Film Reviews:


(Tom Stern and Alex Winter, US, 1993)

In essence, Freaked is a live action cartoon that carries across that medium's penchant for speed, anarchy, slapstick, violence and irreverence. Jaded movie idol Ricky Coogan (Alex Winter) and his buddy Ernie stumble upon deranged scientist Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quiad) and his freak show in the heart of Santa Flan (famous for loud music, hot sex and creamy desserts) in South America. Kidnapped and trapped, the two are transformed into hideous mutant freaks and forced to join Skuggs' horrible freak show. Can Coogan reform and lead the rest of nature's oddities to freedom?

The wild animation, by David Daniels, which accompanies the opening credits suitably sets the tone for things to come. Screaming Mad George's creature make up is of the exaggerated, funny, latex-type he is best at - more imaginative than scary. Packed with sight gags and referential dialogue, co-directors Alex Winter (of Bill & Ted fame) and Tom Stern take jabs at everything from the arrogant attitude of some Hollywood actors, right through to Machiavellian corporate greed (in a great jibe at Pepsi) and exploitation. Nobody is safe: children and old people are no exclusion. Even co-star Brooke Shields gets the obligatory Blue Lagoon gag. There is a wealth of mad ideas crammed into the 90 minutes and repeat viewings give one the opportunity to catch some-thing 'new' each time.

No doubt Freaked will cross the line of some people's tastes, if so then you're watching the WRONG movie. A game of celebrity squares introduces and us to the other freaks: "Get ready to pelt the physically challenged with rotten vegetables", is Dog Boy's introductory refrain. But in the same way that cartoons let us watch things we would shy away from in the real world, Freaked shows, indeed revels in, the gross-out image. From such a horde of gags (both visual and verbal), every viewer will have his or her favourites, but true inspiration dictates the giant Rastifarian eyeballs will be at the top of many people's lists. High on my list are the sounds our travellers hear when in the forest (these include the noises made by the Three Stooges and Woody Woodpecker!) and the 'plane crash when they arrive in Santa Flan. Oh, and look out for cameos by directors Winter and Stern as the camp 'sensitive men' in the freakshow audience.

Freaked's only real failing is its inability to seamlessly merge the gags within the storyline. The journey through the plot is occasionally stalled as another (admittedly sometimes hilarious) set piece kicks in. However, this is a minor quibble when so much fun is to be had from superb all-star casting against type for actors like Keanu Reeves (Oritz the dog boy), Mr T. (the bearded lady), Brooke Shields (obnoxious talk show hostess) and Randy Quaid (insane freakshow ring-master). My favourite character is the ill-fated Sockhead (the perfectly cast Bobcat Goldthwait). Marvellously madcap mayhem. Cartoon fans looking for a live-action fix could do no better.

Rob Dyer

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