Hot Phoebe Cates goes through a crisis that’s so bad she starts to see her childhood imaginary friend. He’s not that imaginary because everything he does is really happening. He’s more like a poltergeist, I guess. What this movie starts out to be, a children’s film, turns into a very serious drama that would really go over a child’s head. She’s forced to go through various humiliations because of what her imagination is doing, she’s losing her fiancee, her overbearing mother starts to take over her life and she’s forced to take pills to help her deal with her apparent schizophrenia. KIDS MOVIE MY ASS, MCBAIN!
Directed by: Ate De Jong
Starring: Rik Mayall, Phoebe Cates, Tim Matheson and Carrie Fisher (y’know, Princess Leia?)
I found Rik Mayall (Drop Dead Fred) quite hilarious when I younger. I really didn’t know his name, or what else he had done other than this movie, but he definitely left an impression on me from this movie. I remember seeing him on an old British sitcom many years later (the name of it I can’t remember but I think Rod Steiger was in it) and he was still amusing. My point? The guy’s funny.
And Phoebe Cates? Well, despite anything bad someone might say about her, she was/is pretty cute and showed her lovely melons in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and was a part of two great creature flicks, Gremlins and Gremlins 2. After Drop Dead Fred though, she seemed to have kind of disappeared, only appearing in a few movies after it. My point? She was good, now she’s dead. Just before we get into this, let us behold her glory. . .
The story is about Elizabeth (Cates) who breaks up with her husband (Matheson). She turns to her best friend (Fisher) but her mother (Marsha Mason) is quick to pick her up upon hearing the news and brings her home. It’s a sad time until Elizabeth’s imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred (Mayall) starts showing up after twenty years and starts to cause some major problems upon his arrival and turns her life upside down.
The critics shat aaaaaaaall over the film, and I suppose they had their reasons. It is crude, gross, and at times just plain stupid. But it really depends on who they were targeting, and one thing movies never target is critics. Unless it’s Oscar time or something. DDF wasn’t even nominated for anything. The film grossed just over $13.8 million back in ’91, which makes it neither a great success nor a horrible failure. At least I think it wasn’t. Anyway, let’s get on with the movie.
Start off with a young Elizabeth getting told a bedtime story by her mother. Elizabeth asks her mother if the prince and princess lived happily ever after. Of course they do! It’s a fairy tale. But mother (due to proper parenting or just having a stick up her ass) says that the princess was a good little girl (whoa, royal gentlemen like em young), and if she had been naughty the prince would’ve run away. Elizabeth is quick to point out that “that’s a pile of shit”.
And that delightful response segues into a animated opening, done in the style of a five year old. Or it could be that CG animation was just starting to take off and they started off slowly by having their children animate instead of them. Or the budget sucked. Some of these animations are. . .disturbing. A cameraman turning the crank on the camera only to be run through the thing with loooots of red letters coming out.
After that, Elizabeth (now grown up) is rehearsing her apology to her husband. She quickly runs into him at work, but he’s really happy about being separated. She was right about the relationship not working out and. . .he’s more interested in helping a hot blonde chick test drive a car, soooo BYE BYE!. She follows him, but he’ll have none of it. He’s happier with his new woman, Annabella. While she’s on the phone with her best friend, her car is broken into and her purse is stolen. Aw hell, he just takes off with the car! And now he’s late for work! Well for crying out loud! As a court reporter, she’s supposed to be there on time when they really want to try to justify keeping a rapist on the streets. At least that’s what I’m thinking since whatever the guy is in for doesn’t really matter. The judge quickly fires her and so ends another wonderful day in the life of Elizabeth. Too bad it’s not over.
While taking her big box of crap from work out of the building, she trips over someone’s suitcase. That someone turns out to be Mickey, and old school chum. He talks about how much his daughter was like she was when she was younger. He talks about what Elizabeth did to his grandmother when she was younger, and blamed it on Fred. Ahh, that name takes her back. Flashback to an old grandmother working on the garden, only to have yellow paint splashed all over her. Then the time she and Fred borrowed his father’s electric shaver and gave the cat a haircut. The entire midsection of the cat. Seemed Fred was really out of control, abut he only came out to stand up for her against her wicked mother. Hey, Fred’s a nice guy! Insane in the membrane, but a nice guy.
