[Screen It]


(2001) (Tom Green, Rip Torn) (R)

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Comedy: A 28-year-old, unemployed animator tries to get his life in order after moving back home with his parents.
Gord Brody (TOM GREEN) is a 28-year-old artist who's moving from his parents' home in Portland to Los Angeles, where he hopes to get a job as an animator working for Mr. Davidson (ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL) and his studio. Unfortunately, Gord's drawings don't impress Davidson and the dejected artist returns home.

While his mother, Julie (JULIE HAGERTY), is happy to see him back home, his father, Jim (RIP TORN), is less than ecstatic, especially when he compares Gord to his ambitious younger brother, Freddy (EDDIE KAYE THOMAS), who holds down a good job in the banking industry.

After Gord's best friend, Darren (HARLAND WILLIAMS), breaks his leg in a skateboarding accident, Gord meets Betty (MARISA COUGHLAN), a paraplegic nurse and would-be rocket scientist. The two become romantically involved, and Gord makes up various lies to cover his unemployment.

As the relationship between Gord and Jim becomes progressively strained - eventually leading to Gord falsely accusing his father of "fingering" Freddy - the young artist must deal with his father, his relationship with Betty, and his desire to be a real animator.

OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
While watching "Freddy Got Fingered," which is easily the worst comedy of the year and perhaps the past decade or even longer, all I could hear in my head was someone shouting "Get out of the theater while you can before you suffer irreparable brain damage!" Okay, that's not entirely true, as I stayed anyway (perhaps the cerebral destruction had already set in), but what I really heard was a line from the song "Born to Hand Jive."

Popular from appearing in the movie "Grease," the infectious ditty includes a question, "How low can you go?" that's repeated several times near the end. No doubt viewers will be asking the same thing after seeing this abysmal attempt at generating yucks via outlandish, gross out humor, although they'll more likely be saying "Yuck" rather than laughing at such efforts. The more appropriate title that will come to mind to many may very well be something along the lines of "A Low Down Dirty Shame."

Of course, every generation has its "shock-meister" whose goal is to "entertain" viewers or listeners by their outrageous acts, behavior or speech. One naturally has to wonder, though, how far each succeeding "artist" will go in trying to shock or titillate his or her audience and whether such material ever reaches a point of diminishing returns, where it goes too far and drives the audience away, rather than drawing them in.

Such sensationalism is nothing new to the cinema, after all, the 1903 movie "The Great Train Robbery" had a character shooting his gun directly at the camera, and thus the audience, and drew lots of criticism and viewers by doing so. Yet, ever since the Farrelly brothers took gross out comedy to new heights - or is that depths - and made plenty of money doing so, they and others have attempted to outdo each preceding effort.

With this film - directed, co-written and starring TV personality Tom Green (who recently appeared in "Charlie's Angels" and "Road Trip") - one can only hope that we've hit absolute rock bottom in this sick quest for laughs. As I've stated on various occasions in reviews for other similar films, I don't take a highbrow approach to such comedy, and have often found some of it absolutely hilarious even when it bordered or completely wallowed in tastelessness.

This effort, however, goes one - okay, about a thousand steps too far in that direction, resulting in a film that may even shock or disgust Green's core fans due to his outlandish behavior. That said, I'm surprised they didn't include any references to the comedian's testicular cancer, but perhaps they got wind that "Tomcats" was already doing the unintentional ingestion of a diseased testicle bit and decided to forgo any such similar material.

Nevertheless, and simply put, the film and such efforts aren't funny, or even amusing. Beyond the fact that Green and co-screenwriter and childhood friend Derek Harvie (TV's "The Tom Green Show") stray too far into the land of gross out material (if the sight of Green gnawing through a fresh umbilical cord with bloody results doesn't make you wince for the future of movies, then nothing will) and political incorrectness (some of the film deals with child sexual molestation as a source of intended laughs), all that such scenes - and the overall film for that matter - manage to do is exhibit an uncontrolled self-indulgence that simply doesn't work from a comedy standpoint.

Their story - of what little actually exists - is nothing more than a fragile skeleton upon which they've hung their various gross out moments. While they're not the first and certainly won't be the last to do just that, the gags they unleash on viewers make no sense from an individualistic or collective standpoint. In fact, the film feels like nothing more than a cinematic carnival sideshow where viewers go from one attraction to the next with the barker shouting, "See Tom Green manhandle a horse's genitals," "See a man covered in elephant ejaculate" and "Watch as Tom Green licks an open and bloody leg wound."

Making matters worse is the fact that Green doesn't have a knack for comedy, be it as a director, writer or performer where he has just one shtick. If that's not bad enough, his acting - and I use that term both loosely and generously - is far worse than his attempts at being funny. Had someone with talent along the lines of what Jim Carrey can offer played the lead character, perhaps the film would have been at least a bit more palatable. Unfortunately, with Green heading the effort (and calling the shots), the end result is nothing short of cringe inducing.

To make matters worse - which is a difficult proposition considering everything listed so far - Green and company manage to single-handedly wipe away most every good memory of Rip Torn ("Wonder Boys," "Men in Black") in HBO's fabulous, but now defunct "The Larry Sanders Show." In another unfortunate case of "Didn't he read the script?" Torn embarrasses himself in a role that not only isn't funny, but also takes the talented actor into what has to be the lowest point in his career.

Veteran movie comedienne Julie Hagerty ("Lost in America," the "Airplane" films) fortunately doesn't have the same degree of humiliating material in her throwaway mother role, but she'll probably nevertheless want to distance herself from this film as soon as possible. Marisa Coughlan ("Gossip," "Teaching Mrs. Tingle") gets her share of embarrassing moments as a paraplegic fixated on oral sex and having her numb legs beaten, while Harland Williams ("Rocket Man," "Superstar") and Eddie Kaye Thomas ("American Pie," "The Rage: Carrie II") probably wished they signed on for "Joe Dirt" or "Tomcats," similarly based films that look like high art compared to this effort.

Speaking of other movies, this is the second film of 2001 to showcase an artist whose work isn't remotely funny yet appears on the screen as if someone involved in the picture thought it was hilarious (the other being the equally abysmal "Monkeybone"). Serving only to reinforce that point, a character in the film complains that such cartoons don't make any sense and clearly aren't funny, an observation that easily could have been extended to the overall film.

While Green and his sense of humor are definitely an acquired taste, most viewers are likely to gag on what he offers here rather than learn to tolerate, let alone like it. Making the work from the likes of Jim Carrey and the Farrelly brothers at their crudest seem like sophisticated, highbrow and erudite comedy, this effort bends down so low and grovels in the muck with such idiotic glee that it's surprising it ever saw the light of day.

Marking the low point of a year where many comedies are failing, the film will hopefully (but unlikely) not only be the end of such gross out comedies, but also of Green's movie career. Whatever you do, don't go out and reinforce this abysmal material with your hard-earned dollars. Instead, let it die and rot the cinematic death it rightly deserves. An insult and embarrassment to filmmaking, comedies and even gross-out pictures, "Freddy Got Fingered" rates as a 0 out of 10, and even that's being generous.

Reviewed April 17, 2001 / Posted April 20, 2001

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