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A Boy and His Zombie: ‘Fido’

2010/06/07

Now, so that we’re clear on this, I don’t normally throw-in with period pieces, with notable exception of 40’s noir-detective tales.  There’s something about all the costuming, and authentic dialogue, and…I don’t know, the ‘theater’ feel of filmmaking set in bygone eras that just doesn’t resonate with me.  Unless of course, we’re talking about a period piece set in the America of the 1950s following The Great Zombie War.  You remember that time, right?  Can’t get enough of that rich and glorious history…

So it’s a few years past the GZW, and life in Americana has regained some semblance of normalcy.  Thanks to the scientists and administrators of a corporation known as ZomCon, the suburbs have been effectively fenced-off from the wild zones where the undomesticated undead still roam free.  Within the perimeters of the town, however, safety and security are the rule of the day, with even grade school recess being replaced with rifle-training to ward off unexpected undead attack.

So we meet the Robinsons, an atypical middle-class family;  Emotionally distanced father Bill (Dylan Baker) with a dedication to providing proper zombification-preventing funerals for his whole family (including separate head-caskets), dutiful housewife (Helen) whose primary motivator seems to be keeping up with the Joneses, and son Timmy, a quiet, uncoordinated boy with few friends and a desire to understand the soul of the household zombie.

When the Robinsons meet their new neighbors, whose father’s position as head of security at ZomCon has enabled them with the use of nine personal zombies, it’s enough for Helen, who finally acquires one of the Robinson’s own, more for reasons of status quo than anything.  Enter Fido.

Played by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, who has had a tremendously long career despite, by my evaluation, bringing very little to the table but an accent, Fido is a wordless reanimate (unless you count grunts and wails of anguish) acquired to mow lawns, serve dinner, and stand tethered in the yard all night, his hunger for human flesh kept in check by an electronic collar monitored by ZomCon.  Allow me to mention this:  by saying absolutely nothing, this is far and away the best performance Connolly has ever given – and I’m not being a smart-ass, at least not completely.  Through facial cues and body language, BC really pulls off the nuance of this supposedly mindless husk that truly still holds onto some of his ‘human’ soul deep down.

It is through this portrayal that it becomes quite believable that Timmy, and his mother Helen, grow to love and trust Fido as more of a family member than a pet….he is more attentive and dependable than Bill Robinson for the most part, so it makes sense.  Once we’ve accepted that, of course things are going to break bad, and the response and resolution to what’s happened constitutes the flow of the second and third acts.  This is one of the rare occasions where I’m tempted to say more, in order to draw you in, but it’s better experienced than told, and frankly if you kept reading after ‘it’s a light-hearted romp set in the 50s about domesticated zombies’, then you’re already in.

There’s plenty of allegory and themes that could be found in here, if that’s to your liking:  the role of big government, the corporatization of America, race relations of the era, the dysfunctional family – eh, I don’t care.  In case it hasn’t been evident, I want two things:  a decent story, and to be entertained.  That’s it.  If you want to dig deeper, go ahead, but generally that gives me a headache, which sort of ruins the point of watching a movie of this type to relax.  It’s about pet zombies.  That’s where I’m happy leaving it.  I’ll save my deep thinking for watching Invictus, because that’s where it belongs.

The dialogue is nails-on in respect to film and television of the era, the character interaction is just the right amount of uncomfortably stilted, and it’s detail is fantastic.    In it’s essence,  Fido is a tongue-in-cheek combination of Leave It To Beaver and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  I can completely get on board with that idea.  So much so that I’ve watched this one three times over the last couple of years, and that should tell you something, because frankly I don’t have that kind of time.  5 out of 7.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen permalink
    2010/06/07 10:32 am

    will definitely have to watch this one!!! i hope you have watched shaun of the dead an equal number of times… classic british best pal movie and simon pegg rocks!!!!

    disagree with the connolly comment tho… he embodies the best of the glaswegian gift of continuous story-telling… this talent is a national treasure for the scots and connolly is one of the best… yeah, the stories are typically shite, it’s the performance of them that counts… the ability to string together absurd circumstances and to improvise… particularly when drunk…

  2. Cliff permalink
    2010/06/08 2:15 am

    I took Matt’s advice some time ago and checked this movie out. I was not disappointed. Fido is a nice film that, once discovered by the general public, is destined to be run ad nauseam on basic cable.

  3. 2010/06/10 11:21 pm

    Nice work.

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