The early 2000s were a very different time. That’s one of the only explanations for the existence of Freddy Got Fingered. It was the time, 20 years ago this month, that a major Hollywood studio allowed a movie to be made that represented the unreconstructed comedic id of Tom Green. It’s something they would never do ever again, but let’s all be thankful that they gave him that one chance.
Let us go back to the spring of 2001. Tom Green emerged out of the ether of Canada, growing his gonzo-prank talk show from Canadian public access to, eventually, MTV, where The Tom Green Show debuted in 1999.
Tom Green emerged out of the ether of Canada, growing his gonzo-prank talk show
It was a mixture of silly songs, pranks, man-on-the-street goofing, and gross-out nonsense, but The Tom Green Show was a genuine phenomenon, during one of the last periods that MTV was actually doing interesting things (Jackass would debut the following year).
Green enjoyed a glorious epoch of about two years, between 1999 and 2001. During that time, the MTV show broke through, Green had a scene-stealing supporting role in the comedy Road Trip (even though he’d been shoehorned into a college comedy when he was nearly 30), he married Drew Barrymore, and he turned his diagnosis of testicular cancer into a groundbreaking comedy special, The Tom Green Cancer Special. That set the stage for Green’s first movie starring role, which doubled as his directorial debut. That was Freddy Got Fingered, which was released in April of 2001.
Roger Ebert, in his famously disdainful review of the film, described Freddy Got Fingered as, “in the surrealist tradition.” That it is, but it’s also in the auteurist tradition. It is absolutely, 100 percent, Tom Green’s non-compromised cinematic vision. And not only was Tom Green never allowed to direct another movie ever again, but it’s hard to imagine anyone like him being granted that sort of power by another studio again.
It’s hard to imagine anyone like him being granted that sort of power by another studio again
Freddy Got Fingered stars Green as Gord, a more extreme version of an archetype that was far from rare in the cinema of the 1990s: An overgrown man child, who continues to live with his parents despite pushing 30. A frustrated animator, Gord moves back home and engages in a war of wills with his father (Rip Torn, in a bug-eyed performance that may very well be the best movie turn of his career).
That’s the plot, but Freddy Got Fingered isn’t about its plot. Rather, it’s much more focused on a series of elaborate gross-out gags, including more than one involving animal semen. When it’s not celebrating horse copulation or elephant ejaculation, Freddy Got Fingered is taken up by histrionic overacting by both Green and Torn.
Not everything in the movie holds up. The part where Gord falsely accuses his father of molesting his brother (which provides the film’s title) is kind of unfunny to modern ears, and the film might have been better served by one animal sex scene rather than more than one. But overall, Freddy Got Fingered is still a screamingly funny film, one that takes risks that few other movies dare to take.
The film was a huge flop, it stopped Green’s career as a comedy star dead in its tracks, and he and Barrymore split up before the year was out. The film swept the Razzies that year, which just shows again how stupid and worthless the Razzies are, as nothing but a celebration of movies that it’s safe to hate.
Green never starred in or directed a Hollywood movie again, and while he remained a TV performer, his most prominent role of the ensuing years was probably an appearance on Donald Trump’s The Celebrity Apprentice.
The trajectory of Freddy Got Fingered was pretty predictable. It flopped upon its original release, but re-emerged before long as a cult favorite, one endlessly re-watched and quoted by its fans. It’s also been more influential than you’d think ― Eric Andre’s recent Netflix comedy Bad Trip played at times like an elaborate homage to Freddy.
So offer your daddy a sausage and celebrate Freddy Got Fingered on its 20th anniversary. It’s available to rent from most major VOD channels.