Drop Dead Fred (1991)
Drop Dead Fred (1991)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: April 19th, 1991 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Ate De Jong Actors: Phoebe Cates, Rik Mayall, Marsha Mason, Tim Matheson, Carrie Fisher, Ashley Peldon, Ron Eldard




ven as a small child, Elizabeth Cronin (Phoebe Cates) didn’t believe in fairy tales, Prince Charming, or happy endings. As an adult, “Lizzie” struggles with two-timing husband Charles (Tim Matheson), a slick Jaguar salesman, who continually cavorts with other women and keeps her at a distance (his primary mistress is Annabella, played by an uncredited Bridget Fonda). As she calls best friend Janie (Carrie Fisher, still looking youngish and sporting short hair) for advice, her car is broken into and her purse stolen, and even the vehicle itself is driven away by yet another thief (this city must be full of crooks). When she rushes back to her job as a court reporter, the judge fires her for tardiness.

On her way out of the courthouse, she runs into childhood friend Mickey Bunce (Ron Eldard), who reminds her of another pal from the past: “Drop Dead Fred,” her invisible, imaginary companion who was always to blame for unbecoming conduct. Lizzie’s mother Polly (Marsha Mason) learns of Charlie’s infidelities and insists that her daughter return home for the time being. Inside the house in which she grew up, Lizzie is reacquainted with notional Fred (Rik Mayall), an energetic, jester-like troublemaker magically residing in a jack-in-the-box toy. When Lizzie explains that she’s all grown up, the red-haired, bright green-suited, red-booted maniac uncaringly sets about obnoxiously destroying everything he can wrap his dirty mitts around. And, sure enough, Elizabeth again receives all the blame.

When Fred’s hand emerges from beneath Lizzie’s pillow, it’s enough to generate severe nightmares. He’s able to appear and vanish with a flash and a twinkle, continually insists that he’s arrived to help Lizzie regain her happiness, and reveals that he’s forced to reenter her life whenever she’s completely alone (in spirit). He’s a particularly crass, unappealing imaginary friend, going out of his way to stir up trouble more than engaging in fun activities.

Playing “burglars” with young Lizzie concludes with her father getting accidentally arrested; Fred writes a fake note from Charles, resulting in Lizzie crying, thinking she’d been contacted by the man she still has feelings for; and she awakes more than once with a butchered, lopsided haircut thanks to Fred and some handy scissors. Through flashbacks, it’s evident that Fred is designed to convince his partner-in-crime to be individualistic and not to follow in her mother’s footsteps – as she is supposedly an evil woman. But the film doesn’t offer up much support for the theory, instead merely displaying Polly’s stern parenting techniques as a resort for uncontrollable misbehaving (until the very end). But Fred’s character is actually mean-spirited and worrisome. At times, Lizzie admits to being scared of him and as the film progresses, she’s rapidly driven more and more mentally unsound by the colorful manifestation of her fear of loneliness. Eventually, however, he’ll prove himself a most instructional tool.

The humor is of the most unintelligent variety, with Fred getting hit in the groin, wiping snot on Lizzie’s face, rubbing dog feces on the new carpet and furniture, proclaiming Polly to be a “mega-bitch” and glancing up her skirt, and attempting to flatten pigeons with a shovel. A romance with Mickey is rather juvenile, the editing of past and present events (plus Polly’s insinuated cruelty) is confused, the computer graphics are unconvincing, and most of Lizzie’s interactions with Fred are stale or perplexing. But a few scenes make the movie worthwhile – extensive makeup effects as Fred’s head is smashed by the refrigerator door, some amusing miming (the best of which occurs at a lunch date with Mickey, as Fred yanks Lizzie’s arms about, making her appear as a convulsing lunatic), and Fred refusing to get up off the floor after sliding under Annabella’s widespread stance.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10