Drop Dead Fred (1991)

Posted by on Dec 20, 2011 in Just My Imagination | 0 comments


Disclaimer: Sexual innuendo, foul language, and household pranks that involve vodka.

I never had an imaginary friend like some of my classmates. And it never bothered me until I saw Drop Dead Fred. I, like a few other kids, immediately wanted to have an imaginary friend at that exact moment. This film takes the traditional fluffiness of Disney films and any other fairy tales that begin with “Once upon a time” and end with “Happily ever after” and turns it upside down.

“Did they live happily ever after?” our young protagonist asks her mother of a bedtime story.

“Of course … because she was a good little girl,” mom replies. “If she would have been naughty, the prince would have ran away.”

“What a pile of shit,” the youngster responds.

This tale follows 30-year-old Fred1Elizabeth Cronin (Phoebe Cates) after she loses her job, her husband, and her car. Years earlier, due to an overbearing wicked mother (not to be preceded by the word “step”), she lost much of the innocence and joy of her childhood.

Coming to the rescue is not her schmuck of a husband (Tim Matheseon), but her imaginary childhood friend named Drop Dead Fred (British comedian Rik Mayall). It seems Fred can’t return home (wherever “home” is) until Elizabeth is happy. Together, they try to win back her husband and put her life together, but everything only seems to get worse as Fred wreaks further havoc. With the help of Fred (and flashbacks involving Fred), Elizabeth’s best friend Janie (Carrie Fisher), and childhood neighbor Mickey (Ron Eldard), she eventually gets beyond her mid-life crisis and domineering mother (Marsha Mason).

The parallels of the adult Elizabeth Fred3to her childhood version visually suggest that she is trapped in a state of adolescence. This is reaffirmed in the editing, as the poses of the flashback Elizabeth match that of her adult version when they cut (a technique known as match on action). Her arrested development is also reflected in her name, Lizzy, a nickname she likely acquired as a youngster. The movie tracks Elizabeth’s journey from a scared and insecure adolescent to an independent woman who no longer needs an imaginary friend for strength.

Critics universally panned the film – based on a Philippines story called My Special Friend – for being mushy and sporadic. It’s not a great movie by any means, but the idea is both original and novel and the product is entertaining.

“What about Cinderella, don’t you remember what happened with her?” Elizabeth asks at one point.

“No I don’t remember what happened with her,” Fred retorts. “I deliberately forgot all about her. She made me puke. I remember the ugly stepsisters, they were great.”

Maybe it’s not a film for both children and adults, but kids will get a kick out of Fred’s antics and may, like me, want their own Drop Dead Fred.

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