Movie: Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
|I can eat backwards I'm the backwards man|
Why Did I watch this?
Alrighty. So I obviously knew about this movie had had no interest in it back in 2001. Or really any time since then. But then I watched this edition of re:View from Red Letter Media and was curious about this film's reappraisal. Is there something else going on here, something sly or subversive that elevates this film into art? You know, me, only one to find out. I added it to my DVD queue on August 20, 2018, not too long after I watched that review, but never really got around to it. It was still Freddy Got Fingered after all. But as of July 1 it was on Hulu, so there. Easy 87 minute Sunday morning movie.
What Did I know ahead of time?
For once I knew quite a bit! I knew this was peak Tom Green, he was married to Drew Barrymore at the time, and this was a bizarre early 2000s comedy. I maybe didn't know exactly how far he pushed this one, but we'll get into that. But it assuredly helped that I was a teenager in the late 90s / early 2000s and am well versed in his style of humour. But I didn't really know how this would function as a film. I remembered the trailers and the sausages and backwards man stuff well. So it was really just seeing how it all tied together.
How Was It?
I don't know. I really don't. Getting back to that RLM review, Jay Bauman suggested that it may be brilliant, but that's assuredly accidental, because Tom Green isn't that clever. Mike Stoklasa contends that Green knew exactly what he was doing and presents this film as a meta-fuck you to the Hollywood studio system.
After a close viewing, I think that Green knew what he was doing - it feels very purposeful and committed and watching subsequent interviews with him I get the vibe that he's not really the idiot character he became famous for playing. He just seems more thoughtful and understanding. I mean, honestly, this persona he takes on isn't even dumb. It's completely psychotic and operates outside of the realm of any kind of good taste or behavior.
The constant vibe from this film is just pure anarchy. He's existing to destroy everything in society, from malls to family relations to farms and Hollywood. It definitely has Eric Andre Show energy, which made me wonder if this would have been better received had it come out today? The voices and animation of Zebra in America honestly felt like a Justin Roiland bit. I think he just peaked too early. This is perfect millennial stuff. But it's almost like he does it without ever winking at the audience. It's pure and raw in a startling and horrifying way. I liked it a lot.
He works by being so far outside of the mainstream. This kind of nonsense is more common now. I might not say accepted, it's not like this would ever be a four quarters-accepted blockbuster, but this is the kind of humor that has developed and excelled in the past decade. But at the time his insanity and unpopularity just added to his street cred.
Unfortunately this film failed hard. I don't even know if Tom Green fans enjoyed it. And I honestly didn't see it at the time, and maybe that's a product in itself. For some reason I never dove into Tom Green like I did something like Jackass or Adam Sandler movies, which were popular at the time. And RLM nails it when it suggests this film is actually a parody of those kinds of Sandler / Jim Carrey vehicles of the time. The big difference is that it refuses to be likeable. It's almost like The Cable Guy (1998) which presents this kind of man-child character in a realistic context, revealing that that kind of person would be the worst human in the world to hang out with. The joke is that the movie exists and so, the joke is more on us than anything on screen. Amazing that both of these movies failed, right? They made fun of us for liking films featuring this kind of character.
I was struck by an early scene of him working in the Cheese Sandwich factory where he grabs a big sausage and pretends it's his dick and screams "I'm a sexy boy!" No one in the factory reacts. At all. There's no look of disapproval, no moving story or character forward. It screamed to me like an Adam Sandler-type man-child begging for attention through immature humor and receiving no positive or negative feedback in return, which is really his goal. There is a refusal to acknowledge that his humor is funny, even in the context of the film. We see that again with the animation studio executive, and well, almost every other character.
It just makes me think this is just Tom Green shouting "This isn't funny, but you bastards eat it up!" I get that vibe that it was this idea of, "So this is what you want, huh? This is what makes money? Well here's a huge obnoxious serving of man-child immaturity!" We get this literally in the cheese sandwich scene. Again, this is all done without any winking at the audience. It's weird to say, since every single character is positively ruthless and insane but everyone is also incredibly straight. Like, Tom Green is full of surreal non sequitors, but he never once breaks the seriousness of his face, even when he's just repeating nonsense. It's fascinating if anything.
So, is this movie good? Well, there is sort of a plot. Tom Green is trying to become an animator and he goes to Los Angeles, fails, comes back home to live with his maniacal father, accuses him of molesting his younger brother, Freddy, then is inspired by his rocket-wheelchair using girlfriend to go back and sell an equally dumb cartoon for a million dollars. It seems like the film should end there, but then Green uses that money to cut out part of his dad's house and send him to Pakistan, where they become hostages until they reconcile and are released.
And at some point we should talk about how the film's title is derived from this important plot point - Freddy is Tom Green's brother, played by Eddie Kaye Thomas who definitely wasn't fingered by his father, and while it is a big deal, it's not the focus of the film. It's as if this film is named after just one of its bits, and it's a bit that's a total lie.
There are hijinks along the way, many seem like just vehicles to do some wacky deer carcass humor. But there's also a surprising amount of stakes here. Like, every action has a real consequence. Tom Green's false accusation of his father is real - his parents split up and his younger brother is sent to an Institute for Sexually Abused Children, despite being 25. Neither of these threads are resolved, but his mother does apparently hook up with Shaq. The movie has a ridiculous amount of momentum and despite all the side distractions, every insane decision is permanent. The Pakistan thing is generated from an offhand comment that Tom Green takes literally, and then it forms the epic conclusion to the film. It's like a stream of consciousness, or a cartoon put on the screen.
We haven't even mentioned the hospital birthing scene. I just can't believe this stuff exists. I'm curious about RLM's assessment of the love interest, who while she does have agency and is her own person with her own interests, seems to also exist only to suck the protagonist's cock. This could aptly be an indictment of love interests in male-centric comedies, who don't really exist for much else other than this. Freddy Got Fingered is just being blatant about it and saying the quiet part loud. Or it's just incredibly dense and misogynistic. I dunno, he's clearly giving her pleasure, even if it's just by smacking her shins with a bamboo stick. And he doesn't really want his dick sucked, it's almost more like sexual assault.
That's kind of what this movie is. Is it a brilliant stealth satire or is it genuine? If it's genuine, there's not much here and it's probably a despicable, terrible movie. But if it's trying to poke holes in its genre, maybe it's brilliant? I also thought of Dirty Work (1998), which feels like this kind of movie but a failure. Dirty Work is a clear attempt at applying the Sandler / Spade / Schneider gross out SNL star comedy to Norm MacDonald, but it doesn't totally work, maybe because MacDonald has no interest in that. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love Dirty Work, but it struggles when trying to find itself within the confines of its structure. Freddy Got Fingered has no problems blowing up its own structure.
This is also the most yelling ever in a movie. Everyone is screaming at each other all the time. Or just screaming for no reason. Rip Torn, let's just say it, is amazing. For some reason he understands exactly what this movie is supposed to be, and while his frustration in dealing with Tom Green is understandable, you suddenly switch sympathies as it becomes clear that he is by far the more insane, more violent, and more sadistic half of this duo. It's an epic performance.
I'm clearly in the like category here, I've seen so many films during this series that don't have any energy like Where the Buffalo Roam (1980), are unmemorable like Mongol (2007), or are convoluted and trying so hard to emulate something else like King Arthur (2004). I laughed outloud many times during this, but I totally understand someone who wouldn't. You just need to be down with the chaotic energy on display here. It's completely unconcerned with punchlines, set-ups, or payoffs. It's pure anti-comedy.