One does hesitate to mention the words "Freaked" and "for Academy consideration" in the same breath. But if Oscar voters could be dragged--kicking and screaming--to this exercise in wiseacre grotesqueries, it might at least get a nod in next year's makeup effects category. Or in a special latex subdivision dubbed Best Disfigurements Not Applied to Mel Gibson.
"Freaked" (at the Sunset 5) has less in common with earnest men without faces, of course, than with the Garbage Pail Kids at play on the Island of Lost Souls. Alex Winter--the other half of Bill & Ted--stars as an unctuous young TV star who winds up in a spot of trouble on a promotional visit to South America. He and a pair of equally obnoxious pals wander into a sinister freak show, run by Randy Quaid in Buffalo Bill regalia, and immediately get turned into gooey prime attractions.
Those already transformed include a human worm, a toadman with a 25-foot tongue, Mr. T as the bearded lady, Bobcat Goldthwait as a guy with a sock-puppet for a head and an unbilled Keanu Reeves as the dog-faced boy (who runs off for most of the movie upon seeing a squirrel).
Winter co-directed and co-wrote with Tom Stern, joined by third writer Tim Burns in a reunion of the team behind MTV's short-lived "Idiot Box" series. Here, as there, the lads have a desperate try-anything approach to black comedy that mixes potty-level humor with enough absurdist pop culture references to rival Dennis Miller. (Best moment: Quaid is seen laughing maniacally--at a Family Circus panel.)
Combined with the terrific creature effects, this smug stew results in at least a couple-of-dozen moments of wildly inventive fun and roughly twice as many puerile groaners. "Freaked" (rated PG-13) is a whole lot more entertaining than most films that open in a single theater without press screenings, but neither Tod Browning's nor Monty Python's reputation is in danger just yet.
Alex Winter: Ricky Coogin
Randy Quaid: Elijah C. Skuggs
Megan Ward: Julie
Michael Stoyanov: Ernie
Mr. T: The Bearded Lady
A 20th Century Fox presentation of a Tommy production. Directors Tom Stern, Alex Winter. Producers Harry J. Ufland, Mary Jane Ufland. Screenplay by Tim Burns, Stern, Winter. Cinematographer Jamie Thompson. Editor Malcolm Campbell. Production design Catherine Hardwicke. Creature makeup effects Screaming Mad George, Steve Johnson, Alterian Studios Inc. Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.
MPAA-rated PG-13 (for language, bizarre humor).