Directed by Ate De Jong
Written by Carlos Davis & Anthony Fingleton, based on a story by Elizabeth Livingston
Starring Rik Mayall, Phoebe Cates, Marsha Mason, Tim Matheson, Carrie Fisher
Released by Artisan
Anamorphic: Nope; glorious full frame.
My Advice: Rent it.
Elizabeth (Cates) is having issues. Primarily, she’s just split up with her husband (Matheson). She heads back home to try and get her shit together, but finds a jack-in-the-box from her childhood. When she untapes the lid, out pops her old imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred (Mayall). He hasn’t changed a bit, although Elizabeth (known to Fred as “Snotface”) has aged twenty-one years. Before Elizabeth can do anything, Fred’s back in her life and causing all manner of mischief–leading people to believe that Elizabeth’s lost her marbles.
Let’s face it: the film is pretty much Rik Mayall as Beetlejuice. And granted, around here we have a soft spot for any alum of The Young Ones. But that being said, it’s not a bad little film. Mayall is gloriously hideous, of course, and he embodies the anarchy of childhood very well. Cates tries to keep up with him–and mostly succeeds. Her portrayal of the woman in the midst (rather than on the verge, of course) of a nervous breakdown is aptly fragile. Fisher and Matheson are slumming, and they know it, but it’s okay. To each his own kick. And the film does have some wonderful moments of fantasy: my personal favorite being the waiting room filled with imaginary friends, who of course, can all see each other.
Sadly, this DVD edition has nothing to give us in the way of extras. Rik Mayall apparently still has a healthy career, but to pay him for a short while to provide some commentary would definitely make this disc worth owning. Or the director and screenwriters. Even a gallery of costume design sketches (considering the whacked out nature of the imaginary friends’ fashion sense) would be a draw. But alas, nada. In fact, below nada seeing as how this is presented in full frame, adding insult to injury. Certainly, Drop Dead Fred is not a film that cries out for maximum screen coverage, but still–it’s a matter of principle.
There’s not much else that can be said, really–because that’s all there is. It’s worth a rental just because the film’s out on DVD, but even fans of the film should be hesitant to buy it because of the evil of pan and scan.
Originally published on Version 3 of the site, ported to WordPress (Ver. 4) on 9/25/2005.