Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Freaked

Most stupid comedies are stupid because the filmmakers are too lazy to mine for laughs beyond the obvious, but Freaked (1993) is one of the few stupid comedies I can think of that's stupid by design. How else can you explain the presence of Mr. T as the Bearded Lady, Bobcat Goldthwait as a sock puppet, giant Rastafarian eyeballs with machine guns, a subtitled Shakespeare performance for the "culturally illiterate," and other assorted weirdness?

I suppose I just provided the litmus test for whether you'll find this movie hysterical (as I did) or vulgar and stupid.

Freaked could be subtitled "Look what happened to Bill from Bill and Ted." Not only does Alex Winter star, he co-directed (with Tom Stern) and co-wrote (with Stern and Tim Burns). What began as a low-budget horror film set to star the band the Butthole Surfers somehow evolved during production into a $15 million comedy with some of Hollywood's best special effects makeup artists at the time creating an array of mutants and weirdos.

Winter plays Ricky Coogin, a vain and spoiled former child star who has just agreed to be a spokesperson for the Everything Except Shoes (EES) corporation's toxic fertilizer Zygrot-24. Coogin flies with his sexist buddy Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) to South America to promote the product, and along the way, he ditches a troll of a fan, Stuey Gluck (Alex Zuckerman), and gets the hots for environmental protester Julie (Megan Ward). Soon, Ricky, Ernie, and Julie wind up on the property of Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid), a redneck mad scientist who exhibits a freak show in the jungle. Using Zygrot-24, he mutates the three: Julie and Ernie into Siamese twins and Rick into a half-gremlin. With fellow freaks Ortiz the Dawg Boy, the Human Worm, Sockhead, and more, Rick and his friends must figure out a way to escape Skuggs.

Okay, the plot is thin, and the movie is barely eighty minutes. What story there is mostly exists for Winter and Stern to take pot shots at anyone and everyone: Hollywood, corporate bigwigs, environmentalists, children, talk shows, game shows, rednecks, feminists, chauvinists, scientists, airlines, South America, Mr. T, the French, Bob Villa, the Weekly World News, and that's all I can think of. Stern and Winter maintain an aggressive, in-your-face streak through the entire film, and no one is safe from their gaze.

One of the joys of Freaked is watching how far these guys can take a joke. Right when you think you've reached the punchline, something new happens to escalate the scene. Developments come out of nowhere, and before you know it, the movie has moved on, throwing ten more jokes your way. What separates this from such fare as Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans is the fast and furious pace. So much happens in a short time, the bad jokes aren't allowed the opportunity to fester. Compare that to a lame SNL skit which drags on and repeats itself.

Stern and Winter also poke fun at cinematic conventions. Every so-called dramatic moment is accompanied by an over-the-top zoom in and close up with the camera. After locking the main trio in his lab, Skuggs gives an evil laugh only for it to be revealed he's reading the "Family Circus" in the newspaper comics. And I won't say anything about the flashbacks of the freaks explaining how they were mutated except I can't verbalize it. It's something that can only be visual. It's so stupid, you're thinking "They're not going to...yes, they are."

I better stop before I reveal all the jokes. Freaked isn't what I would call a good movie, but it's wildly inventive and unafraid. It's vulgar, stupid, over-the-top, and unrelenting. It's not the kind of movie to watch alone. It must be watched with a group of friends. There are so many jokes flying everywhere, it's impossible to catch them all. Some parts fall flat, but man, what an effort.

(And yes, I included this picture on the left to prove Mr. T indeed wears a dress.)

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