Fido

fido.jpg

“Man, I know you don’t like that many movies, but you are going to love Fido.” That’s what everyone I know who saw Fido told me. They emphasized it so much, that I actually started to believe it. I mean here were people who seemingly knew my taste in film, so I figured they must be on to something. And then I started reading all of these reviews, and it seemed like if I didn’t love Fido, then at the very least I was going to like it a lot. But a funny thing happened about twenty-minutes in to the film, I started thinking about how much everyone told me I was going to love Wild at Heart, and how my friends dragged me to the theater to see it, and how I tried to walk out because I absolutely hated it. And the more I watched Fido, the more my respect for every person who sang the film’s praises diminished, until it got to the point where I wanted to call every person who recommended the film to me, and tell them to kiss my ass.

On paper, Fido sounds like a solid premise. Set in a 1950s suburbia you might find in either a Douglas Sirk film or an episode of Leave it to Beaver, Fido takes place in a world where radiation from outer space has brought the dead back to life, and they are hungry for human flesh. As the opening parody of old educational films explains, after a war with the zombies failed, a brilliant scientist created a special collar that could be used to control the walking dead. Now, decades after the zombie plague, through the efforts of the mega-corporation Zomcon, the walking dead are an everyday part of life, serving as everything from pets to clumsy domestic servants. If this idea sounds at all familiar, that would be because the same joke was the epilog of Shaun of the Dead. The key difference is that in Shaun of the Dead it was a brief joke used to end the film, and it worked. In Fido, it is a prolonged joke serving as the premise for an entire film that fails—set up endlessly for over ninety minutes, without a single real punch-line.

In an effort to keep up with the neighbors, Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) buys her family a zombie (Billy Connolly). This doesn’t sit well with her husband, Bill (Dylan Baker), who says they can’t afford a zombie, and who has his own issues with the walking dead ever since he was younger, when he had to re-kill his father after he became reanimated. The Robinson’s son Timmy (K’Sun Ray), however, takes a liking to the new zombie of the house, primarily because he himself is a picked-on dork with no friends. Soon, Timmy names the zombie Fido, and the two are best friends. But when Fido’s behavior-control collar malfunctions, he kills and eats the little old lady from across the street, setting of a chain of events that might be funny in another film, but are just plain stupid in this poorly realized disappointment.

The main problem with Fido—and believe me, the film is nothing but one problem after another—is that it hasn’t a clue as to what it wants to be. Depending on who you ask, people will tell you that Fido is a comedy with horror elements, a horror film with comedy, a satire of Sirk’s life-in-suburbia melodramas, a parody of 1950s era Lassie adventures, or any combination of the above. And while all those descriptions are accurate, because Fido tries to be all of these things, it never succeeds at any of them. The result is a film that is nothing but an endless stream of missed opportunities—jokes that aren’t funny, scares that aren’t scary, and a cast of characters that are as dull and lifeless as the walking dead (and even they are uninteresting).

Arguably the two greatest examples of horror-comedy hybrids are Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, and The Return of the Living Dead. Shaun of the Dead is up there too. Meanwhile, the best example of a comedic spoof of monster movies is Young Frankenstein—one of the funniest movies of all time. Director and co-writer Andrew Currie would have done well to study these films, as well as a few other horror classics, and maybe even a comedy or two, just to get a clue as to how to make a film of substance, rather than a silly bit of drivel that may entertain some people, but simply can’t hold up under real scrutiny.

fido2.jpgFido fails in a way so profound that it is amazing no one is calling attention to it, and that is quite simply that Fido himself is not an interesting character. If you want to see an example of an actor doing a great job playing the walking dead, delivering a performance of wide emotional depth and complexity, watch Boris Karloff in Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein. If you want to see the single greatest performance by an actor as a zombie that does not utter a single word, watch Howard Sherman as Bub in George Romero’s Day of the Dead. And if you want to see a brilliant comedic performance by someone playing a dead guy brought back to life, then check out Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein. But if you want to see a zombie that has a personality that is about as lifeless as an unreanimated corpse, then simply watch Connolly in Fido.

At the heart of Fido is the story of a family with a father who is emotionally dead, and incapable of giving his wife and son the support and affection they need. Enter the zombie, who is supposed to be dead, but actually has more emotions than dear old dad. See, that’s supposed to be a clever metaphor, or analogy, or whatever the hell you want to call it. The audience is supposed to feel something profoundly emotional as Fido becomes a father-figure to Timmy in a way Bill never was able to do. Fido playing catch with Timmy is meant to be the cute, poignant counterbalance to Bill not wanting to take his son golfing. And when the town bullies pick on Timmy, it isn’t his father who helps him out, but Fido who comes to his rescue. At the same time, the zombie manages to somehow help liberate Helen from her repressed existence through a few ridiculous glances (the implications of which being that there is a sexual spark between the two). But all of these gimmicks and premises are so obvious that they become indicative of filmmakers with no real imagination. Rather than having Fido rescue Timmy from the bullies, why not have Timmy sic Fido on the bullies, or anyone else who has done him wrong? Instead of alluding to some sexual dynamic between Fido and Helen, why not let them have an affair? Why not have Helen conspire to murder Bill with the help of Fido? Simply put, why not give the film some balls, rather than make it a slightly more violent version of a movie you could see either on ABC Family Channel, or the Disney Channel?

Some people will no doubt say that I’m being too harsh on Fido, that the problem is my expectations were too high. Maybe that’s the case…up to a point; but the fact of the matter is that I did not laugh once while watching Fido. Let me repeat that: I did not laugh once while watching Fido. Honestly, at one point I found myself thinking, “This movie needs a laugh track, that way I would know if I’m supposed to be laughing at this bullshit.”

I will admit that I can see where Fido might entertain some people. But I’m not one of those people. In fact, this is one of those films that makes me angrier the more I think about it. Fido is a film that never challenges the audience. The dark humor is more dimly-lit than anything else, and it never goes to a point where it is surprising or even disturbing. The jokes shamble around in search of a punch-line, and the social commentary the film is making—and it is feebly making a commentary about accepting those that are different—is lost in a script that is banal at best.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bamo-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B000V4UH08&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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