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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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Final Countdown

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 IFC.com

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Rev Up

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.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…