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Drop Dead Fred

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Drop Dead Fred
Drop dead fred.jpg
Fred should drop dead, but that never happens sadly enough...
Genre: Black comedy
Fantasy
Starring: Phoebe Cates
Rik Mayall
Marsha Mason
Tim Matheson
Carrie Fisher
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Release Date: May 24, 1991 (United States)
October 11, 1991 (United Kingdom)
Runtime: 101 minutes
Country: United Kingdom
United States
Language: English
Budget: $6.788 million
Box Office: $14.8 million


Drop Dead Fred is a 1991 British/American fantasy comedy film directed by Ate de Jong, produced by PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and Working Title Films and released and distributed by New Line Cinema. The film was promoted as a lighthearted children's film but there are notable adult themes and gags and some elements of black comedy, emotional abuse, mental illness, bizarre visual and make-up effects and profanity.

Rik Mayall stars as the title character: a happy, anarchic, and mischievous imaginary friend of a young girl named Elizabeth (Phoebe Cates) and nemesis of her overbearing mother, Polly (Marsha Mason). He causes chaos around the home and neighborhood, but nobody can see him except her. When she grows up and has an emotional crisis, he returns to "cheer her up" in his own unique way, causing more chaos than ever before. The supporting cast includes Carrie Fisher, Ron Eldard, Tim Matheson, and Bridget Fonda.

Plot

Elizabeth Cronin is an unassertive and repressed woman, domineered by her controlling mother, Polly. While taking her lunch break from work, she visits her husband, Charles, whom she is separated from, hoping to sort out their problems. He reasserts his desire for a divorce and says that he is in love with another woman named Annabella. While she is at the public phone, a man walking down the street breaks into her car to steal her purse. Then her car is stolen as well. Forced to run back to work (at the courthouse), she arrives late and loses her job. While leaving the courthouse she runs into an old friend, Mickey, who brings up childhood memories they shared, which includes memories of Elizabeth's childhood imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred. Mickey explains how only Elizabeth could see him, and everybody else thought she was crazy.

Since losing her job Elizabeth moves back in to her mother's home. While rummaging through past belongings in her childhood bedroom closet, Elizabeth finds a taped-shut jack-in-the-box. She places the box by the window and gets into bed. Through a series of flashbacks, it is revealed that while Fred caused havoc for her, he also gave her happiness and a release from her oppressive mother. Elizabeth wakes up to find the jack-in-the-box slowing playing music. She removes the tape and the box continues to play itself, faster and faster, until Drop Dead Fred flies out of the box, finally freed after all these years. He agrees to help her become happy again, which she believes will only happen when she wins back Charles. However, his childish antics do more harm than good.

Worried by Elizabeth's recent strange behavior, Polly brings her to a (children's) psychologist. In the waiting room, Fred is seen meeting up with other patients' (who are all children) imaginary friends. The doctor prescribes medication to rid her of him, whom he and Polly believe is a figment of her imagination. She also changes her appearance and wardrobe. Charles now wants her back and she is overjoyed, until Fred discovers he is still cheating on her with Annabella. Heartbroken, she tells Fred that she can't leave Charles, because she is scared of being alone. They escape to a dream sequence in which she is finally able to reject him, stand up to Polly, and declare she is no longer afraid of her. She frees her imprisoned childhood self. Fred tells her that she doesn't need him anymore, so they kiss and he disappears into her eternal subconscious.

Upon awakening from the dream, Elizabeth dumps Charles and asserts herself to Polly, who blames her for her father leaving home. Before leaving, she reconciles with Polly, and encourages her to find a friend to escape her own loneliness. She goes to her friend Mickey's house, and on meeting, they both express interest in becoming more than just friends. After his daughter, Natalie, comes up to them and blames Fred for mischief that has just prompted her nanny to quit, Elizabeth realizes that he is now with Natalie. She can no longer see him, but he is now leading another, and smiles with content.

