Judge Ike Oden is working on a feature adaptation of his more erotically themed web comedy show.
The epic journey to find Judy!
The viral comedy show created by and starring Lukas Cruikshank (iCarly) is now a feature film in the form of Fred: The Movie. In it, Fred (Cruikshank), a socially awkward, squeaky voiced 15-year-old, is dumbstruck to find his would-be girlfriend Judy (Pixie Lott, East Enders) has moved all the way across town. Desperate to invite her over for a day of awesome singing, Fred haphazardly journeys to find her new house. Standing in his way are bully Kevin (Jake Weary, Assassination of a High School President), a complicated bus route, and a doom-laden path through the woods. Will Fred survive to duet with Judy?
Recently, while enjoying a mini-mall Chinese dinner with my friend, Greg, he asked me what I had on the review docket for the coming week. I rattled off a handful of titles before getting to Fred: The Movie.
"Did you say Fred: The Movie?" I looked up from my General Tso's to see the blood drain from his face.
I nodded. "Yeah, it premiered on Nickelodeon a couple weeks back, and it's all my kid's been talking about since."
He suddenly lunged at me, flipping the table and our Chinese food over as he grabbed me by the collar of the shirt. In seconds, he had me in a choke hold with one soggy chopstick pressed to my throat. "You can't watch that!" he cried. "You won't make it back!"
The people around us were screaming, lunging for their cell phones, calling for help. Greg didn't notice, staring at me with a mix of fanatical madness and deep pity.
"That voice! I can't get it out of my head!" he screamed, as I felt him push the recyclable hunk of wood deeper into my throat.
"I can't let you suffer through Fred: The Movie. Either way, you're already dead." My heart sank, as he put a hand over my eyes. "Damn you, Fred…"
Suddenly, there was a deafening POP! Greg's hands fell from my eyeline, as I watched him drop to the floor, dead.
I looked across the room to see the old mall cop frozen, his service revolver poised in Greg's direction, barrel smoking. As the buffet denizens screamed, he remained frozen, not entirely sure what to do next.
Greg lay lifeless on the floor, clutching his chopstick; a crimson, three inch circle piercing the top left of his chest. It was a clean shot. He felt no pain.
He was the lucky one.
Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement. Greg's not really dead, nor did he pull a chopstick on me. Instead, I received a verbal lashing for requesting this assignment, if only because my media-savvy friend described the creation of Fred as "the most annoyingly horrible thing to happen to comedy since Neo-Nazi scientists crossed pollinated the sperm of Carrot Top and Pauly Shore in a government lab to make Dane Cook."
Greg's a pretty strange guy, but he's not far off.
Fred: The Movie is annoying, but annoying with a purpose. Think of the way many audiences find Jerry Lewis annoying, Pee-Wee Herman grating, or Jon Heder utterly talentless. Fred elevates annoying character shtick to the highest level. Then again, that's sort of the point.
Curikshank plays the character as a parody of post-millennial teenage narcissism. Fred is the perfect example of a self-absorbed, preening, hyperactive geek whose voice sounds like Jennifer Tilly's on helium and meth. Said squeaky-clean pipes (one of the character's many trademarks) is a digitally created effect that will likely have adults across America lamenting the loss of their children to this sort of idiocy, while scouring the house for sharp implements in which to end the pain of their failed lives.
Your kids, however, are likely to love it. To anyone over the age of 16, the whole Fred concept comes off as cheap and grating. But so was Saved By The Bell and about a zillion other pre-packaged, pre-teen properties that felt perfectly entertaining through a child's vantage point. If you can get over Fred's annoying voice, you might find yourself enjoying (or at least tolerating) Fred: The Movie. It's chock full of the sort of dumb and annoying jokes that plague its genre, but it's also a genuinely well-crafted adaptation of a one-note concept.
Director Clay Weiner and screenwriter David A. Goodman understand the property's weaknesses going in, and instead of playing the film as a generic comedy, they fall back on (holy crap!) good old-fashioned storying to pull Fred: The Movie up by its boot straps. The script is a cobbled together mish-mash of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and the thrift-store art design of Napoleon Dynamite, populated by cut-rate Will Ferrell/Adam McKay set-ups…but damn if it isn't passable.
A good cast helps. Despite the godawful vocal crutch, Cruikshank distinguishes himself as a fearless comedic actor, pulling off dual roles and showing a physicality and range in Fred that is shockingly good. Jake Weary also delivers a memorable performance as Kevin the Bully, giving us an adversary as painfully awkward and over-the-top wacky as Fred but, you know, a big jerk. Of the teens, however, it is Jeanette McCurdy (iCarly) whose character Bertha—goth neighbor to our titular character—steals most of the movie. While McCurdy is typically uneven as the hot-headed sidekick on her TV show, she underplays Bertha with effortless skill, crafting a character that's much more than the glorified cameo expected to bring in iCarly fans.
Stephanie Courtney (United States of Tara) plays Fred's drunken mother, a character she's honed to perfection throughout her career but still manages to play consistently well. John Cena (The Marine) turns in a fun performance as Fred's mental projection of his illegitimate father, who just so happens to be WWE Superstar John Cena.
The only weak character is Pixie Lott's Judy, who, in a story move comparable to Pretty In Pink, represents the Andrew McCarthy to Cruikshank's Molly Ringwald and McCurdy's John Cryer (Ducky!). Of course, Fred ends up with Judy in the end, but honestly, aren't we sick of the misfit ugly ducking ending up with the gorgeous, bland popular kid? The ending sucked in Pretty In Pink and it sucks here. The mere fact I'm whining so much about it in context to Fred: The Movie terrifyingly shows the vested interest I have in this property. But c'mon! Who really wants an Andrew McCarthy? Unless we're talking Weekend At Bernie's, of course.
On the technical side of things, the film delivers a solid 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, showcasing the film's bright photography with depth and clarity comparable to most big budget Hollywood comedies. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix complements the video presentation, making Fred's squeaky voice just powerful enough to not want to rip my eardrums out (just barely).
The extras department is plentiful and deep. There are two "Fred" videos—"Fred's Got Talent," and "Fred Stalks Judy." They're rough web quality and will clue the non-believers into what my friend Greg was talking about. Two behind-the-scenes featurettes, "From Web Cam To Leading Man" and "Fred's First Movie" are short, breezy, and informative, giving us an interesting look at how the cast and filmmakers adapted a property previously restricted to YouTube. Finally, a lively, info-packed audio commentary with Cruikshank, Goodman, and Weiner rounds out a solid set.
Put down the knife, and step away from the ledge…Fred is Not Guilty.
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