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

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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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.