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FREAKED (director/writer: Alex Winter/Tom Stern; screenwriter: Tim Burns; cinematographer: Jamie Thompson; editor: Malcolm Campbell; music: Kevin Kiner; cast: Alex Winter (Rick Coogan), Randy Quaid (Elijah C. Skuggs), Michael Stoyanov (Ernie), Megan Ward (Julie), William Sadler (Dick Brian), Alex Zuckerman (Stuey Gluck), Mr. T (Bearded Lady), John Hawkes (Cowboy), Lee Arenberg (The Eternal Flame), Bobcat Goldthwait (Voice of Sockhead), Brooke Shields (Skye Daley), Morgan Fairchild (Stewardess), Derek McGrath (Worm), Brian Brophy (Kevin), Jeff Kahn (Nosey), Patti Tippo (Rosie the Pinhead), Tim Burns (Frogman), Gibby Haynes (Cheese Wart), Calvert DeForest (Larry “Bud” Melman), Tom Stern (Milkman), Keanu Reeves (Ortiz, the Dog Boy); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Harry J. Ufland/Mary Jane Ufland; Anchor Bay Entertainment; 1993)

It’s unwatchable if viewed when sober.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tom Stern and Alex Winter became friends while attending film school at New York University and teamed up to co-direct this freewheeling gross-out comedy/sci-fi film. Winter was previously best known as the Bill half of the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). Winter made one theater film Fever (1999) and stuck to directing on TV. Stern became known as a gag writer, who occasionally directs on TV. Previously the duo conceived for MTV the satirical The Idiot Box (1991).

This is Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) if gone wrong, that tries for an onslaught of witless hipster gags and physical humor based on exaggerated makeup. The few times it tries to make politically correct political points it misses the target because it can’t rise to anything more than a prank-laden student film, one meant for frat boys loaded up with beer on the weekend. It’s unwatchable if viewed when sober.

Obnoxious and greedy film star Ricky Coogan (Alex Winter) appears on the Skye Daley (Brooke Shields) talk show to tell of his crazy adventure in Santa Flan, a fictitious South American country, where he appeared after accepting $5 million to be spokesman for the vile Everything Except Shoes Corporation to promote their toxic waste product Zygrot 24, a banned in America chemical fertilizer sold only in third world countries. In Santa Flan, Ricky, his best friend Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) and environmental activist Julie (Megan Ward) ride together to the chemical plant but get sidetracked to attend in the remote countrysidethe circus freakshow of Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid). The outlandish madman tricks the trio into being strapped onto stretchers and then uses Zygrot 24 to create more mutants for the show. Skuggs turns half of Ricky’s face into a monster and attaches Ernie and Julie’s bodies together.

The irreverent and silly comedy derives most of its laughs in the makeup given all the circus mutants, that include Mr. T as a bearded lady, Bobcat Goldthwait as the voice of Sockhead, Keanu Reeves as Ortiz the Dog Boy and Derek McGrath as the Worm. The film concludes with Ricky finishing his story on the TV show and telling how he led the other freaks in escaping from Skuggs and the evil corporation of EES, and how he now is a better human being because he’s more sensitive to how it is to be a freak.

It’s bad enough that this pathetic exploitation pic wasn’t funny, but when it tries to also throw in a social conscience lecture it becomes just more insulting.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”