Sunday, February 22, 2015

FREDDIE THE FROG

A few years ago, I did a review on my all time favorite guilty pleasure, since childhood which is "Freddie As F.R.O.7". While being an incredibly stupid and bizarre kids movie that's a huge mess, I still found it stupidly fun and entertaining, as well as praising the animation; voice acting; decent characters; the pointless musical sequences; and some of the creative ideas. However, after seeing and reviewing the rare original British release of the film, I'm going to review the theatrical version that's been released in America and not as hard to find compared to the U.K. version, which is under the title...

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This was the version that I and many other American kids who saw this obscure film, are most familiar with. The U.S. release of the film was heavily cut, and now that most people who have grown up with the film and found the U.K. version on "YouTube", we discovered that the U.S. cut was taking a fun and entertaining movie that was stupid, and made it even more stupid because of its edits. However, after recently re-watching the U.S. version, and comparing it to the original cut, while most of the things that the U.S. film cut out and poorly re-edited, it did have 1 or 2 things that was better then the U.K. version, as well as having a few necessary cuts. What are they you may ask, ON WITH THE REVIEW!


WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!


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In the original U.K. cut, the films opening credits showed Freddie driving around Paris in his Frog Car (Which, by the way, neither film version explains where Freddie got the Frog Car, or why the HELL it is alive and likes Freddie), to going to his apartment as he has a flashback leading up to his origins in the medieval times. In the U.S. version, the opening credits just give you a tour around Freddie's Castle when he was a Young Prince. While both openings are good, especially with the song "I'll Keep Your Dreams Alive" being played in the background, I actually think the U.K. cut is a better opening. It was artistic looking with the background design for France (Especially the opening shot with the Eiffel Tower at night); it was entertaining because we get to see our hero drive around Paris; and on top of it, it already sets up the weirdness of the movie. The U.S. cut on the other hand (With the exception of the Box cover) fools you into thinking that you're watching some kind of Fairy Tale, and when Freddie becomes an agent, it completely catches you off guard. Don't get me wrong, the concept is just as bizarre in the U.K. cut, but at least the opening doesn't toy with your expectations. You see a Frog driving a magical car in modern day France (that looks deserted for some reason) , and when we see the Fairy Tale flashback, we know that this Fairy Tale sequence is going to connect to the modern day sequence that we just witnessed. Also in the U.S. cut, the animation for the Fairy Tale world in the opening credits is pretty amateur and boring, compared to the U.K. opening. So the U.S. version's opening credits, while not terrible, is still a pointless change. However, the U.K. opening wasn't entirely cut of the U.S. cut, they show parts of it in the middle, as we see a few added scenes of Freddie being announced as a secret agent on the front page News Papers...WHAT SENSE DOES THAT MAKE?!

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One of the few changes I do admire in the U.S. cut is the change of narrators. In the U.K. cut, we had a French Narrator who was given very little to narrate, and sounded very forced and awkward whenever he had something to say; and the songs he briefly sings as he narrates, while not having a bad singing voice, just don't seem to fit making it feel like the songs were written and recorded at the last minute. In the U.S. version, we have James Earl Jones as our narrator, and not only does his voice sound awesome and fit with every scene that he narrates, but he's given more to narrate than what the original narrator had to work with. He even tells the viewer that Freddie traveled through time to be an agent, when in the original cut, we just assumed he traveled through time as he made his high jump back into the Earth after saying farewell to Nessie. The only downside is the people behind the U.S. cut try to make Earl Jones forcefully sing, since the narrator who shows up out of nowhere (Which, I found to be strange in both cuts) as a singing Frog, who briefly has the Frogs in the pond sing for 3 or 4 seconds, and man does that scene feel more forced in this cut, than it did in the original cut. With that aside, I can't fault Earl Jones's narration otherwise. Oh, and while we're on the topic of James Earl Jones being the narrator, is it just me, or is the film that's a Frog parody of 007, is also parodying "Star Wars" as well? The villains kickass theme music is a little similar to the Empires theme; the Guards that Freddie and friends take on that wear goofy masks, are as idiotic as the Stormtroopers in "Star Wars"; Freddie and Scotty disguise themselves as the guards to save Daffers, like how Han and Luke disguised themselves as troopers to save Princess Leia; and you once again have James Earl Jones narrating the U.S. cut. To make things even more Star Wars-ish, the villain El Supremo voiced by Brain Blessed, would later on voiced Boss Nash in the "Star Wars Prequel Trilogy". So not only is this film a fantasy fairy tale that parodies 007, but it also parodies "Star Wars" as well.


