Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Al's Birthday Review: Freddy Got Fingered

Welcome to my annual ritual of regret for allowing Al to survive another year. I'm Bob, and it's time again for Al's special birthday review.

Al normally requests astoundingly pretentious, overly cerebral films that are so hard to understand they become utterly boring and nonsensical.

This time, he's changed the formula a little bit.

This time, he's requested an astoundingly stupid, asinine film that is easy to understand but still utterly boring and nonsensical.

So at least it's a little different?

Yes, today I'm taking a look at Freddy Got Fingered, an alleged comedy from the early 2000s starring Tom Green.

Freddy Got Fingered, to the extent a story exists, is the tale of Gord, an aspiring animator and all-around terrible human being who regularly torments the viewer his friends and family with his complete and total inability to show any self-restraint whatsoever for even one blasted second of his life, en route to trying to get together a cartoon idea that he can actually sell to someone, in part because that's his lifelong dream and in part because he's utterly incapable of doing anything else without destroying everyone else's lives.

Not that he can be a cartoonist without doing that either, mind, so I guess it's more of the dream thing than the other thing.

Anyway, Gord is opposed in his endeavors by his dad, who feels that his drawings are stupid (as much as I'm for people going for creative endeavors, I'm with his dad on this one) and that he should get a real job. His mom seems rather ambivalent about the whole thing, and his brother, Freddy, is barely in the movie but generally seems to try to just quietly live a normal life in the middle of it. Along the way, Gord will meet a few other characters whose lives he will generally muck up.

I'm going to start out with the...good...such as there is.

The basic concept of this movie is something that could be interesting, either as a semi-dramatic film or as a comedy. The idea of a guy who wants to be a cartoonist but whose father doesn't consider it a "real job" isn't a bad one. I can see that being done in a serious tale, or in a funny one, depending on how you played things up. I can see it being good and having a nice, heartfelt message about following your dreams and proving yourself to your parents and all that. It could be a good film. not that film.

Okay. Couple other decent things to mention. The camerawork is fine, the stunt work (it makes me sad that there are stunts in this movie) is fine, the soundtrack is decent enough (though it makes me sad to hear many of the songs in this movie associated with this movie), and there's this one scene near the end of the film that I actually found funny where Gord is trying to show off his cartoon to Dave Davidson, the guy that can fund it, and Dave isn't buying that a character as mean as his dad can exist until his dad bursts through the door and starts angrily ranting, which isn't part of the pitch, but Dave thinks it is. That was actually pretty fun.

It is a single bright spark in the bleakness of existence, however.

I almost felt like I was watching Hard to Be a God again, in fact.

Al's favorite sign appears almost at the end of the film, but adequately represents how I was feeling approximately one minute in.
Okay, here's the main problem with Freddy Got Fingered...other than the fact that it's really hard to write "Gord" for the main character's name rather than "Freddy," since "Freddy" is the character name in the title but isn't the actual main character, and...gah. Anyway, the main problem is that this film mistakes offensiveness for comedy.

This is one of those films that just thinks you can say or do something that will make the average person gasp or give them offense, and that is, inherently, funny. Without doing anything else with it. Without making an actual joke or using anything in any kind of clever way. Just, say, have your main character see and be amazed by a horse's genitalia and go over and interact with it, and that right there, that's your joke, right?

Well, no. No, not at all.

That happens, by the way.

The thing is, that isn't enough to be funny. You can't just interact with certain organs and make dumb expressions and expect people to laugh. If they do at all, it'll be that uncomfortable sort of laughter that people make when they're thinking about how quickly they can get to the nearest phone and have you committed. You really have to try harder. You have to be clever with your humor. You have to make people perceive things in a different way than they would have thought, or at least twist up the way things normally go in a way that seems unusual or interesting or...just strange, but in a creative fashion.

No one will ever accuse Freddy Got Fingered of being clever, or interesting for that matter. It constantly reaches for the lowest possible bar.

