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Fred: The Movie DVD Review

Fred: The Movie DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Fred: The Movie
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Clay Weiner / Writers: David A. Goodman (screenplay); Lucas Cruikshank (character)

Cast: Lucas Cruikshank (Fred Frigglehorn, Derf), Jennette McCurdy (Bertha), Jake Weary (Kevin Leebo), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Fred's Mom), John Cena (Fred's Dad), Oscar Nunez (Lorenzo), Jordan Black (Gary), Stephanie Courtney (Kevin's Mom), Pixie Lott (Judy), Robert Noble (#6 Bus Driver), Chris Wylde (Dam Security Guard), Gary Anthony Williams (Laundromat Manager), John Gatins (Car Wash Clerk #1), Bambadjan Bamba (Car Wash Clerk #2), Dave Silva (Man Who Doesn't Speak English)

Fred: The Movie Songs List (in order of use): Lights On - "Waiting for the Heart to Beat", Lucas Cruikshank - "Fire Burning", Jake Weary & Pixie Lott - "Love Will Keep Us Together", Ashford & Simpson - "Solid", Thelonious Carter Jr. - "Jig-a-lo", The Measels - "Dynamite", The Measels - "The Deal is Off", Cherry Orange - "International Competition", Julie Bellamy - "Schemin'", Inno featuring Anthony - "Fuego", KU - "Let's Go", Marty James - "Kick Ya Feet Up", Pixie Lott - "Boys and Girls", "Live it Up", FRED - "Who's Ready to Party"

Original Air Date: September 18, 2010 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (TV-G on air)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Not Captioned or Subtitled
DVD Release Date: October 5, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover

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If you're over the age of 18 and reading this review, your first two questions are probably "Who is this Fred and why does he get a movie?" I asked the same things myself upon getting this DVD from Lionsgate. With a sticker, the cover thoughtfully explains, far below its bold proclamation "It's Fred!!! In His First Movie!"
Fred (or "FяED", if you want to respect the official Toys "я" Us-style spelling) is evidently a "YouTube Sensation" who has gotten over 550 million views, among which I can take credit for none. Having learned again and again that Internet hype doesn't always equal real-world success (see Kick-Ass, Watchmen, Snakes on a Plane, The Onion Movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, etc.), the entertainment industry passed on giving this Fred character a theatrical release.

Instead, the movie wound up debuting on Nickelodeon, where it can be chalked up as a win for the Internet; the movie attracted 7.6 million viewers in its initial telecast. Not quite record-setting High School Musical 2 numbers, but just 100,000 shy of the original High School Musical's wave-making audience.

Fred Frigglehorn (Lucas Cruikshank) hesitates before uploading a video to the Internet, something that may or may not reflect the habits of the teenaged boy who created the character in a similar way. Fred's rival Kevin (Jake Weary) and object of infatuation Judy (Pixie Lott) are a couple dueting like The Captain & Tennille in this aquatic park daymare fantasy.

Fred Frigglehorn is the invention of Lucas Cruikshank, the young Nebraskan behind YouTube's first channel to earn one million subscribers. He turned 17 in August. Here in Fred: The Movie (or again, if you prefer, FяED: The Movie), Fred is obsessed with his next-door neighbor Judy (English pop singer Pixie Lott).

In case you don't already know, let me tell you about Fred. He has a high voice that eternally makes him sound like he just inhaled helium. He wears suspenders. He likes cheese. He's basically a white, unbespectacled Steve Urkel captured with a single camera and ADD-style editing. Fred has a lot of energy and he sometimes uses it to throw temper tantrums. Other times, he uses it to sing, which is the key part of his plan to win over Judy, who doesn't seem to know he exists. His main rival for Judy is another neighbor, a bully named Kevin (Jake Weary) who likes to watch himself dance in a mirror set up in his driveway. When Judy moves, Fred gets her new address and vows to find her and sweep her off her feet. But, reaching her new house requires traveling across town on a bus and going through woods, no simple tasks for an excitable boy like Fred.

Anytime you have "The Movie" in a title, the odds are that something is either being sold out or cashed in. When the source is a YouTube channel, you suspect those intentions all the more so. And yet, though the generic cover art gives you no reason to suspect anything but an obnoxious, routine kid-friendly version of high school life (Nickelodeon and Disney Channel's specialties for at least a decade now), Fred: The Movie is surprisingly and refreshingly funny.

Riding the public bus by himself is an adventure in itself for Fred Frigglehorn (Lucas Cruikshank). For some reason, Fred's Mom (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) is always thirsty and groggy.

This Fred character, judging only from the telemovie and not the YouTube popularity, is an entertaining creation. He's kind of like a teenaged version of Pee Wee Herman or one of Martin Short's more memorable hyper characters (I'm thinking Clifford or Ed Grimley). Here, he is brought to life in a witty movie that shares his off-kilter stylings. Genuinely humorous physical comedy is one of the toughest things to pull off, but by approaching it in his unique voice (meaning more than the squeaky Chipmunk sound),
Cruikshank does it again and again. Until you recognize him in the perhaps imagined part of deep-voiced cool guy Derf, it's unclear how much (if any) of Cruikshank's titular turn is performance. It doesn't matter because it is consistent and diverting in the right context, which this is.

