. Clipboard (Christopher Lloyd) and his surreal, Lynchian gait: try to locate the focal point in any one of his scenes.

You won’t find it. You won’t find it anywhere. A focal point does not exist. The camera never stops moving, the characters never stop talking, the noise never ends. This is because Kasanoff is, first and foremost, a businessman. There is nothing of the artist about him; his talents extend to calculations and accounting, not to film-making. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but he is also the last person that should be involved with the creative process to such an extensive degree, especially for something as complicated and fragile as the act of film-making.

Films are expensive – absurdly so – and failure to recoup a film’s investment can be catastrophic for even the mightiest of studios. For Kasanoff, it’s not difficult to see why he would want the film, his baby, to be released, no matter what the cost. The production history is long and dogged – and documented elsewhere – over the course of nine years; it’s easy to pity Kasanoff and his team for their ambition and ultimate failure, but it might be more appropriate to condemn them for releasing the film in the desperate state it now inhabits.

I’ll be blunt: I do not recommend Foodfight! to anyone. Not to shitslaves like me, not to parents looking for a throwaway animation for their children, not to actual masochists – no-one. No one in the world should watch Foodfight! under any circumstances. It was a crass piece of mass-market exploitation from conception and its final form, in all its nauseating ignominy, is wretched beyond belief.

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