Listen: incredibly stupid things can be some kind of wonderful. And there are very few movies stupider than Freddy Got Fingered. This singular film–which MTV gave absurdist comedian Tom Green $14 million to make any film that he came up with–is perhaps the stupidest film ever made. But it’s also brilliant in its stupidity.
Mind you, it’s not Paris, Texas and Tom Green is no Wim Wenders, but it’s certainly a unique vision that could be considered transgressive comedy and predicted the rise of the gross-out, absurd, and radically weird style of comedy that would come into fashion in the next few decades after its release thanks to [adult swim], YouTube, and the public’s rising interest of having shocking and profane content in their comedy in the 21st century.
If you’re a certain age, you remember Tom Green well from his days on MTV in the 1990s, where his show The Tom Green Show featured numerous pranks and stunts he would pull on strangers, his unfortunate co-host, and most humorously his parents. Some memorable stunts include when he had graphic sexual content airbrushed on his parents’ car, complete with emblazoning on it “The Slutmobile” and wildly upsetting his parents–particularly his mother–in the process; going into different stores and getting on the store intercom to the annoyance of the store managers; getting ridiculously drunk on camera to the point of vomiting; and of course, “Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song).”
If you’re not familiar with his oeuvre, don’t worry: you can pretty much figure out what he was all about just from that description. His work was known for being intensely juvenile, silly, and occasionally gross. Playing pranks on his parents and acting like a maniac in public places brought him a large audience, to the point where he had his own TV show on MTV that highlighted his awkward brand of comedy. His meteoric rise to fame from hosting a public access show to having a series on Canada’s cable TV station The Comedy Network to hosting a show on MTV happened within the span of 4 years in the late 1990’s.
But his quick rise to fame came to a shockingly abrupt end just as it was starting, as Green halted production on The Tom Green Show after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in early 2000. With Jackass–a similar absurd prank show–beginning to air on MTV, Green seemed to fade just as quickly as he had come to prominence.
But not before writing, directing, and starring in his own film, Freddy Got Fingered. Produced by MTV, Green took his big shot at being Orson Welles and directed something wholly unique. Whether or not one considers what he created “good” or “worth watching” seems to vary from person to person. Some people couldn’t get past the first 5 minutes, usually turning it off just as he slams on his brakes while driving down the highway to grab a horse’s penis that he spots from the road. If the viewer makes it past that point, Green seems to take it as a personal challenge to encourage the viewer to turn off his movie as frequently as possible.
“Nominated for Worst Picture of the Decade”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: as everyone knows, the story to any great film starts with the character. In this, Green sticks the audience with a truly demented character, but a character nonetheless. Green plays Gordy, a 28-year-old wannabe animator who seems to lack any sense of shame, appropriateness, or boundaries. After a failed attempt to break into the animation business in LA, Gordy moves back in with his parents where he causes general chaos in their lives and for anyone else who gets too close to him.
There’s more plot but very little of it means anything other than one setup after another for Green’s incredibly absurd ideas. He gets a girlfriend at one point, a hospital nurse who’s in a wheelchair and enjoys getting struck hard on the legs with a cane and is building a rocket-powered wheelchair. And that’s the most grounded part of the movie.
The real dramatic “meat” of the film is the escalating hatred between Gordy and his father (played by Rip Torn in a gleefully unashamed performance), which boils over when at a family counseling session Gordy lies to the therapist and says his father molested his brother (hence the title of the movie).
It’s almost unthinkable that Green expects an audience to side with his character, who seems like a freeloading psycho that’s intent on ruining his father’s life, to the point of needlessly falsely accusing him of being a molester, but given how completely off the tracks the film goes, perhaps it’s not too much to ask for the audience to side with the maniac that swings a baby over his head by the umbilical cord.
And Gordy is a goddamn insane person. After a failed meeting with the head of an animation studio (whom he tracks down by lying to a receptionist at his company–played by Green’s then-fiancee Drew Barrymore–that the guy’s wife is dead), during which Gordy also pulls out a gun and sticks it in his mouth, he’s driving back home when he spots a dead deer on the road.
Remembering back to the advice the animator gave him–that he has to get into the mind of the animal–Gordy dons the deer carcass and subsequently gets hit by a mac truck and skids across the road for 40 feet. Not that this phases Gordy, who simply bounces up from this grave injury, laughing and covered in blood, shrugging it off with “I wasn’t expecting that to happen!” He then stops once more at the horse farm to shove a sandwich into his mouth while he watches some horses copulate.
Maybe the experience of getting hit by a semi knocked something loose in Gordy’s brain because from this point on Gord–and the rest of the movie–gets crazier and crazier. In quick succession, a neighborhood kid bruises up his face badly by falling into the door of Gordy’s car, his friend breaks his leg on the skateboard ramp, shown in grotesque detail with a bone sticking out and blood pouring, and of which Gordy licks for some reason, and when Gord visits him at the hospital he “delivers” a baby, which isn’t breathing so he swings it around above his head from the umbilical cord.
It’s fucking crazy. This movie has something seriously wrong with it, and the viewer begins to get the feeling that there’s something similarly incredibly wrong with Tom Green for making a movie like this.