Children's programming of the 21st century has regularly strived for a distinctive tone, often agreeing on a kinder, gentler version of the irony that reigns supreme in today's adult comedy. Fred: The Movie assumes a rhythm that feels less fleeting and likely to be dated. It's wacky and weird but not in a calculated way processed through executives with kids. Though made on a budget in the low seven figures, it isn't hindered by amateurish production values or acting. There's even room for a couple of people adults should recognize: wrestler/aspiring action movie star John Cena as Fred's shirtless, muscle-bound fantasy dad and a funny Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Fred's nap-taking mom. Other actors around Cruikshank are just as effective in their parts, particularly Jake Weary as the sideways-hatted Kevin and Jennette McCurdy ("iCarly") as the believable loner you suspect might be dependable.

YouTube would have to feature in what is the first movie adapted from the popular site. After many encouraging fantasies, Fred's real arrival at Judy's house is embarrassing, a fact that user KevSmellMyFart looks to preserve in this uploaded cell phone video. Jennette McCurdy, who Nickelodeon fans will recognize as Sam from "iCarly", plays neighbor classmate Bertha, a girl who does things her own way.

Out of the absurd journey situations, the movie even manages to deliver a real, meaningful story -- involving social status, the only topic that holds weight in a high school setting -- in a new, nicely tactful way that parallels Cruikshank's own home-grown celebrity via viral video.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Lionsgate treats Fred: The Movie to a flawless 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen DVD presentation. The picture has everything you'd want from a movie shot just months ago: vibrant colors, perfect sharpness, a high bit rate and no imperfections. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is without complaint as well. It's as active as it needs to be, coming to life with a few musical numbers and more memorably in the big party scene.

Fred takes a break from songwriting to be scolded at by his unseen mother in the 'classic' short "Fred Stalks Judy." British pop star turned actress Pixie Lott discusses how, defying her expectations, Lucas Cruikshank is different from the character that brought him fame.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The DVD's healthy serving of bonus features begins with an audio commentary by director Clay Weiner (that's pronounced "whiner"), writer David Goodman, and star Lucas Cruikshank. They take a serious but lively approach to discussing the movie, with everyone confirming the amount of thought you perceive in the movie. Goodman shares the reasons for character names and addresses, Weiner mentions his intentions and inspirations (Taken and Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy, among them),
and Cruikshank sheds light on his bizarre situation. It's an entertaining and informative track, whose only negative may be mentioning deleted scenes and alternate endings not offered on the disc.

Next, we get a taste of the Internet series that inspired by the movie in two Fred videos. In the new, never-before-seen "Fred's Got Talent" (2:24), Fred shows off some of his many modest talents (among them, eating food backwards and sleeping). The other short is the classic "Fred Stalks Judy" (2:48), which neatly ties into the movie's storyline.

Three brief making-of featurettes follow. "From Webcam to Leading Man" (5:50) focuses on the significance and uniquity of actor Lucas Cruikshank's Internet rise from obscurity, paying attention to the project's conception and challenges. "Fred's First Film: Same Dude, Big Crew" (10:40) offers a general overview with plenty of cast/crew sound bites and behind-the-scenes looks. "Behind the Real Scenes of Fred's Fake Party" (2:15) simply sets B-roll footage from the climactic scene to music, simultaneously revealing and shattering illusions.

Lucas Cruikshank appears as cool, deep-voiced imaginary alter ego Derf in front of green screen in "Fred's First Film: Sam Dude, Big Crew. Fred appears among stars, scribbles, and splatters on the DVD's animated notebook paper main menu.

When inserted, the disc plays trailers for Alpha and Omega, The Spy Next Door, "Wolverine and the X-Men": The Complete Series, and Bratz: Pampered Petz. The menu's "Trailers" listing plays these in a different order, with promos for Akeelah and the Bee, the live-action Bratz movie, and Planet Hulk sprinkled in.

The DVD's animated main menu gives us colorful scribbles on loose leaf paper overview of characters with video and sound clips. After transitioning with Fred's screaming, the submenus give us static, simplified renderings of this generic youth movie design.

The DVD's Eco-Box keepcase is housed in a standard cardboard slipcover with selective texture effects applied to characters and text. There are no inserts.

Already on edge about woods, Fred is taken aback by a talking deer. Fred goes through a car wash on foot and the results impress the two clerks (Bambadjan Bamba, John Gatins).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Fred: The Movie's cover alone led me to expect a painful exercise in contemporary children's entertainment that would challenge me to come up with sharp, original criticism I haven't already lobbed at similar-looking cruddy cable kid comedies. Learning that it was born out of an apparent Internet fad only increased my skepticism.
Color me surprised, then, that I not only didn't hate this, but actually quite liked it. I think the movie's saving grace may be the lack of corporate interference. Being made independently, it wasn't conceived by committee or retooled by music and consumer products divisions. It wasn't toned down to make its lead character more accessible or widely appealing. It wasn't dumbed down to make its points more obvious and digestible by kids. At all times, the movie just looks to entertain in its own offbeat fashion and while many won't care for its methods, I certainly did.

Lionsgate's DVD delivers a great feature presentation and a good collection of extras at a most reasonable price. If you or your kids enjoyed this movie on television, you or they should appreciate it even more on DVD. I can think of no reason not to recommend it.

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Reviewed October 4, 2010.



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