Look, the scene I complimented above? That's a good example, actually, of good comedy. It takes our perceptions of what is going to happen and twists them, and then twists them again. We start out with Gord rushing into the office, trying to show off his idea that he's been working on. We get what looks like it should be utter disaster with his angry dad showing up. But that turns out to be exactly what Gord needs. It's an upending of our perceptions - we expect Gord's dad showing up to be bad, but it's actually good, and in an unexpected but reasonably believable way. Gord needs something to demonstrate that a character like the one he's displaying could exist, and his dad shows up to demonstrate just that, helping his son in the midst of trying to do anything but that.

That's good comedy.

The rest of the movie? Not so much.

For one thing, the level this film stoops to is pretty darn low. It isn't quite as bad as Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, at least as I'm thinking of them both right now - I remember that one being particularly disgusting - but it gets pretty low. There are many, many references to male genitalia, frequent sex jokes, and...well...there's the title, itself a particularly awful reference.

Then there's the characters...most notably, Gord. Gord is, as I mentioned above, a spectacularly unlikable character. In a better film, he would have some redeeming qualities. In this, though, he's a selfish jerk who ignores the feelings of every person but himself and doesn't even have the slightest bit of dedication, either to his family and friends or even to his own dream. At least if he kept at the cartooning constantly, he might be in some way sympathetic - if we saw that he was such a jerk to other people because he was pushing himself in pursuit of his dream, maybe. Maybe then his behavior would make some sense.

But instead, he's a guy who refuses to work normally, but refuses to really do anything to pursue his dream either, and then gives up and goes to live with his parents shortly after moving out, only to refuse to treat them with any kind of respect even while he's staying in their house, annoy them throughout the night building a half pipe in their driveway while they're trying to sleep, constantly lie to them about looking for and/or finding work, make no real attempt to explain why his cartooning might actually end up a good thing, fight publicly with his father and destroy a restaurant, and lie about his father sexually assaulting his younger brother (leading to the title), which inexplicably gets his adult younger brother taken to live in a home for sexually-abused children. Oh, and later Gord will nonsensically get his father and his father's house carted off to Pakistan because of a one-off comment his father made earlier in the film that really didn't make any sense anyway and clearly existed only to set up the later Pakistan scene, thereby rendering the entire thing rather pointless.

And that's just what he does to his family. His friends suffer too. One friend is badgered into trying the half-pipe out when he says he's not wearing the proper shoes for it, wearing rather slippery business shoes, and of course breaks his leg, and is later assaulted by Gord's dad outside his work and then has his workplace disrupted by Gord. Another girl just tries to convince Gord to pursue his dream with some actual effort (in between sexual advances, mind) and he just lashes out at her for it. Repeatedly.

And the random people he runs into along the way? He cruelly lies to some, telling them that their boss' wife just died in an attempt to find out where the boss is...then comes on to one of them. He aggravates a pregnant woman so much she starts giving birth, then, rather than calling a doctor, pretends to be one and swings the baby around by its umbilical cord (at least the movie had the grace to somehow have the child live through this, and not actually have the main character kill a baby and somehow get away with it, though he is inexplicably not arrested for this). He dances on the conveyor belts at a cheese sandwich factory, which has to be some kind of health and safety violation, and is somehow not fired (he later quits). He impersonates a law enforcement officer. He dances with a deer carcass on his head (and somehow survives being hit by a semi truck). He sexually assaults more than one animal. He breaks through security at a company just by babbling randomly and running, which somehow does not get him arrested (or the security guard responsible for letting an obviously crazed maniac through fired). He breaks a window at a counselor's office and jumps out it screaming insanely (which apparently does not damage the credibility of his testimony one bit). As mentioned before, he makes a terrible scene at a restaurant and ruins the evening for everyone else there, not to mention destroying several very expensive items, including a violin (somehow, he is arrested for this one, but not for swinging a baby around by its umbilical cord, which I suspect is if anything more illegal).

All in all, he is an absolutely reprehensible human being and it is an absolute mystery to me why Gord is the main character here.