Her friend (Fisher) meets up with her and tries to brighten her spirits. Actually, it sounds like she’s trying to turn Lizzy into a lesbian. Mmmm, Phoebe in some lesbo action. . .that’d be niiiiiiiice. Ah, anyway, they go back to her apartment and surprise, surprise, MOTHER is there waiting for her. Instead of letting her be for a little while, she’s packed her daughter’s things already and she’s moving back in with her. Elizabeth is very hesitant and I would be too. Her mother looks like Kathleen Turner returning from a 10-year trip from Hell. Her mother pulls the old “don’t disagree with your mother” bit, and as much as Elizabeth says she’s staying with her lesbo star wars friend, she in fact, does wind up going to her mother’s. If this were anyone else’s life, they would’ve shot themselves by now. However, this is a movie, a family oriented one at that, so we get none of this and the film continues.
Once home, she’s immediately told not to step on the carpet, it’s been cleaned. Keep that in bit of info in mind. Her room is made up and her mother really harps on the whole manners thing. “Thank you, Mother”. Mother is happy. Elizabeth walks into a totally pink room, scaring away all interior decorators in the audience. She looks around in the closet and finds an old “jack-in-the-box” toy, but sets it aside to go to sleep. She has a dream (or nightmare depending on what your views are towards this movie by now, but it’s certainly not a wet dream) about Fred slapping her on the head when she was younger. Uhh, kay? She wakes up for a glass of water, and notices that the damn jack in the box starts playing by itself, faster and faster it goes, til she turns on the light and it stops. She walks over to it and picks it up. Lady, if something like THAT happened in my room, I’d run the fuck OUT of the room, not trying to find little gremlins in your playthings. You did that shit before. Twice. Get over it. She brings it over to bed and rips off the tape that was covering the top where the jack in the box would’ve come out. The top pops open and a little green ball starts bouncing all over the place.
Elizabeth looks around and under the bed to find nothing, but when she gets up. . .THERE HE IS! And he’s thorough disgusted at how she looks now all grown up and decides that he must throw up all over her. He changes his mind and runs to the closet looking for the dolls. He wants to play with the dolls. He finds a couple, says hello and quickly gives them a death sentence by smashing one’s head against the wall and ripping the other’s head off with his mouth. He picks up the monkey doll and is glad to see it and proclaims, “YOU’RE GONNA DIE TOO!”, and rips it apart. I love this guy. Elizabeth is shocked that her old invisible friend is back from the dead. He complains about the rest of the toys not being there and she has to break the sad news to him. She’s a boy, I mean, she’s grown up. He cracks a wicked grin since now there’s only grown up things to smash. Screw Eric Bana, THIS guy should’ve played The Hulk.
I can barely keep up with Freddy. He slides down the stair banister and crushes his nuts on the post at the bottom of the stairs. An imaginary person can feel pain? Sure, why not? He’s got a surprise for Elizabeth, and promptly picks his nose and wipes it on her face. Yummy. He runs outdoors screaming “Where is it? There’s gotta be some around here!” He walks back inside on his hands and walks (?) over to the freashly cleaned carpet. “I got some dog poo!” He jumps right side up and slips onto his ass making a fantastically disgusting mess in the process. He sings and hums while rubbing the mess into the carpet and over the chairs. All the noise wakes Elizabeth’s mother, who wisely decides not to investigate the noise. Fred shows up again with a bottle of ink with the world’s greatest idea: writing “MOTHER SUCKS” on the carpet. He’s not the wittiest of imaginary friends. Elizabeth cons him into playing hide and seek to get rid of him. Now THAT is the end of her day. Commence shooting yourself. . . .NOW!
She wakes up the next morning to find her mother on her hands and knees. . . .
. . . .
