Comedy is perhaps the most subjective of all forms of entertainment. Judy Carter, in her wonderfully insightful "Stand-Up Comedy: The Book", summed it up best: "Some people will laugh at a guy slipping on a banana peel. Some people will only laugh at Hitler slipping on a banana peel." What kills with one crowd will die with the next, and no two people will laugh at the same thing for the same reason. Comedy, in many ways, says more about the laughers than the comedians themselves, and it is no wonder that comedy shop talk is filled with violent images ("If I don't bomb, I'm gonna murder that audience"). Comedy, to put it mildly, is DANGEROUS.
"Freddy Got Fingered", Tom Green's scabrous black comedy, illustrates this principle to a T. Since his earliest days on Canadian cable-access television, Green has based his career on pushing the envelope. Like Andy Kaufman, his bizarre stunts (many involving animal carcasses and the sexual humiliation of his parents) are primarily about the reaction of both their hapless victims and US, the audience; if you don't step back and consider how you're taking this humor, and why, you're not really getting the whole Green experience. "Freddy" carries this sensibility into a fictional format, giving us the strange tale of a man who lives his life as an experiment in riling people up.
Gord Brody (Green) is a young aspiring cartoonist who fails miserably in his attempt to break into the Hollywood big time. He is forced to move back home with his parents, setting off a titanic battle of wills with his stentorian oaf of a father (Rip Torn), an escalating conflict that involves accusations of child molestation, sausages on strings, elephant penises, horse penises, Green's penis, and really badly made cheese sandwiches.
Of course, all of this story nonsense is just that: nonsense. It serves no function but to provide Green and co-writer Derek Harvie with a framework for grotesque, deliberately shocking set pieces, many of which work surprisingly well. There's a brief sojourn at a stud farm, where Gord lives out an apparently lifelong fantasy, wagging a horse's genitals while yelling "I'm a farmer!" like a drunken barbarian. In another scene, Gord delivers a baby, ripping the bloody umbilical cord with his teeth. He picks up a wheelchair-bound girlfriend (Marisa Coughlin) who gets her jollies by being caned in the legs with a bamboo stick. And there's the wonderful little boy who spends the whole movie getting accidentally brutalized, hit by cars and running into airplane propellers, always with much blood and flying viscera.
Now I know this may not sound that funny, and indeed, "Freddy" has gotten the most dastardly reviews that I think I have ever seen for a major release. Critics don't just hate "Freddy"; they seem personally hurt by the film, as if Green had made the picture just to upset them and get their goat. What they don't seem willing to acknowledge is that Green made the film for EXACTLY that reason, and is getting exactly the reaction he wants. Therefore, his film can be regarded as something of a great success.
Personally, I agree with many of the critics who have described "Freddy" as surrealist. There is no attempt to integrate this action into anything resembling the real world. Gord is not a human being, but rather a collection of characteristics. Green plays him as a bizarrely aggressive man-child, a mishmash of helplessly repeated words and phrases, slack-jawed willful stupidity, and screaming, utterly pointless hysterics. Frankly, I admire this approach to the characterization. After seeing so many recent comedies ruined by the filmmakers' need to make their characters both laughable and likeable (most recently with the stultifying "Joe Dirt"), it is refreshing to see Green so willing to come off as annoying, hateful, cruel, UNLIKEABLE. This lack of relatability allows us to laugh at him without feeling like we're also laughing at ourselves.
I am not making the claim, as some on this page have, that "Freddy Got Fingered" is any kind of masterpiece. Green's direction is not the equal of his acting bravery. The film suffers from too many muddy visuals, and many moments just lie there on the screen, wriggling when they should fly. Still, the film does what it is supposed to. Half the time you're laughing, the other half just staring at the screen in goggle-eyed shock. You may hate "Freddy", you may love it, but either way, you have to admit that you've never seen anything like it before.