As Lizzie Cronin (Phoebe Cates) struggles to adjust after her divorce, she must move back in with her mother Polly (Marsha Mason). There, she discovers a jack-in-the-box which allows her to unleash Drop Dead Fred – her imaginary companion from childhood.
Elizabeth’s nose-picking, dog poo-loving poltergeist friend serves as a poignant reminder of her dysfunctional past and represents much of her suppressed emotions, creativity and desire for love and attention.
Phoebe Cates was one of the most beloved American teen actresses of the 1980s. She gained widespread renown after appearing in classic films such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins; additionally she sang on both Private School and Date with an Angel soundtracks as a singer/performer.
Starting her acting career in the early 1980s, she quickly made a mark for herself. In 1982 she played Linda Barrett in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and also made an impressionful cameo appearance as Kate Beringer in Gremlins – both films that established her legacy.
In 1991, she made her film debut in Ate de Jong’s drop dead fred, an unconventional black comedy with several laughs but often shockingly dark moments.
Lizzie Cronin (Phoebe Cates) is an impoverished wife who desperately wishes to free herself of her domineering mother’s control while remaining married to Charles (Tim Matheson). When her best friend Janie Fisher suggests they get together and attempt to forget their pasts, Lizzie turns to Fred – her childhood imaginary friend – for help.
Fred, unlike most imaginary friends, is a real character. With wild carrot-red hair and an electric green wardrobe reminiscent of his native Great Britain accent, he makes quite an impressionful figure who likes tracking dog poo all over Mom’s carpet and being generally unpleasant company. Lizzie never quite took to Fred as much and didn’t view him as more than an irritating nuisance than anything else.
Lizzie slowly realizes that her life is an absolute mess and Mickey (Ron Eldard) isn’t the solution, so she eventually lets go of Fred and moves forward with life; thus learning to say goodbye to an imaginary friend she never truly knew she had.
Though this film can be slightly offensive at times, it remains an enjoyable romp which explores the importance of being true to yourself. The cast is absolutely fantastic; even though some may find its content outdated or irrelevant. Ultimately it makes for a wonderful viewing experience!
Tim Matheson plays Charles, an immoral Jaguar salesman who keeps Elizabeth Cronin (Phoebe Cates) at a distance by frequently flirting with other women and two-timing his way out of an unhappy marriage with her. A bad influence, Charles keeps Elizabeth in the dark about her feelings for Annabella (his primary mistress) until Janie Fisher provides advice for dealing with Charles.
Lizzie accidentally releases Fred from his jack-in-the-box, unleashing him to cause havoc around the house and bring excitement and amusement into Lizzie’s life. Through his amusing antics and colorful misadventures, Fred helps break Lizzie out of her shell and prevent isolation.
Vinegar Syndrome offers this 1991 film in a stunning Blu-ray presentation with extra features for added enjoyment.
The disc features a featurette about Rik Mayall, who plays Drop Dead Fred on TV series 24, deleted scenes and trailer, audio commentary by Mayall and Paul Webster as well as an interview with Tim Matheson.
Matheson shares his thoughts about playing the character, as well as getting along with co-stars and crew on set, attending Twins games during filming, and using the script as the basis of his performance.
He was pleased with how the film turned out and got along well with all of its cast members and director, Ate de Jong. Although at first intimidating by his role, he quickly learned to relax and embrace it as part of an enjoyable experience.
The Blu-ray presentation is of high quality, featuring bold yet natural colors without being oversaturated or enhanced. Skin tones look good while there is great detail displayed within the black levels of the image. Picture quality is very clean as there is virtually no print damage evident – making this release ideal for anyone who enjoys this quirky cult classic!
Drop Dead Fred was an absolute cult classic when released in 1991, winning praise both from viewers and critics alike for its quirky comedy that would appeal to both kids and critics. Unfortunately, however, due to being so unconventional it wasn’t properly promoted and therefore faced much resistance at box offices across America.
Ate de Jong directed and starred alongside Phoebe Cates, Tim Matheson, Carrie Fisher Marsha Mason and Rik Mayall in this slapstick comedy that played to its audience’s sensibilities while having heart. Although not as widely popular with audiences than other remade versions from its time period, this one remains an underrated gem nonetheless.
Elizabeth Cronin (Phoebe Cates), is a thirty-something woman who has lost everything within one lunch hour: marriage, job and car. Living with Polly (Marsha Mason), Elizabeth longs for change – until she discovers Drop Dead Fred within an old jack-in-the-box which causes havoc with her life and family life.
As she attempts to reconnect with Janie (Carrie Fisher) and has lunch with childhood acquaintance Mickey Bunce (Ron Edlard), Lizzie is confronted by Fred who, while not present physically in Lizzie’s head, causes chaos by running around making mud pies, wiping people’s noses clean, and disposing of stuff at an alarmingly rapid rate.
Carrie Fisher excels at portraying this sweet role, though more could have been seen of her character compared to Fred. Although there’s some continuity between their characters, there wasn’t much of an emotional tie between Carrie Fisher’s Lizzie and Carrie Fisher’s Lizzie.
Her character may seem shy and innocent in this film, yet she’s actually an endearing individual with genuine kindness that serves as the perfect foil to Fred who can’t stop messing things up. You can’t help but like her and she clearly enjoys herself playing this part.
Extra features on the disc are equally impressive, featuring a twenty-seven minute tape-sourced deleted scene that features more of Fred and Lizzie with Mickey’s daughter as well as footage of Janie’s boat sinking. There are multiple endings and chapter selection options. In addition, it comes packaged in an embossed slipcover designed by Robert Sammelin that contains text interviews with Cates as well as reversible cover sleeve artwork by Cates himself.
Rik Mayall is an award-winning British stand up comedian renowned for his bold performances. Over his long and illustrious career he became a frequent presence on shows such as Doctor Who and its successor show Doctor Who: The Final Adventure.
Rik Mayall became an esteemed character actor, known for roles such as The Good Son in the 1980s and his short-lived TV show Rik Mayall Presents in 1991. Perhaps best known for playing an unpleasant janitor in 1990’s The Tall Guy but has made many other appearances throughout his career – see his full filmography for more info.
Drop Dead Fred by Ate de Jong stands out among its peers as a classic comedy film. Starring Phoebe Cates as an unhappy housewife who experiences her life being drastically improved after meeting up with an invisible jack-in-the-box imaginary friend named Fred, Drop Dead Fred was an unprecedented box office hit and won an impressive best selling total of $3,625,648!
Working Title Films collaborated with Paul Webster, producer of 1989’s The Tall Guy film. Filming took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It was an immense hit, made even more so by Prince stopping by occasionally to visit. This charming movie should not be missed by fans of quirky cinema; and has stood up beautifully over time; perfect for family viewing as its story is hilarious and star Rik Mayall delivers as expected in playing an unimaginably incredible imaginary friend role.