This past weekend I had the great opportunity to check out a relatively unknown animated film, Foodfight! This indie gem sprung to my screen last week out of the blue, and while I may not have had the highest expectations going into the film, I can honestly say that it it has set a new precedent for animated features. It is no stretch to say that this is the next Toy Story, and the future of animation can be seen in this film.
Before I get into the specifics of this great movie, I feel that the incredible journey that production took and the obstacles they had to overcome is important in understanding how the film became reality. The first idea for Foodfight! began in 1999 with Lawrence Kasanoff and another employee of Threshold Entertainment. Their idea was to create a Toy Story adventure in a grocery store, with new characters and familiar brand mascots fighting for their world. Originally slated for a 2003 release date, the film encountered it’s first hurdle, industrial espionage. Someone had stolen the hard drives that contained the film, and without backups, the crew was back to square one. Most people would say, “Well, we tried our best, but it’s too bad.” However, that’s not how Lawrence Kasanoff does things. Not only did he create, write, and produce the film, he was also the director of the film, in his first directorial role ever. Most would see this as a recipe for failure. Restarting a film from scratch with a first time director; there is no way this could be successful. When release dates in 2006 and 2007 weren’t met, it seemed like Foodfight! would never see the light of day. But, against all odds, the movie was finally released in 2012.
What makes the movie most surprising is not only its relatively unknown status, but its all star cast. The film’s main character is Dex, the dog detective and hero of the grocery store, played by multi-Golden Globe winner Charlie Sheen. His best friend is Daredevil Dan, a crazy chocolate squirrel voiced by Wayne Brady. Hillary Duff is Dex’s love interest, Sunshine Goodness, a cat-human who is nothing but happy and sweet. Christopher Lloyd, Jerry Stiller, and Eva Longoria lend their voices to other important characters. The story centers around Dex and his attempts to figure out the strange disappearances of “Ikes” (short for icons, the characters on the food labels) and the mysterious brand X that has been replacing those foods. The action is intense and the graphics are cutting edge. You would be hard pressed to find a better looking animated film from Disney, Dreamworks, or even Pixar. Those 13 years of development were not wasted. The story and dialogue draw you in, begging for more. I wish I could go back in time and experience this film through fresh eyes like a child first seeing Toy Story, because that is the only way to truly make a comparison to the powerful event that is Foodfight!
Unfortunately, a small minority of spoilsports think this film isn’t perfect. They say that it features flagrant anti-semitism, overt sexual themes, and creepy interspecies relationships. But these fools are obviously reading too far into this film, to a ridiculous extreme. Why can’t Dr. Si Nustrix, who is literally just a huge nose with a tiny body, be Jewish? Why can’t Eva Longoria’s character, an animated woman in a children’s movie, dress as a schoolgirl and do a sexy dance for Dex? And why can’t a cat-human and a dog detective be in love? It’s 2014 for crying out loud, I thought we’d be mature enough to accept this kind of love in modern society.
Ignoring these unfounded attacks, there is one real criticism I have. Kasanoff created original characters like Dex and Sunshine Goodness to live alongside Mr. Clean and the California Raisins so they could create their own branding. Kasanoff wanted Foodfight! brand food products, webisodes, and merchandise. So, my question is, where is it? The only merchandise I can find is a short book and a few plushies on eBay, but that isn’t enough. I want people to wake up on Saturday morning, pour a bowl of Daredevil Dan’s chocolate crunch cereal, cuddle up with a Twinkie the Kid stuffed toy, and turn on the TV to watch Dex’s new adventure in Marketopolis.
This is my only complaint for an otherwise perfect film. The long development cycle, twice as long as any of Pixar’s movies, was truly used productively and shows Threshold Entertainment’s attention to detail. The $65 million investment was not wasted, but don’t expect a sequel anytime soon, since the film only made an official return of about $73,000. Though I don’t normally do so, I think this film demands the top rating I can give.