Bad Qualities

  1. The plot is very confused. Where it went from looking futher into what is mentally unsound about Elizabeth with some backstory to better showcase what's wrong with her, it then went down into some pointless subplot of trying to help Elizabeth find Charles, her love interest who Elizabeth dumped on and attempted to reconcile with Elizabeth's family; which all has little to no coherence.
    • The subplot becomes even more pointless after knowing that Charles moved onto someone else and Elizabeth creates more drama in such a drastic way.
  2. The opening credits, while creative, has an extremely off-putting soundtrack, and the jokes in it are very hit-or-miss.
  3. Confusing/Unexplained Plot Twist: When Elizabeth finally gets taken to a psychiatrist, Fred starts to have imaginary friends of his own despite being a imaginary friend of Elizabeth.
  4. The title character, Fred, is an imaginary friend that is a part of Elizabeth's schizophrenia who's extremely obnoxious, childish, relentless, unruly, unfunny, very idiotic, creepy, overly loud, unlikeable, and he has a voice that can get extremely annoying to listen to.
    • He is a very bad influence on Elizabeth. He encouraged her to do some REALLY bad things like committing acts of robbery by stealing gold, silver, and jewels when Elizabeth was a kid.
  5. Fred's actions make him out to be absolutely horrifying for how he seems to resemble some psychotic repression of Elizabeth's brain, such as making Elizabeth look purely insane when Fred is making things a whole lot worse for Elizabeth when she becomes an adult since she has plenty of stress.
  6. It tries to be so much like Alice in Wonderland in a modern setting, but it comes off as an actual 'Alice in Wonderland type of setting that has some very creepy undertones about madness.
  7. It is intended to be a comedy when it has several depressing and down-putting themes that are way too tasteless and humorless to make them funny on their own (such as adultery and schizophrenia).
    • As such, the comedy fails because there is no sense of reality and logic to the nonsensical fantasy and mayhem that is found in this movie.
  8. Many moments of disgusting, juvenile, and unfunny humor. These include Fred's "antics" that are never fun to watch at all and get rather tiresome, to say the least.
    • Examples of these include a painful crotch joke when Fred was sliding down a staircase railing before picking his nose to rub it on Elizabeth and Fred looking up the skirt of Elizabeth's mom to tell what he sees to Elizabeth.
  9. The side characters range from being bland to being incredibly dumb, to being downright insane in the wrong way. Especially when they are all weirdly passive about Elizabeth being afraid of her imaginary friend, even to the point of making them just as insane if not more than Elizabeth already is.
    • One good example of this is when even after Elizabeth acts insane because of Fred's malicious attempts to ruin her date by embarrassing her with making her prone to fallibility, despite her date asking her why she made a mess in an uncontrollable manner; he still thinks that her madness is charming (which is downright stupid since any rational person would think that she's crazy and needs to get her some psychological help by getting her to an institution for people that suffer from psychosis and schizophrenia! Which she did do at one point in this movie but that's besides the point).
  10. Overly hammy acting. This can get very annoying when Elizabeth goes insane in a depressing fashion and Fred always makes a lot of obnoxious sounds.
  11. Bad Ending: The ending is very disturbing, it attempted to be heartwarming after Fred in his own way tried freeing Elizabeth from what insecurities were, but it all failed miserably because of making another girl mentally unstable. Elizabeth is at ease seeing the girl smiling and it is a terrible way to end this movie.

Good Qualities

  1. A very interesting idea, as there had been an announcement of the film being remade, there could be a possibility of making it a lot better than the original, according to Doug Walker.
  2. Despite the opening soundtrack being a tad bit off-putting, the opening credits has some creativity put into it.
  3. Decent music score by Randy Edelman.
  4. Passable production design by Joseph T. Garrity.
  5. Rik Mayall (who played Fred), who is often known for his comedic talents, did give a decent performance to work with such a obnoxious personality by giving it his all.
    • The character he plays can moments of being pleasant or tolerable whenever he isn't yelling, bickering or being flat out stupid.

Reviews

Drop Dead Fred was panned upon release by critics, with Gene Siskel declaring it the worst film of 1991, the Nostalgia Critic declaring it the second worst movie he has ever reviewed, the film gaining a 11% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 25% critic score on Metacritic.

However, the film's reception amongst audiences were mostly mixed, with the movie gaining a 5.9/10 on IMDB, a 77% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 4.9 user score on Metacritic. It has a cult following in later years towards audiences after the film has been panned by critics.

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