Directed by: Tom Stern and Alex Winter
Written by: Tim Burns, Tom Stern, and Alex Winter
Starring: Alex Winter as Ricky Coogan
Michael Stoyanov as Ernie
Randy Quaid as Elijah C. Skuggs
Brooke Shields as Skye Daley
Mr. T as the Bearded Lady
Bobcat Goldthwait as Sockhead
Larry “Bud” Melman as tourist
Keeanu Reeves (uncredited) as Dogboy
Tagline: Butt ugly. But funny.
By Shelley Stillo
Pre-screening memories: In every future cinephile’s life there is that special someone — an older sibling, the neighborhood stoner, or maybe just an unwitting parent who left the porn cupboard unlocked. Whoever it may be, there is always that one person who introduces you to the good stuff.
Sometimes, that person just unintentionally left that copy of “Last House on the Left” sitting on the coffee table after watching it, or conveniently didn’t notice when the youngsters slipped into the room while it was playing. Maybe the person had a mean streak, and purposely switched the Barney tape with Return to Oz. Or wanted to rebel against mom and dad by making sure there were two Half Baked fans in the family. But those of us who were really lucky had genuine pop culture mentors, someone older and more knowledgeable, usually both, who actively took us under the wing and made sure that we knew as much about Black Adder goes Forth as we did about All Quiet on the Western Front.
Mine was my cousin Rob. By the time I reached high school, I’d been introduced to Monty Python (well beyond Holy Grail), pre-Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino, and A Clockwork Orange. One of the films my cousin screened for me that has remained relatively little-known due to a horribly botched release by 20th Century Fox is the reference-comedy Freaked.
Even though I’ve been milking (no pun intended!) the scenester points my knowledge of this film has earned me for years, I remember very little about it. All I really remember is that there is a joke about macaroons at some point, and even though I don’t remember what that joke is, whenever I see macaroons I think of this film. The only other thing I really remember about it is that there was a lot of controversy over whether or not Keanu Reeves was the actor who played “Ortiz” in the film. The role was uncredited, but most suspected that Reeves took the role as a favor to his buddy, Alex Winter. As far as I (and IMDB) know, this rumor has been confirmed, but at the time, it was a fun detail to speculate about.
Post-screening memories: Even though this movie remains strikingly funny, I was thoroughly depressed when I turned off this flick. I was depressed because it felt dated. It is the first 90s film that has ever felt dated to me. My depression stemmed not from any feelings of getting old, but because I have always regarded the 90s as completely relevant to my contemporary self — the culture, the politics — every thing about the 90s continues to resonate with me. When I am teaching a class about subcultures (yes, I actually get to do this), I introduce goth or riotgrrrls as completely current examples. I honestly don’t even know what “emo” means, even though I have had it explained to me several times.
But this film felt less relevant to me now than any other product of its era. Michael Stoyanov brought his Blossom fashions to the film, and that aesthetic affected the entire atmosphere. The predominant colors of the picture were so bright, perhaps to evoke a carnival atmosphere, that I felt like Mayim Bialik had exploded on the screen. What was more disturbing to me was the dated feeling of one particular stock character/caricature–the activist chick who is both the object of desire and the object of ridicule. As soon as Megan Ward’s character Julie appeared on screen, a flood of 90s comedies came into my mind, most notably PCU. Suddenly I remembered this woman, the girl whose annoying do-gooder enthusiasm had to be either overcome or pushed to the side so that she could be a suitable match for the film’s anti-hero (this was the 90s, after all). This characters frequency in the 90s hit me like a ton of bricks because of her invisibility now. Where has this figure gone? Have American college students become so apathetic that this character no longer represents them, or even resonates with them? Has America moved so far away from the progressive politics that were a joke in the 90s that they’re not even funny in the 21st century?
Once I got over this initial shock, I was happy that the film’s jokes, referential as they are, hadn’t lost their relevance. The cameos alone make this a must see for pop culture fanatics–where else will you see Morgan Fairchild, Mr. T, and Larry Bud Melman in the same movie. And some jokes are just timeless; hopefully Paul Lynde and “I like Ike” signs will always be funny. Plus, there is a wonderful smattering of subtle, deadpan humor that is often surprising, and therefore effective, thanks primarily to Randy Quaid and William Sadler.
It is too bad that Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is the movie that Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves will be best known for, because Freaked is definitely a winner. Hopefully the movie really was a joke though, since Winter’s career seems to have been lost somewhere in the South American jungle!
Was Shelly’s return trip and excellent adventure or a bogus journey? Find out here, or by listening below:
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