Gross Encounters

Tom Green's directorial debut is occasionally hilarious but sloppily executed

If you don't like Tom Green, there's no point in going anywhere near Freddy Got Fingered, as it won't win you over. If you don't know much about Tom Green but are curious, you might be well advised to watch videotapes of his show first, and be aware that inasmuch as it is still possible to shock and offend the American moviegoer, this film does. If, however, you're a fan of Tom Green, it probably won't surprise you to learn that the film is a somewhat disjointed affair that, like the man himself, is occasionally brilliant, frequently repetitive and sometimes merely annoying.

It's hard to know where the American gross-out comedy can go from here, and it's scary to even contemplate. Semen hair gel has been one-upped by pie humping, which in turn was one-upped by Scary Movie's sperm fountain and hanging gonads. In Freddy Got Fingered, Tom Green performs explicit hand jobs on animals, swings a newborn baby around by its placenta and licks people's open wounds. As in all the gross-out movies that preceded this one, these scenes get automatic laughs for their sheer audacity, but the infant gag in particular is at least as disturbing as it is funny. You may laugh, but you'll probably hate yourself for doing so.

At least Green doesn't hold back from ridiculing himself. In one scene, as he flirts with a cute nurse (Marisa Coughlan), he asks her if hospitals are always this fun. "No," she chirps back, "sometimes people die of cancer!" (For good measure, and so as not to miss a gross-out opportunity, Green's own cancer-surgery footage later appears onscreen). And there is that scene in which his new real-life wife Drew Barrymore puts in a cameo solely to aggressively reject his advances. (They kiss and make up in a gratuitous postcredits outtake.)

Tom Green as Gordie retrieves a soap-on-a-rope from the toilet, where most of Green's gags come from.
Chris Helcermanas-Benge
Tom Green as Gordie retrieves a soap-on-a-rope from the toilet, where most of Green's gags come from.

The plot, what little there is, will be familiar to viewers of Green's TV show: Would-be animator Gordie (Green) moves back in with his parents, where he proceeds to torment them with his weird antics. Unlike in real life, however, Gordie's father Jim (Rip Torn, game and fearless) proves to be a raging psychopath (think Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents times 10), prompting Gordie to constantly doubt his own ability while simultaneously plotting elaborate revenge pranks, one of which is alluded to in the film's title. But since it doesn't occur until at least an hour into the film, you'll have to figure it out for yourself.

Green's onscreen gags have always come in several different breeds, all of which appear here. There's the really elaborate prank, like the time he sneaked into an art gallery, hung his own painting on the wall, and returned the next day to deface it. There's the simple gross-out, usually involving a dead animal or putting something disgusting in his mouth. And, of course, there's lots of yelling and repetition of certain words until they appear to have lost all meaning. Now, because he's freed from both TV standards and practices and the "reality" setup of his TV show, we can add a new category: a character sustaining grievous bodily harm, screaming in pain as the blood spurts, and yelling "fuck!" over and over.

This would perhaps be more funny if there were any real characters in the movie, but beyond Gordie and his dad, there's no character development whatsoever. Green really needs a straight man; TV sidekick Glenn Humplik is sorely missed, and the film's funniest routines involve exchanges with "normal" folk. As director, Green even manages to make nutso comedian Harland Williams (Rocketman) seem kinda . . . dull. MTV's "making of the movie" special, in which Green makes fun of his actual cast and crew, delivers more frequent laughs than the film itself.

Beyond all that, there's a big difference between acting like a loon in a public place surrounded by real people, and doing so on a soundstage with actors. Green doesn't seem to fully understand that difference yet. His cameos in Road Trip and Charlie's Angels were both more consistently amusing than his role here, though let it be said that when Freddy Got Fingered works, it really works. Too bad, then, that those moments are, at best, sporadic.

 
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