BLOWING HER HUSBAND! Sorry, sorry, couldn’t resist. Her mother is cleaning up the mess Fred made last night, obviously blaming Elizabeth for doing the dirty deed. Over a bit of coffee, Fred re-appears and meets his arch nemesis face to face (even though she can’t see him). . .the MEGA BITCH! This is where mothers who foolishly brought their children to see the movie would exit and want their money back. Those who stayed are treated to Fred looking into the fridge for a steak to plunge through the mother’s heart. Too bad she closes the door on him. He’s stuck for a little bit until ripping his head out. Those who know cartoon history will be pleased to know that his face is indeed squished as flat as a pancake. He falls to the floor trying to cram it all back together. What could’ve been a running gag throughout the movie is thrown out the window, he gets his back to the right size. But while he’s down there, he decides to check something out. He slides underneath her mother’s dress and looks up and with a surprised look on his face, he declares. . .
Now, the rest of the mothers in the audience leave the theatre pissed off, leaving me and my father (giggling over the cobwebs deal which I didn’t get, I just thought his giggling was funny) to watch the rest of the movie. There were a group of teenagers left too, but I didn’t understand what they were saying until years later and I dare not repeat what they said.
Anyway, Elizabeth tells Fred to piss off, though of course, she said that to her mother. Fred winds up outside attacking pigeons with a shovel. Lizzy runs out to confront him as to why the hell he’s come back after twenty years. He’s back cause she’s not happy. He doesn’t even want to be here so he demands she get happy. . .and bashes her over the head with the shovel. The only way she can be happy is if she gets Charles back. So Fred will help her. She doubts him so he runs out onto the street and gets run over by a huge freakin truck. Cue the crying from the little kids in the theatre. This makes Lizzy flashback to when her and Fred dress up to play “Burglars”. I remember “Cops and Robbers”, but never “Burglars”. They wind up stashing a lot of things in the house, like silverware. This wakes up mom and dad who call the police. Fred goes so far as to break a window so they can make their daring escape. They hit the front lawn and decide to bury their treasure in the flowerbed. Well, that’s an interesting way of stashing the evidence. The cops arrive and enter the house when no one answers the door. One of them walks up the staircase and Nigel (the father) decides to tackle who he thinks is the robber. Lizzy is quick to scream that Drop Dead Fred did it, but not that it matters, Nigel is under arrest for attacking a police officer!
I’m the Leprechaun!
Back to present time, Mother decides to make Lizzy look pretty for Charles. In this case, it’s to make her look EXACTLY like her mother. So yeah, Phoebe Cates look, well, still hot, though looking exactly like her mother. Bleh. Back home there’s a letter from Charles! Elizabeth quickly drives to the apartment to find. . .Fred! Well, not her first choice, but she could do worse. Nevermind, she starts crying instead. Damn, his plan to make her happy failed.
In the middle of the night (as Fred is sleeping upside down like a vampire or Keith Richards), Lizzy sneaks off to see her princess friend on a boat/home thing cause she wants to spend the night there but she can’t cause Leia is fucking some 80-year old guy. After some whining, Lizzy gets to stay. While sleeping, we get another flashback to Fred cutting her hair when she was younger. When she wakes up, her hair is cut! Y’know, for an imaginary friend, he can do a lot of real damage. The princess and old man wake her up and he makes note that he never had imaginary friends, only wet dreams. Yeaaaaah. . . .
Elizabeth sees Charles on a little boat so she HIJACKS HER FRIENDS BOAT (and home) while Fred shows up in a pirate suit, and starts pushing all sorts of buttons, slowing the boat down, so she let’s her imaginary friend to fuck around in the engine room. Some things short circuit, a little water gets taken in and the boat sinks. Elizabeth interrupts Leia’s (I honestly don’t know her name in the movie) important business meeting to tell her the wonderful news of her home sinking. Of course, Drop Dead Fred gets blamed. Lizzy sees Fred in the business room while Leia looks at her psycho friend explaining what the hell he’s doing. Unfortunately, Leia starts getting psycho thoughts and walks up to the chair, TALKS TO IT and wheels it out and PRETENDS TO THROTTLE HIS THROAT! Then stomps on the floor and smacks the floor with her shoe, screaming “DIE!” and “THANKS FOR RUINING THE ONE TIME I CAN SCHTOOMP MURRY WHEN HIS WIFE IS OUT OF TOWN!” Needless to say, I had a few questions after the movie.