A main character in a film is supposed to be someone we can follow. Someone we want to see succeed, or grow, or change. For instance, take Melvin Udall from As Good As It Gets. He's not a nice guy. He's downright mean. He holds several less-than-admirable views about people. But...there are admirable sides to him too. He's willing to go out of his way to help people, even if it starts out for very selfish reasons. When he's asked...or forced...into doing something good for someone else, he does follow through and keep his word. As the movie goes on, we start to see his connections with people, which started out entirely driven by selfishness, start to change. We start to see him learn to care what other people think, and value other people's opinions. By the end of the film, I don't think we can say he's a totally changed man...but we can say that he's a man who realizes he needs to change and is truly, honestly making an effort to do so.

As Good As It Gets understands how to do a film with main character who is hard to like. You make other characters likable, and use them to make him more likable. You give him some good qualities that are just subdued at the start, and over the course of the film you bring those more and more to the forefront. Maybe you redeem the character utterly by the end, maybe you don't, but at the end of the film he is a better person in some way than he started out.

Freddy Got Fingered does not understand this. Gord has no good qualities. None. He doesn't start with any. He doesn't gain any. He does not end the film in any way a better person than he started out. Perhaps you can argue, perhaps, that he comes to understand that trying once at something isn't enough? Maybe? But...that's not really a high bar of understanding, is it? We're shown him working on his cartoons in a couple idiotic ways at points in the film, but not in any way that can even make me feel like he learned that he needed to work hard at something to succeed. It feels more like he kind of lucks into success, largely due to his dad getting mad at him at just the right time when he was about to be turned down again.

Gord is exactly as terrible a person at the end of the film as he is at the start. His dad just decides to like him because now he has a job, thanks to his cartoon being a success. But Gord hasn't learned anything. Gord hasn't changed. This isn't the story of Gord's dad. Gord's dad is a supporting character. Heck, Gord's dad doesn't even change. His dad only accepts Gord's career choice because it has demonstrated an ability to make money. It's not like he said, "Son, I'm okay with this even if it's a struggle, because it's your dream." He said, "Oh, okay, this does make money. Fair enough."

Money, one must note, that is used to cart dear old dad off to Pakistan for ill-defined reasons purely to fight with him amongst camels and elephants and get captured by men with guns. Then magically everything is okay between Gord and dad and the movie ends.

There's...not really a character arc here for Gord, or for his dad, or for Freddy. There's kind of one for Gord's girlfriend, who tries and tries again to build a rocket-powered wheelchair for herself and succeeds, but even then, there's not really any kind of transformation for her as a character. She starts out as the girl who wants to build a rocket-powered wheelchair and ends up as the girl who did. There's no real rise and fall for her. And again, she's not the main character. And the main character learns nothing, changes in no way, and honestly owes his only accomplishment to a fortuitously-timed interruption by his dad.

Who, again, he then kidnaps and carts off to Pakistan, just to be a jerk.

Maybe, maybe Gord could work in the film as a character if the main character were someone else. If this were a film about Freddy and his attempts to live a normal life with his easily-angered father and his crazy brother and his mother who just kind of takes his crazy brother's side, maybe it would work as some kind of comedy. But focusing on the least likable character in the film, and in no way adjusting his character throughout? That doesn't work one bit.

The other problem with the film, honestly, is how Gord pretty much doesn't face any consequences for anything he does...ever. This film is pretty absurd, but even so, the things Gord does should involve the threat of some kind of consequence. He's arrested once, but immediately bailed out...and nothing else really ever goes against him in any notable way. His parents keep letting him stay in the house. His friend still hangs out with him. His girlfriend still wants to be around him. He can rant, and rave, and act like a maniac, and irresponsibly endanger people's lives and livelihoods, and just be an utter, absolute jerk to everyone he meets, and the worst that ever happens is that his dad is angry with him but doesn't actually do anything of particular note with his anger.

