Freddy Got Fingered (The Cornfield #46)

We continue trolling for reviews from 2001. Incredibly, this is not the low point. I remember seeing the trailer for this film with a preview audience full of Tom Green’s demographic, and the forceful laughter they supplied to the jokes in the trailer had a kind of defiant quality, like “This is our guy, you old losers don’t get him, and every transgressive action on his part is part of our thing.” The way people might’ve laughed at Lenny Bruce or Richard Pryor, but without the skilled-comedian part. I thought that was the most interesting thing about Green’s brief run, during which he dated Drew Barrymore (thus the reference below).

Is Tom Green the Marcel Duchamp of the Britney Spears generation? Tempting to make such a comparison, especially with Freddy Got Fingered’s Dadaesque sausage/keyboard machine, but problems arise: 1) there is no correlative for the Drew Barrymore thing with Duchamp, and 2) Duchamp was actually funny. Perhaps it is better to call Green a performance artist, and leave it at that. He creates situations, happenings, and then lets them play out in excruciating detail.

This works, sometimes, on Green’s TV show. There is something undeniably liberating about seeing a fearless man with a microphone going up against the square world (cf. David Letterman’s legendary trip with a fruit basket to General Electric headquarters.) It does not work in the more demanding structure of a movie. Freddy Got Fingered has a plot to attend to, and actual characters, but it is more interested in the grotesque stunts that Green pulls on his MTV series than in creating movie stuff. For the record, Green plays a schlub from Portland, Oregon, who dreams of becoming an animator. His parents (Rip Torn and Julie Hagerty) send him off to L.A. in a new Chrysler Le Baron; he’ll work at a factory making cheese sandwiches while he tries to get into showbiz. (The scene you’ve seen thirty times in the TV commercials with Green wearing a “cheese helmet”? It’s not in the movie, except for the end-credits outtakes. Some of the funnier bits in the ads end up there.)

Green comes back, romances an oral-sex-obsessed doctor (Marisa Coughlan) in a wheelchair, and accuses his father of sexually molesting Green’s sibling—this is where the title comes in. Around this skeleton is Green’s bread and butter. He pulls a baby out of a childbirth patient and tears the umbilical cord off with his teeth. He licks a friend’s compound fracture. He grabs the enormous members of a horse and an elephant (the elephant dong is fake, I hope to god).

What makes this kind of skit astonishing (but still, not exactly funny) on Green’s TV show is the verisimilitude of the acts. In a movie, we know it’s phony, or most of it is—so when the movie Green covers himself in a roadkill deer, it isn’t as big a transgression as playing with a real raccoon carcass on the show. One moment would not be out of place in the shocking surrealist classic Un Chien Andalou: cross-cutting between horses copulating in a field and Green deliriously smashing food into his face. What does that mean? I don’t know, but it troubles me deeply.

(By the way, the preview audience for Freddy Got Fingered was full of people with their kids. Do not bring children to this movie unless you want them to have nightmares for weeks.)

Throughout the movie there is the spectacle of Green forcing things, of desperately willing something to happen when it is all too plain that nothing is happening. His character gets a piece of advice from a cartoon mogul (Anthony Michael Hall), which is surely something that Green himself has heard from the suits in the boardrooms: Looking at Green’s drawings, Hall patiently tells him, “There has to be something that happens that’s actually funny.” A hopelessly 20th century idea, for Tom Green has made a success of himself by ignoring that very advice.