Hmmm, you’re right, one is bigger than the other.
Next day, while shopping, Fred has the wonderful idea to harpoon Charles through the head and drag him back and beat him over the head with a hammer until he comes back. It’s a great plan. She’s having dinner with Mickey, and he really starts going on with the prepubescent pick up lines while Fred yells at him and plays around with Lizzy’s arms, and breaks a glass. Mickey, being the ever-loving fuckhead that he is, starts imitating everything she does. Including throwing his food at other people. Fred’s liking him more and more. I’d rather harpoon him through the head.
Her and Fred leave and have the big break up about how he’s ruining her life, in front of a huge crowd no less. He disappears and that’s it! Five seconds later, he shows up playing (horribly) a violin with the small orchestra. She starts beating him with her purse, but he disappears and she winds up beating some poor woman who was playing. Big trouble for her!
She winds up in the psychiatrist’s office with a bunch of little kids. Fred shows up hoping she a lobotomy. But he looks around and sees his old imaginary school friends (among them are Go To Hell Herman and Nambie Pambie), and they, well, make fun of each other and beat each other up. They do the old routine they did. . ..which is trying to make each other vomit. Anyway, the psychiatrist comes out with some pills that will neutralize a certain part of the brain, that will hopefully cure her. Fred’s friends tell him to make sure she doesn’t take the green ones or else (by which one of them rips the skin off his neck, bleh).
Yeah, she’s just like a circus seal!
Back home, Lizzy has a nurse. Not a sweet and sexy one, but one of those fat, huge, butch ones, who tells her she’s gonna behave conscience or unconscience, it’s all the same to her. Yikes! Fred’s trying to get Lizzy to snap out of her spell, leading into another flashback. Mother feels that it’s time to get rid of Drop Dead Fred once and for all. Daddy seems quite interested in Fred and wants to know more. Little Lizzy tells him they’re going to make Pants Pie, and need a pair of his pants and some vodka to make it. Interesting culinary choice. Mom doesn’t care for what she’s hearing, but Dad’s fine with it, she’s just a child. Oh, she also wants to throw her mom out the window. Sadly, it doesn’t happen. Fred does show up eventually, with Corn Flakes Disease, which is certainly much worse than SARS, AIDS and genital herpes, as corn flakes shoot out of your entire body. The only thing that can save him is a mud pie. He grabs a huge block of dirt from a vase, dumps it on the table and they dump all sorts of delicious things on it like milk, juice. . and uh . . other things.
Change of plans, they’ll cut off her mother’s head, and Fred will eat her head and Lizzy will eat the rest of her and poo her all over the table. But Fred decides to hide instead so he rips out the jack in the box and jumps inside. Mother grabs the box as Lizzy bawls. She demands Nigel tape the box up but he doesn’t want to. He says it’s not right (even though Fred was responsible for his arrest earlier). Nigel leaves and I assume it’s for good, which is one of the worst things to get divorced over, but in this case he IS married to the Mega Bitch so I don’t blame him. Mother says that Elizabeth touches the box, she’ll toss it in the garbage and he’ll be crushed to death. She writes a letter to Fred hoping he’ll come back.
Cut back to reality (HA!) and she’s upset Fred never replied. HE WAS STUCK IN THE DAMN BOX YOU DUMB BITCH! They decide to run away to the party where Charlie is. Of course, Mother and Nurse T-Rex decide to lock her in the room instead. She breaks the window. . .and Mickey is in the tree waiting for her? WTF?? He drives her to the party and that’s that. At least I hope so, he fucking irritates me.
Well, they arrive to the party and Lizzy shows off her wonderous cleavage. She tells Fred not to touch anything, so he undoes the toga of one of the waiters and. . .eugh, male nudity. He drops to the floor and looks up another woman’s dress and. .
