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Drop Dead Fred is a 1991 film starring Phoebe Cates and Rik Mayall as the eponymous Fred. Originally the movie was panned by critics and not much of a box office success; however, over the years, it has been able to achieve a cult status. There was speculation of a remake starring Russell Brand in the titular role, but it has since fallen into Development Hell.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Cronin has had a horrible day, her entire life falling apart within a single lunch hour. First, while trying to reconcile with her husband over his affair, he dumps her. Her purse and then car are stolen as she tries to figure out what to do about her life, and finally she loses her job. Lizzie's controlling mother Polly arrives on the scene and Shanghais Lizzie into staying with her. Upon returning to her childhood home and exploring her old room, Lizzie discovers an old, taped up jack-in-the-box. When she opens it, Lizzie ends up releasing her childhood imaginary friend Drop Dead Fred, whom her mother had trapped inside the toy many years ago.

Having been imprisoned in the toy for twenty-three years, Fred is surprised to find Lizzie grown up, depressed and piled under her unhappy life. As her imaginary friend, he tries to help her put things back together and cheer her up like he did when she was little. Fred's sense of humour and disregard for consequences cause some more problems for Elizabeth, but he ultimately helps her rediscover her inner child and the strength to live her own life free from her domineering, emotionally abusive mother.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Lizzie's mother definitely goes into this area.
  • Adult Child: Fred.
  • Animated Credits Opening
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The green pills.
  • The Baby Trap: Polly tried to keep her husband by becoming pregnant with Lizzie. When this still didn't work and he left, she ended up putting the blame on her daughter.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lizzie finally finds happiness in her life, but she can no longer see Fred.
    • However Fred hasn't gone far as he is now the imaginary friend of Mickey's (Lizzie's childhood friend) daughter and Lizzie realizes this when she notices the little pinkie sign she used to do with Fred.
  • Broken Aesop: So, the way to reclaim happiness in your life is to reconnect with your imaginary friend from childhood, who proceeds to destroy anything and everything without a second thought to the ramifications on her life. The same friend who also set up an actual burglary of her own house as a child, which sent her father (the parent who actually cared for her) briefly to jail. Riiiight...
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Janie. She's apparently a professional woman with a high-paying job, but she is also a complete flake who is very much into New Age type thinking and is uncommonly accepting of the very strange. When Lizzie tells her about Fred she simply accepts it, and when Fred sinks her houseboat she gets mad at Fred (not Lizzie) and tries to beat him up.
  • Chaotic Neutral: Fred.
  • Character Title
  • Cringe Comedy
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Polly. Throughout the movie she treats Lizzie very coldly. However, she finally opens up to her daughter and asks her not to leave her alone.
  • Fridge Logic: How did Fred switch places with the violinist Lizzie attacked?
    • Certainly gives more fuel to the whole schizo/hallucination theory...
  • From the Mouths of Babes

 Young Lizzie: Did they live happily ever after?

Polly: Of Course Elizabeth.

Young Lizzie: How do you know?

Polly: Because, she was a good little girl, if she would have been naughty, the Prince would have run away.

Young Lizzie: What a pile of shit.

  • Great Gazoo: Fred.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Marsha Mason, Phoebe Cates (Kate), and Rik Mayall.
  • Idiot Ball: Lizzie lets Fred screw up her date with Mickey, despite the fact she could've simply told Mickey about Fred's sudden appearance (in his first scene, Mickey even admitted that he believed her about Fred because of all the weird things he saw Lizzie do when they were kids).
  • Imaginary Friend: Fred of course. Although some of his behavior makes him look more like an Imaginary Enemy in some sequences.
  • In-Series Nickname: Fred has a few nicknames for Polly. His most common is The Megabitch/Megabeast. And for Lizzie, more affectionately, Snotface.
  • It Got Worse: Lizzie earns Woobie status less than 10 minutes into the film, in which her husband doesn't want to reconcile, her purse is stolen from her car, and then a passerby uses the broken window to gain entry and steal her car. Then...

 *Court reporter Lizzie barges into courtroom over an hour late*

Lizzie: I'm sorry, Your Honor, I lost my money, my car, my husband...

Judge: All in one lunch hour?...Will the court reporter approach the bench, please?

Lizzie: I'm sorry.

Judge: So am I; you're fired.

  • Jerkass: Let's see, he breaks stuff, smears dog crap on the carpet, mocks Lizzie about her husband leaving her, causes havoc at a resturaunt, makes Lizzie look completely batshit (that is, if you don't already think that about her), oh, and destroys Janie's home and everything she owns for no apparent reason other than his amusement. Yeah, Fred is totally the friend we all need.
    • Charles as well, what with the whole extramarital affair, and then acting like Lizzie needs to "just let him live his life." Oh, and he married her because he can control her.
  • My Beloved Smother: Polly, Polly, Polly.
  • Never Grew Up: Implied that a person might not actually grow out of needing their imaginary friend. They can take the green pills that will inevitably kill their friend or in Lizzie's case figure out and defeat what it is that is making them unhappy.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: During the climax, Lizzie finally yells this at a representation of her mother.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Fred.
  • Redheaded Hero: Fred.
  • Refuge in Vulgarity
  • Rich Bitch: Polly.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Lizzie at the wine tasting.
  • Shrinking Violet: Adult Lizzie starts the film out as one of these.
  • Star-Derailing Role: Cates ends up in exactly 3 more films after this one, none of them hits or remotely memorable.
  • Stop Helping Me!: Lizzie in understandably displeased by Fred's attempts to make her lighten up. It isn't until the climax that she realizes why she needed him all along.
    • Except for... everyone else. He sort of made absolutely everyone else miserable. And in some cases completely homeless with nothing left but the clothes on their back.
      • And a huge insurance payout:

 Janie: Have you ever seen so many zeroes outside of the national debt?

        • Insurance does not work that way. It only would if it was ruled an accident, not if some lunatic destroyed it. The way you'd get compensated for that is to sue the living hell out of said lunatic, have them declare bankruptcy, and then that person's insurance would cover it. And even then, the insurance money would only cover the estimated cost of the property damaged, not enough to leave a person better off. That's not even accounting for the fact that there were almost certainly items on the boat that were emotionally significant or irreplaceable, yet technically not "valuable."
        • Although considering the 'lunatic' in this case is imaginary, the insurance people may have wrote it up as 'accidental'.
  • Title Drop: Lizzie says "Drop dead, Fred" more than once.
  • Toilet Humour: In one scene, Fred smears dog poop on Polly's carpet.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Janie. Or at least too dumb for her house to live. If someone comes to you, talking about an "imaginary friend" that they blame for the destruction of your home, the correct reaction is not an irritated sigh. The correct reaction is to have them committed, and fast, because they are dangerous.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Fred does this to Lizzie's new do while she's sleeping.
    • And also once when she was younger.
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