But–and hear me out–there’s also something weirdly hilarious about all of this, as well. However awful and bizarre anything Gordy does, it all seems to get balanced out at how completely crazy everyone else around him is. His girlfriend Betty seems to be a bit unhinged herself, enjoying first-date sex that involves having her paralyzed legs whacked with a cane and giving Gordy oral sex even though he has an umbilical cord (from the baby-swinging incident) duct taped to his stomach.
Gordy’s father is a gruff Billy goat of a man who drinks too much, acts like a buffoon in his own right, and has barely controlled rage issues. For example, Gordy’s dad flies into a rage when he catches Gordy wearing his scuba gear in the shower while finding “treasure” (soap on a rope) and throws him through the glass shower door. Afterwords Gordy gripes to his brother that his dad’s driving him insane, but his brother (correctly) points out that Gordy’s actually driving the father insane. But since his dad’s such an asshole, the audience actually does end up siding with Gordy, no matter how ridiculous he is.
Even though all the dad wants is for Gordy to get a damn job and stop being a ridiculous person, the movie actually succeeds in convincing its audience that Gordy is indeed correct: everyone should put up with his manic bullshit. Why? Because we’re safe from his destruction, and if you are enjoying the weirdness that’s been unfolding on-screen, you want Gordy to continue doing whatever the hell he wants–whether or not it’s “OK.”
So when Gordy has some sort of meltdown in a restaurant screaming into a phone that (an imaginary) employee of his is “FUCKING FIRED, BOB!,” he has a physical fight with his father, who throws a bottle–which bashes into that same poor kid’s face from earlier (this is a running gag where awful physical injuries continue to happen to this child), picks up a violin and screaming “this is a fancy restaurant” before shooting soda guns at his father, and the police finally come in and stop the madness it’s a much-needed relief to give the audience a minute to rest from this constant stream of absurd madness.
So when Gordy finally screams in a therapist’s office that his father’s “a molester: he’s a chiiild molester!” before picking up a bust, smashing the window, and escaping on-foot, leading to his (25-year-old) brother being placed in a safe home for children, and eventually leading to his mother leaving his father, we remain on Gordy’s side. Maybe if only because we don’t want to be on his father’s side because he’s an unbelievable asshole.
But when Gordy’s spirits are dashed, he gives up on his animation dreams and takes a job at a cheese sandwich shop. Because this is a comedy, he somehow gets his ridiculous animated show Zebras in America–which is loosely based on himself and a much more violent version of his father as talking zebras (and based on the small sample of the show we see, is even more violent and nuts than the movie we’re watching somehow)–bought by the animation studio he had initially tried in the beginning. Getting a million-dollar advance, he wins back his girlfriend by buying her jewels and then takes revenge on his father–by moving a chunk of his parents’ house to Pakistan with his sleeping father inside. Once there, he masturbates an elephant to hose his father with a giant amount of elephant ejaculate.
Gordy and his father are taken hostage by villagers and become American heroes when they’re rescued some months later. Oh, and that kid who had suffered awful accidents throughout the movie? He runs into the plane’s propellers and splatters the gathered crowd with his blood. The movie then ends and you’re still a little confused by what just happened.
#14 on “25 Movies That Killed Careers”
I’m not sure what you call this movie. “Good” isn’t really appropriate, although it’s ably filmed. But what it captures in crystal-clear focus can’t be associated with the adjective “good.” Interesting. Bizarre. Funny, but not ha-ha funny, more “this is fucking crazy” funny.
The film was trounced by critics, with Roger Ebert stating, “This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.” He then stated, “The day may come when Freddy Got Fingered is seen as a milestone of neo-surrealism. The day may never come when it is seen as funny.”
Well, it’s not seen as a milestone of any sort, but it has gathered a pretty solid cult following over the years, with Green stating that the DVD sales have risen and remained strong since its release on the format. Heck, it broke even during its theatrical release. Some elements have even taken on a life of their own, such as the famous “Daddy, would you like some sausage?” song that somehow got repeated by multiple people who would never actually watch a film like this.
Near the end of Freddy Got Fingered, Gordy spends most of the million dollars he received for his cartoon by relocating a part of his father’s house–with his father still in it–to Pakistan, just to get back at him. He says in the same laughing, maniacal way he did earlier after getting hit by the truck, “That’s a million dollars. A million dollars gone, just like that!” Which is ironic, since this film cost $14 million to make and once learning this, it’s hard to figure out what that money went to. Music rights? Renting a helicopter? Did he shoot a million feet of film?
Maybe it went towards paying off anybody–producers, the money men at MTV, whoever–that was trying to dissuade Green from actually doing half of the things he put in the movie. It’s not a classic, but it’s a curious film made by a curious figure that was experiencing one of the stranger instances of late-90’s fame at the time who somehow suckered a major media company into letting him make a movie about whatever he wanted.
A movie like this will probably never be made again–not that anyone would want to, or could even come up with the downright weird ideas Green came up with for his mentally broken character to enact. If you haven’t seen this film before and if any of what this article has described has piqued your interest–either out of sick fascination or genuine appeal–check out Freddy Got Fingered. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.