Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fido - The Family Zombie Movie

Just when you thought the zombie movie was, well... dead, along comes Fido, injecting some fresh... life (ugh) into the genre. Shameful puns aside, Fido turns out to be a cheeky and charming film, full of bizarre humor and new uses for zombies. Like love, and companionship. But there's still some good flesh eating and head shots to keep zombie fans such as myself satisfied.

Fido takes place in an alternate 1950s, after a giant space cloud has come and resurrected the dead. A great "zombie war" ensues, and after many lives are lost (and returned), a hero emerges: ZomCon (TM). ZomCon has discovered a way to harness and contain the undead threat, with collars that curb the zombies' natural instinct for human flesh and allows zombies to become productive members of society. (Naturally by forcing them into manual labor). This is all told in a brilliant industrial film at the beginning of the film.

Next, we see Timmy Robinson (the wonderfully named K'Sun Ray) in school as his class is introduced to the head of ZomCon security Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerney, sporting a pipe in good J.R. Dobbs fashion. Timmy is skeptical about zombies, and doesn't trust the containment method. His fear stems from his father, Bill (Dylan Baker) a paranoid man who would rather play golf than play with his son, and who already has the whole family's funerals ready to go at a moment's notice, so that none of them will ever have to become a zombie. That leaves mom Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss, momentarily making me forget she was in that kung fu movie with the robots). She's tired of being the only family on the block without a zombie, and picks one up to keep up with the Jonses. (Or in this case, the Bottoms, who have moved across the street).

This zombie is Fido. He's played magnificently by Billy Connolly, who conveys wonder, hurt, anger and just about every other emotion on the acting spectrum. And he does it while being a zombie. Never says a word, or does anything other than grunt. Damn does he play this part well. He's almost the most sympathetic character in the movie. Will Timmy grow to love Fido as Fido fends off bullies and plays catch? Of course he will, even if it means putting up with an occasional bout of Fido going off the leash and eating some flesh from the living.

The movie is a stitch. From the bright, technicolor feel of the suburbs (more than slightly borrowed from Edward Scissorhands), to the acting and the set design, there isn't much not to like about this movie. In fact, if it didn't contain a few scenes of mutilation and shots to the dome (as LL Cool J would say), this could be a family movie. There's even a scene literally straight out of a Lassie movie, that works to comedic gold. The clear message is what can Fido, the undead, teach Timmy and his family about actual living? I wouldn't dream of spoiling it for you, but rest assured, it's satisfying.

Director Andrew Currie takes his premise and manages to stretch out the charm and goodwill far longer than it should have. In fact, the ending kind of falls apart under the weight of the premise, and breaks a few rules of it's own universe. It's strange, and if you read into things, more than a little creepy. But the movie has such wit about it, you almost forgive it for it's rushed ending. It stays afloat based on the leads, especially Connolly as Fido. If there's a best zombie award (and with the sheer amount of zombie films out there, there may as well be), Connolly is a shoe-in. He even out Bub's Bub.

Fido is not a perfect movie, by which I mean it's not Shaun of the Dead, the quintessential Zombie comedy. Fido is a different sort of breed, and it's difficult to compare it to anything else, aside from the aforementioned Lassie pictures. But that don't let that fool you. Fido is a hell of a fun time. Almost makes you want a zombie for you own. Almost.

Fun Fact: Tim Blake Nelson is outstanding as always, as a neighbor who's a little too close to his zombie.

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