Saturday, April 22, 2006

Freddy Got Fingered

(2001, 87 min.)

Starring Tom Green, Rip Torn, Marisa Coughlin, Julie Hagerty, Harland Williams, Anthony Michael Hall, Eddie Kaye Thomas.

Written by Tom Green and Derek Harvie.

Directed by Tom Green.

Okay. I tried. I swear to Christ I tried. I tried to watch this movie as I would any other, putting aside my extreme loathing for the allegedly comedic stylings of its director/co-writer/star Green. Didn’t make a difference. Freddy Got Fingered is awful.

I tried keeping in mind one thing I had been told about the film: that Green had stated that most of it was concocted from private jokes he and his friends shared and he had in effect gotten a major studio to fund a movie that only a handful of people would actually get. That’s a good gag, if it’s true. The film could have used some good gags like that. Freddy Got Fingered is awful.

I tried to look at it from the idea stated by Green’s fans that he’s fearless when it comes to his comedy. To be fair there’s very little in this film in which Green could be accused of playing it safe. That might be admirable if only he were doing so in the name of something worth taking a risk for. Freddy Got Fingered is awful.

And that whole idea about never playing it safe isn’t completely true anyway. I read one comment praising him for having the guts to play a character that was so thoroughly unlikeable. Bullshit. There are pointedly deliberate attempts throughout the film to make the audience sympathize with Green’s character, an aspiring animator who can’t help turning every situation in which he finds himself into a freakshow, not the least of which is the way they make the character of his father into such a vicious monster.

Which incidentally leads me to the film’s one and only true “virtue,”[1] such as it is: Rip Torn’s performance as the father. Nobody barks the ‘f’ word quite like ol’ Rip and he attacks the role with such Doberman ferocity it’s almost enough to make me forgive him for the scene where he pulls down his pants and wiggles his flabby ass at Green. (And just as a brief aside, while I would never condone, let alone encourage domestic violence, it’s tempting at times to sympathize in a way with the father, even given his abusive behavior. The man has reason to be abnormally bitter; look at what he spawned!)

I like Torn so let’s leave him out of it for the rest of the review and refocus our sights on the real culprit. In fact let’s go back to that whole ‘courage’ thing. I don’t see it. Unless you happen to be an individual who has always dreamed of jerking off a horse, but never had the stones to actually do it, then maybe Green could be seen as courageous, but aside from that…

What’s more, for all of his freaky-deaky geekishness, Green is really a bully at heart, which when you come right down to it is the thing that prevents me from getting enjoyment from the few moments in the film that are actually kind of funny. It’s not enough for him to get laughs; what he really needs, what gets him off, is seeing the horror and revulsion that his “comedy” inspires in his victims. As he doesn’t get to enjoy that in the film form, he probably would have been disappointed had he not gotten a spate of terrible reviews. By getting angry at a film like this, you’re basically giving him what he wants. Despite some initial feelings of disgust, I’m glad to say that I’m not angry, but it does still annoy me that there are talented filmmakers out there who can’t get funding no matter how hard they try, but some executive thought it was a good idea to greenlight money for this film. Note to said executive: Freddy Got Fingered is awful.

Much has been made of the shock value scenes, such as Green eviscerating a dead deer and putting on its skin or pulling a newborn baby out of its mother, biting through its umbilical cord and whirling it about the room. Frankly neither of these two scenes particularly bothered me. The deer scene is a metaphorical joke (he’s been told in order to draw animals, he must get “inside” them) so at least there’s a smidgen of wit in there. The baby scene is not much more gruesome than things we’ve seen in other films. Take the ‘Live Organ Donor’ scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. I’ve always felt that they went too far in that bit, but the real humor that lies in the scene comes from John Cleese standing in the background casually talking up the woman whose husband is being disemboweled a few feet away. It is this kind of humor by contrast that Green either cannot or will not understand. As long as things are breaking, blood is flying, his eyes are bugging out and his mouth is wide open screaming, Green thinks that’s enough. He’s wrong.

Far worse is a completely unfunny, repellently sadistic running gag involving a child who lives next door to Green’s character and who is repeatedly being injured throughout the film, albeit accidentally. Admittedly Green’s character at one point is run down by a truck, but it’s done in cartoon fashion. He seems to have gone out of his way to make the young boy’s pain as realistic as possible. That’s the really nauseating part, dead deer and bloody baby be damned. I don’t know whether to hope that this is one of those private jokes that Green shares with his friends or to be distubed by the possibility that it actually might be.

Look, I like playing the iconoclast. Had the situation warranted it, it probably would have been fun to join the ranks of people who say that the mainstream critics just don’t get it and that this movie is an inspired work of comic subversion. But I can’t do that. Because Freddy Got Fingered is amateurish, childish, cruel, repugnant, and painfully unfunny.

In short, not to put too fine a point on it or anything, Freddy Got Fingered is fucking awful.

[1] Marisa Coughlin, who plays Green’s love interest, is also good, and extremely cute, so I’ll give her a brief mention as one of the film’s better qualities as well.

Go back to Plate O'Shrimp

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