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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Fido,” Roadside Attractions, 2007]

You really want to like “Fido,” but boy does the movie makes it difficult. It presents a smart premise and then squanders it. It has a great cast but doesn’t take advantage of their talents. It tries to send up Sirkian melodrama and the old “Lassie” TV show and winds up looking like a Sci Fi Channel movie: professional, competent with a clever genre hook, but lacking in style and artistry.

Zombies always lend themselves to social or cultural metaphors (see this week’s feature for further evidence). Co-writer/director Andrew Currie uses them to examine a dependable horror trope; namely, the dangers of suburban conformity. The picture is set in an alternate version of Eisenhower’s America, after a brutal war between man and zombies. Humanity survived, thanks to the help of an oh-so-benevolent corporation called ZomCom, and it is they who now provide this world with all its goods and services, from the cars they drive right down to the milk they drink. They’ve also tamed many of the zombies. Some are even used as servants.

The film follows the Robinson family, who buy a zombie butler (It’s Mr. Belvedead!). Dad (Dylan Baker) is frightened of it because he’s pretty much frightened of everything. Mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) sees it as a status symbol at first, but then grows to like and even perhaps love the creature. Their bullied son Timmy (K’Sun Ray) is so desperate for companionship that he begins to treat it like a pet; he calls the zombie (played by Billy Connolly) Fido and says things like “You’re not so bad, are ya boy? Why’d you have to go and eat Mrs. Henderson?”

It’s an appealing idea for a zombedy, even if the sight of Timmy treating his zombie like an animal is actually more pathetic than humorous, but there are some flaws in the execution. Because Currie’s undead are zombies in the classic Romero mould — i.e. pale gray skin, grunting and a complete lack of fine motor skills — he is able to make a lot of jokes at their expense. Fido can’t serve the family dinner, he can’t play catch with Timmy, he can’t go, shall we say, “off leash” without trying to eat the neighbors. But if zombies are so uncoordinated and flat-out dangerous, why would anyone keep them in their home? Well, obviously, so Currie can make a movie about it.

The concept only starts to pay real dividends in an uproarious sequence that takes the otherwise subtle “Lassie” overtones and brings them to the fore. Timmy gets himself into trouble, so Fido runs off and finds Mom, who asks, with deadpan sincerity, “What’s wrong? Where’s Timmy?” Connolly plays the scene beautifully, slowly transforming his zombie’s usual growl into an adorable, concerned whimper.

If only the rest of “Fido” had as much, ahem, bite. Ray certainly looks every bit the wide-eyed innocent but his performance is flat; as if he’s never seen any of the stuff he satirizing. Baker and Moss give inappropriately subdued performances; the only true standout aside from Connolly is character actor Henry Czerny, who digs into his role as ZomCom’s chief of security.

The period atmosphere is on target, but not particularly original: some of the soundtrack is cribbed from “L.A. Confidential” and the overall tone of familial disarray in the face of supernatural ’50s shenanigans seems lifted from “The Iron Giant.” And, really, there are only so many films you can “homage” before you need to bring a little to the table yourself. Currie just doesn’t bring enough. “Fido”‘s like a bad pet: you disapprove of what it does on the rug, but you still kind of like it anyway.

“Fido” opens in limited release on June 15th (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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