27 May 2020 | elicopperman
A Textbook Example on How NOT to Make a Movie
Although every idea in the world does have potential to be great, that all depends on how you execute said concept. However, there are times when some products come out so disastrous in both concept and execution that you question how they even got funded in the first place. Such is the case of Freddie as F.R.O.7., a strange animated film from Jon Acevski, who based the feature off random stories he made up to his son. Although ambitiously made, the film was practically destroyed critically and financially and has since fallen into obscurity. After witnessing it, I think it deserves to remain there.
The main storyline follows a French secret agent frog who must stop his evil aunt Messina and partner El Supremo from taking over the world. Now as basic of a concept as that sounds, believe when I say that the movie is far more convoluted than you could ever imagine. Everything that leads up to this plot point is either completely unnecessary, like Freddie's confusing backstory on how he even became a frog, or poorly explained and underdeveloped like these secret mind powers Freddie has and how he even became a spy in the first place. Not to mention, so much random comedic filler between side characters and idiosyncratic stereotypes make the movie feel longer than it probably should, like you could cut them out and nothing would be amiss (which is funny since this movie was recut in America). Whatever key essential plot points that could have made the movie at least somewhat interesting sadly took a backseat to a straightforward narrative that either goes on for too long or barely explains much of anything, leaving the audience to wonder if the filmmakers even proof read the script.
Due to the weak and muddled execution, even the characters are poorly thought out. Freddie is just your typical cocky and overly confident super-spy with no charisma at all, his partners Daphne "Daffers" and Scotty are blank slates with only their special fighting moves to make them stick out, and the British secret service head Brigadier G only serves one whole gag purpose and that's it. Not even the villains are worth remembering, because outside of Messina's freaky animal-transforming powers and El Supremo's obsessive laughter, their motivation for taking over the world is never explained nor even logical for that matter. If there's anything slightly noteworthy to say about these paper-thin characters, at least the voice-cast tried with the trite they were given. In addition to the likes of Jenny Agutter, Brian Blessed, Billie Whitelaw, Nigel Hawthorne and John Sessions really honing in it, Ben Kingsley puts on a pseudo-Inspector Clouseau take for Freddie. It's just too bad that the one-dimensional script couldn't do much to help elevate these performances past all its flaws.
To the film's credit, the animation team did their best with the ridiculous concepts they were given, but even the visuals are a mixed bag. While some backgrounds and effects look gorgeously detailed, the character designs surprisingly lack much spontaneity and even their movements range from quite smooth and lively to rather stilted and choppy (makes one wonder if some scenes had to be rushed to meet the deadline). It doesn't help that sometimes the cluttered editing can make it hard to enjoy the fluidity of a sequence. Lastly, for some reason, this film has some musical numbers sprinkled throughout, and dear lord are they embarrassments. The opening love ballad sounds more like a depressing parody, Evilmainya gives every Disney villain song a bad name, and Shy Girl is a perfect example of a show stopper, because it literally stops the movie dead in its tracks. Not even Lay Down your Arms by Asia fits within the movie's context, as well done as it is. If these songs were made as attempts to create extra substance to the movie, then that plan backfired harder than you can say sacre bleu.
As historian Jerry Beck said it best, "this movie is an illustration on how NOT to make an animated film". Not only is Freddie as F.R.O.7. a failure in nearly every quality, but it turned out so mind bogglingly stupid that one has to wonder what the filmmakers were thinking throughout its production. I would say avoid this flick at all costs, but its so bizarre in its execution that it's actually worth analyzing. Seriously, if future generations can use this disaster-piece as an example on how not to make movies, then maybe the future of filmmaking can be salvaged after all.