A film for six-year-old kids of all ages
"Dishes. Relationships. Wind. This guy breaks everything." - Poster tagline
"...a zappy movie that emphasizes self-actualization" - IMdB
Faster than a speeding bullet? No.
More powerful than a locomotive? Never!
Smellier than a week-dead fish? YOU BET.
Drop Dead Fred is not a classic, except in the sense of "classic grown-up film-to-hate". Class is the one thing that it does not have in quantity. The film is basically a hundred-minute-long fart joke without a real punchline.
What it does have in abundance are images of dog poo, fake puking, tacky childish jokes, general toilet-humour crudity and Rik Mayall, which explains it all.
Phoebe Cates plays Elizabeth, a twenty-eight-year-old woman with an overly-controlling mother, and husband Charles (Tim Matheson of Animal House fame). Hubby has no self-control and clearly cannot keep his willy in his trousers, and shocked by the revelation that he wants to leave her for an interchangeable blonde, she goes home to Mother (Polly Cronin), who returns her to her childhood room, where she discovers a sealed jack-in-the-box. Of course, she opens it up (to the tune of "pop goes the weasel"), and out pops the ginger-headed, lime-green clad Fred, her imaginary friend when she was aged five. He beats up her dolls, calls her "Snotface", berates her for getting married and "doing it, like the pigeons", before picking his nose and wiping the bogey on her face. Harvey he ain't.
Fred is yer genuine invisible-to-everyone friend, locked up in said jack-in-the-box for twenty-one years, and returning to Elizabeth now because she is unhappy. He can't be released from this geas until she is happy, and he proceeds to attempt this by creating the same kind of havoc that made her delighted as a child. Mud pies and doggy-do's in the carpet. Snot and icky stuff, that sort of a thing. Fred turns out to be a friend of the worst and most disruptive kind, unable to take responsibility for his actions, and getting poor Lizzie into trouble time and again.
In despair, she goes to visit her best friend Janie (Carrie Fisher), who takes her somewhat reluctantly under her wing, opening the door for disasters of almost Biblical proportions. There's also a meeting with an old school chum and the potential for some romance, but I shan't say more about the plot, not because I could spoil the film for you, because it would be pointless to try.
Nothing I say could spoil this film for you, because it comes pre-spoiled. It's predictable in so many ways, with the inevitable food fight (which pales next to Animal House's offering), Fred looking up women's skirts at every opportunity and generally creating havoc. It's a film that seemed to be aimed at children, and it still appeals to those with a little of that childish mischief, but when I recently saw it for the second time it disappointed me somewhat, largely because I seemed to remember there being more and better fart gags. By all means rent it - it may be dreadful, but is still enjoyable because Rik Mayall's madcap antics steal the show as his attempts to get Elizabeth and Charles together again backfire in every imaginable slapstick way. It's like Bottom, only child-friendler.
I first saw it when it was released to video, about fifteen years ago - I chuckled at it then, and recently thought that it would be a good family evening film (after all, we do have an eight-year-old in the house). As I watched it again, I couldn't help but make comparisons with Animal House (did you notice?) I wished that the John Landis and Harold Ramis team had been involved in the production, it would have improved it a thousandfold. Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 8% rating, as only one of the twelve reviews they listed gave it a thumbs-up. That's a shame, because it's moderately funny in a ludicrous way, easy to watch, provided you don't have children in the house who are likely to use it as an excuse for potty humour or dreadful behaviours afterward.
Snot factor: 8/10
Funny factor: 3/10
Released in 1991 , it was directed by Ate de Jong, written by Elizabeth Livingston. According to boxofficemojo.com, the film grossed $13,878,334 in the US. Bet it made a good profit, it can't have cost much more than a few new pairs of clothes and some doggy poop.
Phoebe Cates Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Cronin
Rik Mayall Drop Dead Fred
Marsha Mason Polly Cronin
Tim Matheson Charles
Carrie Fisher Janie
Keith Charles Murray
Ashley Peldon Young Elizabeth
Daniel Gerroll Nigel
Ron Eldard Mickey Bunce
Eleanor Mondale Attractive Customer
Bob Reid Judge Dubben
Peter Thoemke Arsonist
Sjoukje De Jong Douma Grandma Bunce
Paul Holmes Man in Speedboat
Steve Cochran Waiter #1
Robert Meyzen Waiter #2
Daniel Buchen Doctor Ryland
Marie Mathay Concerned Mom
Peter Breitmayer Go to Hell Herman
Clark Niederjohn Velcro Head
Tom Bethke Graggy
Elizabeth Gray Namby Pamby
Cheryl Hawker Nurse
Michael Welker Waiter at Wine Gala
Kelly Benson Natalie
Cathy Lind Hayes Ms. Fuzzock
Bridget Fonda Annabella (uncredited)
Rod Pitman Plain clothes bank guard (uncredited)
Andrei Sterling Waiter (uncredited)
I was amused to see this softlinked to Fred Phelps.