Freddy Got Fingered was widely considered by critics to be the worst movie of 2001. It won several Razzies, and Green was a good enough sport to show up to the ceremony to pick up his awards. But some, a small handful of people, saw that there were glimmers of surrealistic brilliance to be found in this admittedly lumbering mess of a narrative film. The best review I’ve found comes from A.O. Scott of The New York Times, which gives us 2011 readers a nice little reminder of the pop culture landscape of 2001.
“Just as Eminem disarms anyone who bothers to listen to his songs (rather than quoting them secondhand for the purposes of punditry) with his verbal wit and rhythmic dexterity, so does Mr. Green stage his gross-outs with a demented but unmistakable integrity. Like it or not, he’s an artist…
“Mr. Green’s style, toggling between antic and deadpan, is like a less hostile version of the work Michael O’Donoghue and Andy Kaufman did in the early days of ‘Saturday Night Live.’ Mr. Green is less an actor than a persona, and he resolutely refuses to mark the boundaries of his imposture or to resort to the winking, supercilious pseudo-irony that remains the default setting for so much second-rate pop culture…
“The core conflict, between Gord and his father, is like something Ingmar Bergman might have written for SCTV.”
At the time, I quite liked Tom Green, yet I can’t entirely explain why. I was never a regular viewer of his show (this being his before his failed late night talk show), but the bits would always surface at random hours on MTV or on recordable videocassettes provided by my friends, and after a while, I probably saw most or all of his American prank show. (The Canadian tapes aren’t rare, but I certainly wasn’t going to seek them out.) Green was extremely obnoxious and always seemed on the verge of being a complete psychopath. But that was his charm, and I always felt that, at his best, he pushed absolutely moronic and base ideas past the point of stupidity and into something kind of fantastic. The simplicity of his bits were what made them work, and a great deal of the time, it was comedy mocking comedy mocking comedy, a trick I’m not even sure Green knew he was doing. It’s the same with Jackass, whose show also just celebrated its tenth anniversary, in that if you put enough good faith, lunatic energy and no-holds-barred tenacity into something so absolutely stupid and probably dangerous, it becomes a kind of performance art. And it doesn’t matter if performance art was intended, because I don’t believe that’s how art works.
And yes, I am now going to defend Freddy Got Fingered.
Is It Better Or Worse Than I Remember?
Better. I have had a complicated relationship with this film, and it has gone from minor disappointment (because nobody would ever call this film a tour-de-force of plot machinations) to a warm and loving embrace of its anarchist spirit.
My sister and I saw it opening night on 42nd Street on our biannual New York theatre visit. (That night, our parents were probably seeing some spectacular stage show that only they had tickets to.) This was the same week that we as a family got to see the final preview night of The Producers, so it was certainly a weird few days of bawdy humor. My sister left the film extremely disappointed, and I was somewhere in the middle of liking it and despising its lack of coherence.
Ten years later, I’ve forgiven its episodic structure (for the most part) and instead have found myself completely in awe of how it even got made in the first place. This is where it comes in handy that I watched the film twice this week — the first time as a solid, serious rewatch and the second with Green’s commentary. And if you ever want to hear a commentary that starts kind of silly but then spirals into a pit of deep, dark shame and insanity, this is the one for you. It might be one of the best I’ve ever heard, but only if you can stomach Green’s persona. The track starts off informative yet a little too self-consciously wacky, but then, somewhere along the way, he half-jokingly and half-seriously starts to berate himself based off all the shitty reviews this film received (he is especially bothered by those critics who called him “ugly”), starts singing nonsensical ditties over random scenes, and by the time the credits are done, he is screaming insults at himself at the top of his lungs. And he seems very, very resigned to the fact that he’d never be given another change to make a movie of this size for a major studio.
And I think that’s amazing.
