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Fido

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 04/24/07 11:46:26

"My, what an adorable zombie!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2007 DEEP FOCUS FILM FESTIVAL: Ah, the story of a boy and his dog. It’s a classic tale, pure as can be, even if the dog isn’t a dog, but a zombie.

Which is where we find “Fido,” a born-to-be-a-cult-favorite comedy that manages to rise about its aren’t-we-clever? premise to deliver biting satire and deliciously twisted laughs. The idea is that it’s 1950s America, shortly after the “Zombie War,” in which pesky space dust caused the dead to rise from their graves, hungry for that darn flesh of the living. Advances from a company called Zomcon have made it possible to domesticate zombies, at least for those who can afford one.

And so we find the sleepy whitebread town of Willard, where the Robinsons are a happy family who just bought their first zombie (Billy Connolly), a grunting but shy beast the son, Timmy (K’Sun Ray), comes to call Fido. Pipe-smoking dad (Dylan Baker) doesn’t approve, as he’s afraid of zombies and is obsessed with funerals (which are now quite costly, considering the anti-zombie precautions that must be taken). Mom (Carrie-Anne Moss), on the other hand, takes to Fido and begins to treat him with respect. What would the neighbors say?

Directed by Andrew Currie and written by Currie and Robert Chomiak (from a story by Dennis Heaton), “Fido” aims at a wide assortment of targets: suburban conformity, Eisenhower-era paranoia, race relations, and, of course, classic television. (It’s impossible not to laugh as Fido runs home to find help. It’s every “what is it, boy?” cliché imaginable, turned on its ear - a grey, decaying ear.)

Surprisingly, the filmmakers hit every target, often landing dead center, no pun intended. The idea of domesticating (dead) people is reminiscent of the sci-fi metaphors of “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” - although it’s likely the idea sprang more from more recent comedy works like “Shaun of the Dead” or Max Brooks’ zombie books - and there’s a permanent underlying discomfort in seeing slavery, albeit in zombie form, placed in the happy-go-lucky world of the suburbs.

It’s also likely that the filmmakers were aiming more for a satire of small town conformity. Timmy and his mother, along with the sleazy neighbor (Tim Blake Nelson, in a deliriously dirty supporting role), take to the zombies with genuine affection. That sort of thing that just won’t do. The new neighbor (Henry Czerny) is a former war hero and current head of Zomcon security; his no-nonsense American-ness is ripe for parody, and he represents everything the movie hates. This sort of it’s-better-to-be-different message will make “Fido” a sure hit among teens looking for a cult hit to call their own.

Yet, somehow, despite all this commentary, the film is never obnoxious or pretentious. Indeed, it keeps a cool, crisp sense of humor throughout, winning us over with such goofy one-liners as “You crazy, wonderful zombie!” Everyone involved delivers pitch-perfect deadpan performances, especially Baker, who seems born to play the dimwitted 1950s father. (Connolly, meanwhile, brings a strong sincerity to his role, making his Fido the lone point of sanity in the film. It’s a terrific, heartfelt performance, especially when you note that he has no lines, only grunts.)

Most commendable about the picture is its visual design. Here is a film that delivers a spot-on 1950s, albeit an alternate universe 1950s. The suburban houses, the neighborhood streets, the haircuts and the clothes and the cars and the bad TV commercials, they all work to create a complete and wholly believable zombie world. (Note Timmy’s bedroom, decorated with zombie war sheets!) “Fido” is a movie that gives us a strange new world down to its very core.

And from that core grows big, ballsy humor. Let’s not forget: “Fido” is hilarious. It’s crazy and gutsy and campy and gross in all the right places. Good boy.

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