Anyone worried about YouTube’s potentially negative influence on television has reason to be absolutely horrified by “Fred: The Movie.” Nickelodeon’s feature-length adventure starring inexplicable online video phenomenon Fred Figglehorn (created and played by teen comedian Lucas Cruikshank) may succeed with the most devoted members of his tween fanbase, but prolonged exposure to such a deliberately irritating character could just as easily prove too much to handle. Parents will want to be anywhere Fred’s not.
Sounding like a cross between SpongeBob SquarePants and Alvin the Chipmunk, Fred shrieks, squeals and babbles incessantly, reaching levels of insufferable dorkiness that couldn’t be matched by Pee-wee Herman, Napoleon Dynamite and Steve Urkel combined. Just a few seconds of Cruikshank’s shtick is more than enough for most, but his YouTube clips regularly draw several million hits apiece (with one topping 45 million), and his subscriber count is close to 2 million.
Nickelodeon’s acquisition of this independently produced feature reinforces the assumption that Fred’s viewership skews young. Cruikshank previously guest starred on the net’s hit “iCarly,” as well as Disney rival “Hannah Montana.”
Online, Cruikshank and his webcam are the whole show, but “Family Guy” writer David A. Goodman opens up Fred’s world. Characters only referenced before — including Fred’s dreamgirl Judy, rival Kevin and alcoholic mother — are not exactly fleshed out for the feature, but they’re at least played by live performers. The bare-bones plot involves 15-year-old Fred’s quest to sing a duet with Judy (whether that’s a euphemism is a question better left unasked) and the obstacles posed by their vastly different social statuses.
It’s all an excuse to dump Fred into as many awkward situations as possible. Some occur in his hyperactive imagination; others are presumably real. Highlights include Fred walking through a car wash, getting buried up to his neck in sand, conversing with a talking deer, screaming with terror when a man speaks to him in Spanish and throwing up on himself and Judy at a party he wasn’t invited to.
When the vomit incident lands him on YouTube, our exasperated hero asks, “Why do people even watch other people on YouTube? It’s weird! It’s creepy!” It’s supposed to be a moment of self-aware fun. Instead it’s a perfect summation of Fred’s unfathomable appeal.