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A review of Drop Dead Fred (1991)

Drop Dead Fred is a 1991 film from New Line Cinema, directed by Ate De Jong and starring Phoebe Cates, Rik Mayall and Carrie Fisher. It made over $13 million at the US box office and was panned by critics. However, the film has since gained a reputation as a cult classic and is being remade with Russell Brand in the title role.

Drop Dead Fred: The story

Poor Elizabeth Cronin (Phoebe Cates ) is having a very bad day. She is dumped by her philandering husband (Tim Matheson), loses her job, and has her car and purse stolen. Utterly defeated, she moves back to her childhood home with her controlling mother Polly (Marsha Mason). She regresses back into childhood and re-discovers her imaginary friend Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall). Newly freed to wreak havoc, Drop Dead Fred and Elizabeth embark on a series of pranks to help her feel better, while her red-haired partner in crime plots revenge on those people who have hurt her.

Drop Dead Fred:The review

Drop Dead Fred is a film that can’t seem to make up its mind whether to appeal to kids or adults. It aims somewhere down the middle and misses the spot entirely. The cartoon comedy slapstick is too annoying for grown-ups and the film attempts to deal with adult themes (losing your husband and your job; retreating into childhood). This will not appeal to younger viewers. There is something very appealing about creating mischief with your imaginary childhood companion. However, Drop Dead Fred is not the film to explore it. There is no charm here. All Elizabeth’s and Fred’s pranks, sinking a houseboat, smearing poo all over the carpets and preparing a mud banquet, are nasty, bordering on psychotic. Despite the material, there is always potential for the performances to lift a film out of the mire. Unfortunately. that is not the case here. Carrie Fisher, as Elizabeth’s best friend, is as solid and dependable as ever, but the two central characters are a real let-down. Phoebe Cates wanders wide-eyed through the film looking as though, she can’t quite believe how she got into it. However, it is Rik Mayall’s Drop Dead Fred that really disappoints. Mayall is a talented comedian, as evidenced by his body of British television work (The Young Ones, Blackadder, The New Statesmen), but his attempt to give a powerhouse comedic performance just doesn’t work. He has one speed-manic and not only is it annoying, it’s just not funny. The good news is that at least, the remake should be an improvement. If you want to check out the mayhem for yourself, then the Drop Dead Fred DVD is widely available to buy.

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