Unless you count breaking the half-pipe, I guess, which...I really don't. "Oh, no, father has broken the thing I was shown building and using for all of one scene! It was so special!" It'd be one thing if this were a movie about a guy trying to be a pro skateboarder and that was his way to practice, but...this isn't. The worst that happens in relation to Gord's dream is that his dad crumples some drawings later and inserts them in himself in ways I shall not mention, but Gord clearly replaces those pretty easily and that scene goes worse for his dad.

So yeah...Gord's world is one without consequence, where he can be as big of a jerk as he wants and in the end it's his dad who has to come around to his view, his friend who has to acknowledge that he did things right all along, and his prospective customer who has to admit that this obviously insane man who broke into his company and broke through security is obviously a talented cartoonist and my goodness, I almost missed out on a good opportunity, let me offer you one million dollars and not be angry at you for upsetting my employees by telling them my wife, who they all like, was dead.

Gord does at least apologize to his girlfriend, but it's not like she'd shown any real sign of being angry at him anyway. Nope. She just makes a bunch of sex jokes.

Yup. This is Gord's brilliant cartoon idea.
Even in comedies, this just isn't the way it should work. Actions have consequences. If you do something bad to someone, your relationship should notably worsen. If you break into places, you should have the threat of going to jail. If you disrupt people's lives, they should not be happy to grant you opportunities later. If you do things that should build a wall between you and your dream, it should become harder to scale that wall.

Gord's wall remains the same size throughout the entire film, and really it appears to just be a little brick someone left on the floor. The film isn't about him making the wall bigger and/or then eventually learning to scale it. It's about him realizing that he can just kind of step over the tiny brick in his path without any lessons learned and without anyone caring about anything he did wrong.

I'm sorry to harp on this for so long,'s just wrong. This is not how the world should work, even in a comedy film. Even in a comedy, the world works on some kind of scheme of choice and consequence. People remember what has been done. Yes, some people can be very forgiving, and that's admirable, and it's fine if you want to have a character in your film be very forgiving. But in this film, it feels like the entire cast outside of Gord just doesn't ultimately care about what he's done wrong because gosh darn it, he made Zebras in America or because...well...just because, that's why.

I could go on and on about the little things in this film. The running non-joke about the kid who constantly gets injured, which serves no purpose for plot or comedy and just is kind of ...there, along with other stuff going on. The nonsensical little lunatic behaviors Gord exhibits, including a couple babbling songs about walking backwards and offering sausages to people. The way the plot just kind of meanders along until suddenly realizing it should probably be wrapping up. The way the title character, Freddy, is basically ignored for most of the film when he could be a pretty good straight man character that the film honestly badly needs. But...really, I think I've hit the major points.

Don't worry, I'm wrapping up.
I honestly felt bad for everyone in this film, save for Tom Green, who clearly was the brains behind it in the first place. Rip Torn? Anthony Michael Hall? Shaq? They all deserved better...and yes, this is more embarrassing for Shaq than either Kazaam or Steel. I felt sad for all of them. I felt sad for the stuntmen who performed in it. I felt sad for the musicians whose music featured. I felt sad for Charles Schulz, who is mentioned once. Poor, poor Charles Schulz.

Freddy Got Fingered is a film about a reprehensible person who learns nothing but still gets what he wants, and the other people in his life who are horribly mistreated by him but just kind of go along with him anyway. It struggles with pretty basic character and story arcs. It is dull, often crass and disgusting, and mistakes being offensive for being funny. It suddenly wraps up without any real changes, lessons learned, or rational reason for the plot suddenly being resolved. It introduces elements without any real rhyme or reason, and takes them away just as nonsensically.

It's a very, very bad film. Freddy Got Fingered is not the absolute worst film I have watched, but let's face it. I've watched a lot of very bad films, so don't take that as an endorsement. It is a comedy that is not funny, and as I've said before, that makes it actively painful to watch. I do not recommend this for anyone. Avoid it at all costs.

Happy birthday, Al.

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