Freddy Got Fingered

Year: 2001
Production Co: Regency Entertainment
Director: Tom Green
Writer: Tom Green
Cast: Tom Green, Rip Torn, Julie Hagerty, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Marisa Coughlan, Anthony Michael Hall, Drew Barrymore
As Eminem said on The Real Slim Shady; 'Sometimes I just want to get on TV and just let loose but can't but it's cool for Tom Green to hump a dead moose.'


If you're still alive for the outtakes that play during the end credits of Freddy Got Fingered (having not slit your wrists), you'll see Green with a dead moose skin draped over himself, a shot from one of the film's more pointless scenes.

Splattered with blood and innards, he prances around like an epileptic idiot for a few seconds before you see a change come over him. He suddenly straightens up, starts to take the animal skin off and mutters with an embarrassed smile "what the fuck are we doing?" He may well be asking it about the whole film. You certainly will be.

You can, in a roundabout way, blame Saturday Night Live. Since 1975, the template for TV sketch comedy has been the breeding ground for America's most visible big screen comic talent.

It's launched the careers of more Hollywood comedy luminaries than you can shake a stick at. Every generation has its alumni, from Lily Tomlin, Bill Murray and John Belushi in the 70s to the MTV generation of the 1980s led by Eddie Murphy, who styled himself according to the profane, hell-raising, fast-talking times.

The influence of America's most fertile comic seed fund shows no signs of slowing, with Adam Sandler, Mike Myers and Will Ferrell all jostling for space at the top of the comic box office...

MTV didn't only influence history's most iconic TV comedy program, however. It spawned its own stable.

But where veteran SNL producer Lorne Michaels knew his show was watched by people across the social spectrum, MTV's nebulous crop of film 'stars' were packaged for boys in their teens who thought picking your nose and flicking it at a teacher was as funny as fortysomething intellectuals found Woody Allen.

So writers, actors or directors like Tom Green are cut from a very juvenile cloth. Their type of comedy is finding a dead moose on the side of the road, skinning it and dancing around in the bloodied hide while parading for the camera. Obviously, it's disgusting - to the point where very few people other than puerile preteens will find it funny (admittedly, the target audience).

But the subtler problem is that like many other scenes, it serves no effect but to leave the story behind and give Tom Green (as opposed to his character) the stage. That means a little skateboarding, a little theatre of the absurd, and a lot of what the MTV website calls 'hellbent-for-laughs approach'. Loosely translated, that means all the subtlety of testicular cancer (which Green later battled) and good taste of a charity foundation called The Tom Green's Nuts Cancer Fund (which he founded).

In a nutshell, Gord (Green) is a wannabe cartoonist. All he needs is a meeting with bigwig Dave Davidson (Anthony Michael Hall). He moves back in with his parents Jim (Torn) and Julie (Hagerty) and sensible but long-suffering brother Freddie (Thomas), but his father has other ideas. The bad guy of the movie, he wants the twentysomething layabout out of his house looking after himself. Ironically, we wish the same thing almost from the get go as Gord's pranks and hijinks become ever more desperate and ever less funny.

Like Green's signature grandstanding, the 'plot' has no rhyme or reason, as if the writer (Green, not surprisingly) took every stupid comedy idea he's had while sitting around getting drunk with friends, written them on index cards, shuffled them and dealt them out in the order they appear in the movie.

For her starring role in one of the funniest films ever made, as Elaine the stewardess in Flying High, Hagerty should be comedy royalty. Instead she crops up in a series of forgettable second-fiddle parts playing the same ditzy housewife she always has.

The irony is that the Zucker brothers' comedy magnum opus might have been the abortion Freddy Got Fingered is. Honestly, what's funny about a taxi driver and ex military pilot boarding a cross country flight to convince his girl to stay with him, only for food poisoning to take out the crew, leaving him the only chance to land? On paper, it's as funny as a struggling cartoonist moving back home and his father's attempts to move him back out.

But where the Zuckers looked for niches in the cultural zeitgeist of airports and commercial plane flights to fill with whiplash gags, writer/director Green shoehorns totally unrelated arse into an otherwise drab storyline. Where the Zuckers could write, and we henceforth laughed at some cleverly written gags, Green thinks he can achieve the same effect by acting like a pre-pubescent moron for 90 minutes.

The Zucker brothers identified and exploited the tweezer-thin line between high drama and hysteria, by using some of the most respected dramatic actors of the day like Robert Stack, Peter Graves and Leslie Neilsen. Green shows no such nuanced appreciation of the timing, finesse or absurdity of drama. He just plays the fool, and in amongst his terminal fool-playing, he tries to make us gag on our popcorn at every opportunity. Neither denote talent, even if you're 10 years old.

Plenty of films have also burst the bounds of political correctness since it closed like a shroud over the institutions of a sense of humour and genuine tolerance, making everything a source of cultural embarrassment. Look at the work of the Farrelly brothers or Borat. All proved you could laugh with the disabled, the socially inept or minorities instead of at them. Movies that do it right have those stereotypes hold a mirror up to our own stupidity, whether it's for a laugh or to teach us something.

But Freddy Got Fingered elbows a minority stereotype into the story (the fellatio-obsessed paraplegic girlfriend Betty, played by Marisa Coughlan) for no reason other than to scream 'look at me, I'm not PC!' It's a clumsy identifier for a movie that doesn't deserve the claim it tries to identify.

Yes, some of you reading this will be saying 'oh, get over it, it's not supposed to be King Lear.' And I'm as partial to stupid comedy as the next movie fan. I've already talked about my love for Flying High , which can be classed as stupid comedy - it's broad, obtuse and at times obvious. But one important difference sets Freddy Got Fingered apart from Flying High and every other silly comedy that's been done well.

It's just not funny.

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