You have to imagine the battles he fought with 20th Century Fox over this film, many of which he chronicles in his commentary. Keep in mind that this is Fox, not Paramount, which would have made a great deal more sense, since that’s where MTV properties end up. So Fox, I guess, thought his style of humor was palatable to the masses (it isn’t) and decided to basically give him free reign to go R-rated crazy, completely unrelated to his actual television show. (Which was never a gigantic hit in the first place.) So imagine you’re a studio executive in a meeting with Green, and he’s trying to explain to you that the central romance of the film is between Gord and Betty (Marisa Coughlan), who is a paraplegic, blowjob-obsessed aspiring rocket scientist who can only get off if Gord whacks her on the legs with a bamboo stick, and then Green says this is all a reference to Three’s Company. And that, originally, Betty was written to be an amputee, but they couldn’t find a real amputee who was willing to do some of what the script called for.
It’s the audacity, the complete disregard for mainstream appeal, the barrage of in-jokes that Green admits only his friends would understand. And Fox gave him $15 million to do this. Some people look at a bad movie and think, “The creators must be playing a practical joke on us.” No. Those are just bad movies made by assholes. This, however, is a practical joke. And this audacity is something that I find completely fascinating and oddly charming. It revels in how much of a piece of shit it is, but only by your standards, not his. Green cares not for what you think of him or your concepts of regular storytelling. In much of the film, Green has a tendency to have a character outright declare the purpose and drive of a particular scene, but instead of moving onto the next scene, he has a character (usually himself) do something so disgusting or absurd that he is actively challenging your complacency in terms of what you may consider regular narrative thrust. Many movies can contain a scene that tells you that, now that a character is a failed artist and is back living with his family, he and his father (Rip Torn) are prone to heated fights over the tiniest things. But in Freddy Got Fingered, Gord wakes up his father by randomly shooting nails into the half-pipe he constructed in front of their house, then allows friend Harland Williams to skate on it, Williams falls and breaks his leg, Gord decides to lick the exposed bone, and the father comes out and beats Gord. Most critics pointed out this sequence as bottom-of-the-barrel bullshit. I call it somewhat transcendent, though I am reluctant to contribute to the overuse of that term.
Most people hate this movie. You probably hate this movie. I admit, even if you gel with the outrageous nature of the piece — that you think it’s funny Green will stop a scene to masturbate a horse, wear a dead animal’s skin and then get hit by a truck, attach sausages to strings so he may play the “Daddy, Would You Like Some Sausage?” song, work in a cheese factory only to yell about cheese helmets and hit his fellow employees with meat while screaming, “Ding dong! I’m a sexy boy!”, convince everybody in town that his father molested Gord’s 25-year-old brother (Eddie Kaye Thomas) — the last fifteen minutes are still pretty awful and kill whatever goodwill you may have toward the characters. However, it does wrap up the Gord-father relationship in a heartwarming way, but only after Gord sprays him with a torrent of elephant semen.
I apologize profusely for this review. I probably just described your idea of the worst comedy you can imagine, or the nightmares you have when you go to bed having consumed too much Red Vines and Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor. It’s not that this film isn’t for everybody. No. That’d be too easy. This film is for nobody but Green and his dumbshit friends. And I can’t stop laughing. Because not even a horror movie would dare to even consider filming what goes on in the mid-film hospital scene, which culminates with Gord, pretending to be a doctor, swinging a baby over his head by the umbilical cord to get it to wake up. (He later duct-tapes the umbilical cord to his own belly.)
Is that art? Kind of.
-Apparently, the first restaurant scene (when Gord accosts Anthony Michael Hall) is an extended homage to Gene Roddenberry.
-On the commentary, Green discusses how, when he was younger, he once wanted to do a prank where he’d move his parents’ entire house to a foreign country, with them inside it but not knowing what was happening. But he didn’t proceed with it because he found it surprisingly difficult to find chloroform.
-“You hear the funny sound? You hear the funny sound? It’s my hooves. It’s my hooves!”
-“Daddy, we’re in Pakistan. Let’s sew some soccer balls.”