If there were anyone else were in the theatre besides us, I’m sure they would’ve left now. I think I wanted to leave but Dad wanted his full money’s worth. He’d sit through a Celine Dion concert if he paid for it. Anyway, Charles starts sucking on this woman’s face and hey, IT’S ANNABELLA! And right in front of Elizabeth. Well, she starts taking off and Charles goes back to face sucking. Back at the apartment, it’s fight time again between Lizzy and Fred, but Charles interrupts and sweeps her off her feet. Don’t you remember what he was doing 2 minutes ago? They go into the bedroom and some strange noises are heard. He picks up a frying pan and decks whoever got into the apartment. Oh, it’s just Nurse T-Rex. She’ll be fine.
Charles explains to Mother that he’ll take of Fred, once and for all. And he does it with class too. Starts making out with her and calls her Annabella. He comes up with a horrible excuse, but she falls for it. They go back to making out and makes her pop some pills. . . . Wow, that can taken the wrong way. Fred starts feeling some pain, and as the days go on, he gets worse. He doesn’t help things by trying to act like his charming self, now she’s willingly taking the pills.
But treachery is afoot! Fred overhears Charles talking sweet things to Annabella over the phone. Fred tries telling Lizzy, but she threatens him with the last pill. But, she too overhears the bastard talking about how he’s in control. Fred urges Lizzy to “come with him” and not like that you sick freaks.
In what must be the side effect of the pills, she flies through the clouds and winds up home again. But it’s just her home, it’s the demonic version of her home! Charles drives in, so she rips off the hood ornament and he deflates and flies away. Okaaaaaay. Fred rushes in and tries to run up the stairs but it’s a painting, so they need a tree! Lizzy dreams up a tree and they climb up it to the second floor, but they run into her mother. He urges her to say the magic words, and she screams it “I’M NOT AFRAID OF YOU!” and she burns up into smoke. Sweet! Lizzy rushes in to find her younger self, taped to the bed. She undoes herself and they hug, and I’m sure Doc Brown would say something about this blowing up the entire space time continuum.
Fred says it’s time for him to go, he’s not needed anymore, he’s done what he was sent to do. She kisses him, says his name and he disappears. I think she needs more help by the looks of things.
Elizabeth wakes up, as Charles gets dumped on the phone. She walks into the room, dumps some salad on him, wipes a snot on his face and takes off, a brand new woman. She goes home to retrieve the jack in the box (why?) and runs into her mother, who’s talking to Charles. She hangs up on him and basically tells her mother that she has to stop treating her like she’s the enemy. So her mother lays down the biggest guilt trip I could ever hear, telling Elizabeth that she made the same mistake a lot of people had done, she had a baby to save her marriage and that her husband left because of Elizabeth. An appropriate happy ending would be Elizabeth shooting her mother in the goddamn face, but I don’t think we’ll get it. Elizabeth walks out and her mother says that she’ll be lonely if she leaves. Lizzy walks over to her, gives her a big hug (and her mother has quite the confusing look on her face) and tells her she needs to find a friend.
Elizabeth, I guess, starts going out with Mickey (this is supposed to be better?) and sees his little daughter. She’s covered the chocolate and the nanny complains about her blaming it on her imaginary friend. Who is it? WHO IS IT?
Yeaaaaah. Fred and Mickey’s daughter hang the nanny upside down and do the pinky handshake thing. The END!
Wow, I really enjoyed this movie when I was younger, but I didn’t dream it’d be this bad watching it now. I’m even more surprised my parents let me watch it, of course, they didn’t really monitor my viewing habits so it’s not that surprising I guess. May explain why I’m so fucked up and wrote FIVE DAMN PAGES about Drop Dead Fred. And the movie certainly explains why Phoebe Cates hasn’t been seen since. This almost seemed like career suicide. Anyway, other than a few jokes I can really appreciate since I’m much older now, and Rik Mayall being is own funny self (and the only thing I can really recommend seeing the movie for), it’s a stinker.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Yeah, I grew up just fine . . . heh, what a pile of shit.