‘Drop Dead Fred’ is as good as my family said
After being told by more than one member of my family (hey everyone… you better be reading this!) I finally sat down this weekend and watched 1991 black comedy film “Drop Dead Fred.”
I wouldn’t say it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen but I definitely enjoyed it.
The film is centered around Elizabeth Cronin (Phoebe Cates) and her not-so-imaginary friend from childhood Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall).
Elizabeth, or Lizzy as many call her, is seen at the start of the movie attempting to convince her husband Charles (Tim Matheson) to not get a divorce.
I have to interject already and say that Charles is just straight trash. I know that’s what the movie was going for with his “suave” nature and job as a car salesman for Jaguar but still, I had to get that out.
Anyway, Lizzy isn’t able to convince the trash human (Charles) to stay with her, and leaves dejectedly. While speaking to her friend Janie (the late Carrie Fisher) at a phone booth her car is stolen, forcing her to walk back to her job at the city’s courthouse.
Upon her late arrival and explaining to the judge she lost her husband, car and wallet all in one lunch hour, he fires her. Talk about just piling it on right?
Janie attempts to instill some positivity into the dejected woman as best she can. To see Carrie Fisher on my screen again was just fantastic I might add. I was loving the strong female empowerment character she played (perfect for Fisher who herself was very vocal about the subject) and her full blown support of Lizzy.
Lizzy intends on staying at her and Charles’s apartment but those plans are derailed when her controlling mother Polly (Marsha Mason) arrives and forces her to come home. Polly is convinced she’s the only thing that could possibly save Lizzy’s marriage to Charles.
While searching through her old room she finds an old Jack in the Box toy which had been taped shut. Lizzy of course undoes the tape and inadvertently releases her imaginary friend Drop Dead Fred.
Fred of course bursts into the film, the complete embodiment of a kid’s seemingly endless energy and childish attitude.
Flashbacks up to this point showcased that Drop Dead Fred was Lizzy’s escape from her mother’s overbearing and cold nature during her childhood. That was until Polly (of course) trapped Fred in the Jack in the Box.
After wrecking her mother’s pristine white carpet and causing Lizzy to look like a basket case in front of the older woman, Fred reveals that he can’t go back to where he came from until Lizzy is happy.
Of course poor deluded Lizzy believes that garbage human Charles will make her happy. Fred agrees to help her win Charles back in the hopes it will solve his predicament as well.
Enlisting the help of your childhood imaginary friend, who no one else can see, to help you win back your estranged (and awful) husband is definitely cause for concern by many of the characters in the film.
All except Janie of course. That girl is ride or die and we all need a friend like her.
Also, props to the cast for being able to deliver their lines with a straight faces while Fred is going balls to the walls insane right next to them.
Fred of course gets Lizzy into multiple wild and often times destructive hijinx throughout the film. From sinking a boat to causing Lizzy to beat up a poor violinist (seriously I felt so bad for that woman) he lives up to his reputation as a wild guy.
Although the movie is pretty light hearted it has a pretty dark undertone. Showing how Polly’s overbearing and borderline abusive nature affected Lizzy — using the metaphor of her taking Fred (her childhood and happiness) away from her as a kid — was a very interesting thing to see.
You really feel for Lizzy during the film. Whether you share her frustration with Fred’s antics or are upset over how everyone — except Janie — treats her. The poor girl just wants to keep others happy, even if it means sacrificing her own happiness in the process.
The movie really does teach you that you have to do what’s best for you even if it may mean upsetting the ones you love or leaving behind something familiar for a new and uncertain future.
Although critics didn’t like this movie I have to disagree. I think that overall it’s a great film with a good cast and interesting storyline. Its dark comedy tactic is something I felt was merited for the subject matter too. I’m not the only ones either (I’m looking at my family on that one) and is why it’s become a cult classic.
“Drop Dead Fred” is rated PG-13 and can be viewed on Hulu, HBO Max and Amazon Prime with a subscription or rented for $3.99 from YouTube, Vudu, iTunes and Google Play.
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Laura Jameson is a staff reporter for The Express.