The Greenaissance: Tom Green’s ‘Freddy Got Fingered’ Is Getting a Critical Reappraisal

Criterion gives Tom Green some love 20 years too late.
The Greenaissance: Tom Green’s ‘Freddy Got Fingered’ Is Getting a Critical Reappraisal

Way back in April 2001, Tom Green made his big screen directorial debut with Freddy Got Fingered, an absurdist nightmare of a comedy crammed full of gory set pieces, jokes about sexual abuse, sausage-themed synthesizer songs and other repugnant moments that were somehow bankrolled by the same studio that produced Star Wars and The Sound of Music.

Despite the popularity of his MTV show, Green’s movie wasn’t exactly a big hit. It barely made its modest budget back at the box office, and was positively annihilated by film critics, most of whom treated Freddy Got Fingered the way one would treat a fungal infection. It currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 10 percent. Paul Clinton of CNN wrote, “There is not one single moment in the entire 86 minutes of this film that is the least bit redeemable on any level.” Variety called itone of the most brutally awful comedies ever to emerge from a major studio.”

On Ebert & Roeper, Roger Ebert proclaimed that Freddy Got Fingered was a “vomitorium of a movie” and “the most disgusting film of 2001.” His colleague Richard Roeper said that it was “Ground zero of bad comedies” — a sentence that would seem far more extreme just a few months later.

But even in 2001 there was some glimmer of appreciation for Green’s film which, inarguably, is wholly unique. Canada’s The Globe and Mail highlighted Freddy Got Fingered’s nods to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, while A.O. Scott of The New York Times went way further, and, somewhat shockingly, likened Green’s work to conceptual performance art,” suggesting that some scenes “might have qualified for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts … and may show up some day at the Museum of Modern Art.” Quick reminder: This is a movie where Tom Green literally jerks off an elephant. 

Now, more than two decades later, Freddy Got Fingered will be joining the ranks of filmmakers like Fellini, Bergman and Hitchcock, by appearing on the Criterion Channel, the streaming service run by the renowned home video distributor. While Green’s movie won’t be joining the Criterion Collection with a physical Blu-ray release, it will be included in their digital arthouse pantheon beginning in March. Why? It’s part of Criterion’s “And the Razzie Goes to…” program.

In 2002, Freddy Got Fingered won several awards, including “Worst Picture,” at the Razzies, the unfunny scam award show for dumb people. To his credit, Green showed up to accept all five trophies in person. 

But as Criterion points out, the Razzies’ attempts to shame “bad” movies “inadvertently shed light on films so out-there, so uncompromising, so beyond the bounds of accepted ‘good taste’ that they demand attention.” Another Razzie winner being spotlighted by Criterion is Showgirls, which went through a critical reappraisal in recent years and is now an undisputed cult classic. Will Freddy Got Fingered similarly get a second life as a now Criterion-approved outsider art masterpiece? Only time will tell. 

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