DID YOU READ

Disc Covering: “Fred: The Movie,” A Lot Like Fred: The YouTube Clips

Disc Covering: “Fred: The Movie,” A Lot Like Fred: The YouTube Clips (photo)

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Fred is the biggest star on YouTube. His channel was the first in the site’s history to hit a million subscribers. One of his videos, “Fred Tries to Ride a Bike,” has been viewed 14.5 million times; that’s a million more viewers than HBO had for the premiere of “Boardwalk Empire.”

And until last week, I had never heard of this guy.

Why? Because Fred is a phenomenon amongst kids and I am a very, very old man (at least by their standards). Now Fred (a.k.a. teen actor Lucas Cruikshank) is starring in his first movie, which premiered on Nickelodeon then landed on DVD earlier this month. So how’s it play for a fogie who doesn’t “get” Fred?

Fred: The Movie
Directed by Clay Weiner

10192010_fred2.jpgTagline: “The Epic Journey to Find Judy!”

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: How do you blow up a three minute YouTube short into a feature? Just string like twenty-five of them together. Boom. Done.

Biggest Success: I will give Cruikshank this: he is a passionate performer. On YouTube, Fred is a six-year-old with a bad temper who looks down the barrel of the lens and yells and wails about whatever mega-crisis is bugging him that day (i.e. “Christmas is CREEPY! AAAAAAA!” etc.). In the film, Fred a 15-year-old high school student, but Cruikshank plays him the same way: with a manic energy that makes Jim Carrey look like Ben Stein in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” His motormouthed delivery — accentuated online by an “Alvin and the Chipmunks”-style vocal effect that the film thankfully chose to leave behind — is like listening to someone on a diet of cocaine and Pixy Stix. Is it annoying? Yes, a thousand times yes. His voice is so high and he’s so prone to screaming that I started to get sympathy pains in my vocal chords. But I do think that beneath that surface layer of “obnoxious twerp I’d like to smother with a pillow” there’s a kernel of something interesting to Fred, as a symbol of youth culture’s growing obsession with self-documentation and their belief that their most trivial problems carry apocalyptic import. And give Cruikshank credit for commitment. Oh boy, is he committed. (Or is it that I’d like to have him committed? I forget.)

10192010_fred3.jpgBiggest Failure: is the one you probably expect: it’s not easy to blow up a viral video into a feature film. “Fred Tries to Ride his Bicycle” is three minutes long. “Fred: The Movie”‘s eighty. The character’s whole schtick is that he’s adorably annoying. But adorably annoying can work for three minutes. For eighty, it’s borderline unbearable. It doesn’t help that director Clay Weiner and writer David A. Goodman (an executive producer at “Family Guy”) don’t expand the Fred formula so much as they just repeat it over and over. There is an overarching narrative of sorts — Fred stalking his former next door neighbor Judy (Pixie Lott) — but it’s just an excuse for a series of interconnected web shorts. You can almost imagine the titles as they happen: “Fred Tries Sardines,” “Fred Rides the Bus,” “Fred Hates the Woods,” “Fred Thinks Latinos Are From Outer Space,” and, of course, “Fred Finds a Pomeranian And Repeatedly Mistakes It For a Squirrel For Reasons I Will Never Understand No Matter How Long I Live.”

Best Moment: Fred doesn’t know his father. So when he needs fatherly advice, he imagines himself speaking with the father he wishes he had, which just happens to be John Cena, playing himself in a truly funny cameo. His pep talks consists of equal parts crazy wrestler promos and sincere parental concern: he’ll put Fred in a headlock and break a vase over his head and then tell him he’s got schmutz on his face and lick his finger and wipe it. Cena’s movie roles have all been interchangeable, humorless badasses but here he gets to poke fun at his own tough guy images, and it’s totally charming. He’s only got three scenes, but it’s the best he’s ever been onscreen.

I Question: the meta joke Goodman throws in making fun of YouTube. Essentially, Fred’s quest for his dream girl lands him at a party where he’s the butt of everyone’s jokes. His cruel classmates film the whole thing with their cell phones and put it on YouTube. Fred finds himself on the site and freaks out as a whopping 43 — no, now it’s 51!! — people watch him embarrass himself. Meanwhile in real life, millions of people watch every single Fred video. Cute.

10192010_fred4.jpgBut here’s the problem: Weiner translates the language of web videos (pretty successfully, actually) to film in “Fred: the Movie.” Fred spends most of his time talking directly to the audience, explaining what’s going on. But that in joke makes it clear that Fred’s not making his own YouTube videos. Which means that when he’s talking “to the camera” he’s talking to no one but himself. So he’s carrying on these extremely long and detailed conversations with voices in his head. Couple that with his obsessive pining for Judy, which is so insistent and one-sided, and Fred begins to take on creepy dimensions I don’t think he’s supposed to have. When you think about it, he’s actually kind of psychotic. Could the whole film be a subversive take on childhood mental illness disguised as a goofy family comedy? No. But it kind of works as one anyway.

Worthy of a Theatrical Release? No, but I have to imagine Fred’s fans would enjoy the film since it’s loyal to the aesthetic of the original clips and Cruikshank would do anything for a laugh. I mean anything. It’s only a matter of time before the French hail this guy a genius and start holding retrospectives of his work. Who needs “Boardwalk Empire?” Viva la Fred!

For Further Viewing: Check out Fred in action. Again, this got 14.5 million hits on YouTube. 14.5 million.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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