D: Clay Weiner / 81m
Cast: Lucas Cruikshank, Pixie Lott, Jake Weary, Jennette McCurdy, John Cena, Siobhan Fallon Hogan
Created by Cruikshank as a riposte to bloggers – boo! hiss! – who talk about every last thing they’re doing, and the subject of several videos posted on YouTube, the character of Fred Figglehorn gets his first feature length outing, complete with annoying high-pitched voice, yellow belt suspenders, and endearing fantasy sequences.
Fred (Cruikshank) is a fifteen-year-old with an over-developed sense of paranoia, allied to a naive outlook on the world. When his “girlfriend” Judy (Lott) moves to another part of town, Fred believes she’s been kidnapped and he sets out to rescue her, and all so that he can invite her over to his house so they can harmonise (Fred thinks he’s got a really great singing voice; Judy, as played by Lott, definitely has). Along the way Fred meets a variety of strangers, has a number of strange encounters, and even finds himself buried up to his neck in sand. When he finally reaches Judy’s new home, he ends up the unfortunate star of a viral video. To even things up, Fred decides to throw a party… but with his own unique twist on things.
Your tolerance for Fred: The Movie will depend largely on your reaction to that voice. Cruikshank has created a character who talks continually in a high-pitched tone that can easily slice through a person’s cranium at a hundred yards. At times – and Fred could be happy or sad – he screams like a five-year-old girl. He also has a tendency to run around madly waving his hands in the air… and screaming. His singing voice leaves so much to be desired you’ll wonder what Judy will make of it (she’s never heard Fred sing). And you will fully understand why his mom (Hogan) comes home from work and goes for a nap straight away.
But – and this is a very important but – Cruikshank somehow makes Fred endearing and likeable. Despite the rapid speech, the wild face-pulling, and the off-kilter way of looking at things, you soon realise that Fred is fifteen going on seven; he’s a little kid trapped in an adolescent’s body. (Maybe what happened to Little Evan Weiss has stunted his emotional maturity – see the movie to find out what I mean.) Once you realise Fred’s situation then you can sit back and enjoy a movie that’s a lot cleverer than it looks. A major part of why the movie works is the various fantasy interludes, including scenes involving Fred’s imaginary dad (Cena). Cena plays it in his WWE outfit, and even FU’s Fred at one point, but it’s the obvious love and affection he has for Fred that hits home, a wish-fulfillment dad that most kids would pray for. The fantasy scenes also allow Fred to be have in a more adult way, even if they are highly preposterous; they still show Fred as he could be.
There’s a good deal of physical comedy going on here as well: Fred trying to trampoline over a fence; an invisible Fred attacking singing rival Kevin (Weary); Fred trying to dig a hole under the fence. And that’s without some clever one-liners sprinkled throughout the script. Of the cast, Cruikshank inevitably dominates proceedings, and while Lott’s accent wavers from scene to scene she still projects the most-popular-girl-in-school image to perfection (she’s helped by being lit so that she appears to glow in close-up). Weiner offers some deft directorial touches, and the cinematography by Scott Henriksen reflects the highs and lows of Fred’s moods.
Rating: 7/10 – a surprise for the uninitiated, Fred: The Movie is by turns funny, poignant, and sad; a movie that works hard at subverting its audience’s expectations, and by and large succeeds.
Originally posted on thedullwoodexperiment website.