By Joe Lozito
Man's Best Fiend
"Fido" takes place in the fictional town of Willard, one of those 1950s, Stepford-perfect creations in which each car is impossibly shiny, each lawn impeccably manicured and each family has its own zombie to do the dirty work. Yes, in the alternate reality of "Fido", Earth - a generation or so ago - passed through a cloud of cosmic space dust which brought the dead back to life. In the midst of the bloody Zombie War that followed, one scientist found a way to domesticate the undead via a collar that curbs their bloodthirsty appetites. Out of the carnage springs ZomCon, a monolithic corporation dedicated to keeping the world safe from the walking dead (they also manufacture cars, milk and seemingly every other packaged good in town). Until, of course, something goes horribly awry - without which we'd have no movie.
All this sounds like a pretty good premise for a Zombie comedy and to be sure, there are a few good laughs to be had in "Fido". The opening black-and-white newsreel footage of the Zombie War, for example, is worthy of "The Simpsons" ("How many of you kids have killed a zombie?"). And the sight of gray-skinned creatures lurking in the corners of each rich, multihued, Douglas Sirk-style shot is itself pretty funny. But as the film delves deeper into its mostly predictable plot (Fido, surprise!, goes berserk and kills the old lady next door) it never goes any deeper into its premise. It's no wonder that the director Andrew Currie helmed a similar short film called "Night of the Living", "Fido" feels like one joke stretched to feature length.
The film boasts an impressive cast, including Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker as the appropriately frigid husband and wife pair and Billy Connelly (yes, Billy Connelly) inexplicably cast as the titular zombie servant with whom young Timmy Robinson forms an attachment. The typically outspoken Mr. Connelly gives a wordless performance here which borders on that of Peter Boyle from "Young Frankenstein". Though, in a way, it's that performance - while nicely portrayed - which betrays the film. Since the script, by Mr. Currie along with Dennis Heaton and Robert Chomiak, is never particularly clear on what the walking dead think or feel, each nuance of Mr. Connelly's Fido only brings up more questions that the film never answers. How much, for example, can the zombies be taught? What do they understand? And why, since they appear to be pretty bad servants, do we want them around anyway?
While the film's premise may lap at the heels of Shaun of the Dead
, the execution never comes near the giddy delights of Edgar Wright's 2004 parody. As young Timmy, K'Sun Ray fits the bill as the innocent, quizzical youth. His scenes with Fido, which poke fun at those old boy-and-his-dog "Lassie" movies, are the film's highpoints ("Go get help, boy", he tells his zombie), but there's a better, sharper satire lurking somewhere in the film's oddly long 90 minutes (what's the story on Tim Blake Nelson's character with the zombie girlfriend?). "Fido" is simply too unfocused in its humor, never quite capitalizing on its idea or really mining the potential depths of its themes. If we needed a comedy to tell us not to keep zombies as servants, however, we now have the perfect one.