On DVD and Blu-Ray Reviews

Drop Dead Fred (1981) – 25th Anniversary Review

There are films out there where the presence of gross out humour and childish behaviour makes people look away in disgust; ignoring the issues that are perpetuating it. They turn their noses up at the ridiculous shenanigans that they are seeing on screen, failing to look beneath it. Sure, they are comedies out there that are solely based on shits, pisses and vomits but Drop Dead Fred isn’t one of them. In fact, it is a movie that suffers because people fail to look past all of Rick Mayall’s flailing and see the true meaning of the movie.

Drop Dead Fred centres on Elizabeth “Lizzie” Cronin. Domineered by her mother, Lizzie’s life goes from bad to worse, losing her job and everything else with it. Facing an emotional turmoil, her life gets more crazy when her childhood imaginary friend “Fred” comes back in order to cheer her up. The problem is, Fred is much more mischievous than most imaginary friends and soon plunges Lizzies life into chaos. But does she need to get rid of Fred again or does she need to face the real issues bothering her?

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Let’s mention briefly that Drop Dead Fred has some terrific performances from eighties classic actress Phoebe Cates and Rick Mayall; who brings his bouncing idiocy that was so famous in Bottom. Marsha Mason is great at playing the overbearing and emotionally abusive mother Polly, managing to make it villainous. The directing by Ate de Jong here is grand, separating dream like moments with realism well.

But putting technical stuff aside, beneath Drop Dead Fred is this fragile storyline centred on Lizzie’s tumbling mind-set. In the past, her strict and sometimes vicious mother toys with her emotional behaviour because she believes she has the right to control her daughter. Lizzie is a product of squashed creativity and individuality. Although Fred lures her into trouble, it’s about the imagination he inspires; coming out only when her mother tries to mould her into this prim and perfect image. When the life that Polly had planned for Lizzie falls apart, that is when Fred comes back. Fred is Lizzies cry for help, and all that discourse and rudeness is there because she is trying to break free. It is a dark film that explores a broken relationship between a mother and daughter, the lack of expression, being shoehorned into a “Jack in a Box” that is being manipulated. Fred is what happens when the music ends, popping out of tension and frustration.

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Drop Dead Fred is dark and hilarious because people are dark and hilarious. It is a product of how another person can impact someone’s mentality. Here is an honest and sometimes beautiful movie, made more poignant after the death of Rick Mayall. Even though one of our leads is a gross out character; the finale of Lizzie overcoming her demons is stunning. That fact that it holds a measly 13% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and was panned is near heart-breaking.

It’s almost as though they have forgotten the child within.


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