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One of the many things that I hate about the U.S. cut is the characters don't get to shine as much as they did in the U.K. cut. Now there were a few cuts and changes that I thought were necessary. Some of Freddie's jokes and comments didn't feel needed (Such as the Haggis joke; and commenting on the flying bug gadget landing on Daffers breasts, for example); the pointless talking Crow characters having Crow-like accents in the U.S. cut is a lot more fitting, as well as sounding funnier, comparing it to the racially stereotyped black voices in the U.K. cut; and cutting the joke when Daffers randomly flashes Freddie is without a doubt in my mind necessary, especially when being marketed towards kids. However, there were still a lot of things that were cut out, that made the characters seem bland. I enjoyed them ok when I saw this cut as a kid, but I enjoy spending time with them a lot better in the U.K. cut, despite a few scenes. Scotty gets a lot more humorous moments in the U.K. cut; my favorite being when he makes the same mistake twice as he throws away machine guns that fortunately don't go off, when earlier on in the film when he threw his Pistol away, it did go off. We get to see more of Daffers in the U.K. cut as she uses her computer location gadget; hits on Freddie; use her karate skills; and see her pretending to be brainwashed when El Supremo sends her to be brainwashed. I must say though the Brainwashing process in the U.K. cut makes no sense, nor do we find out how Daffers manages to not get herself brainwashed. However, in the U.S. cut, El Supremo just sends her to be Brainwashed, and when we see her again as Freddie saves her; we think she is, but we find out she's not, which just came out of left field. At least in the U.K. we already know that she's pretending, as well as convincing Messina that she is under her control. Another scene in the U.K. cut that never made it into the U.S. cut, is the scene when Freddie lies to his friends about the enemy stealing Windsor Castle and tells them the truth when they are inside the real target Big Ben; and as Freddie tells them his exact plans of distracting the Brigider so they can penetrate inside the villain's headquarters instead of flat out capturing the henchman, they're outraged that he lied to them, and Daffers even tries to contact the Brigider. While it was obviously cut because of the recent fire at Windsor Castle, as well as for time; I actually did wish they kept the scene in. We get to see more humorous moments with the Brigider; we understand what Freddie's exact plan is (Even though kids, including myself, already understood the plan in the U.S. cut); and we see the group in their first and only conflict with each other, which is interesting. Now why they decided to stay with Freddie after he told them the truth, is sadly something that we never find out. Another scene and sub-plot that was cut out of the U.S. version is the subplot and character of one the Brigider's men being a spy for the villain, who is voiced by Johnathan Pryce. Despite not doing much from what we see, he was a fun and mischievous looking character. In the U.S. cut on the other hand, he gets only one line of a dialogue; just stands there looking suspicious; and completely disappears at the end, making you wonder what happened to him, and why he looks so damn suspicious. For me the stupidest cut out of all the cuts I just mentioned is when Freddie's car accidentally falls on top of people. In the U.K. cut they survive; in the U.S. cut they look like they just died. Oh, and one more thing, we see Freddie have more past visions of his Father in the U.S. cut, however, we keep seeing the same recycled footage from the U.K. cut (That also shows up in the U.S. cut) over and over again, which is pointless, annoying, and lazy.

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One of the most heavily cut sequences in the U.S. cut is the villain song "Evilmainya". While the musical sequence in the U.K. cut took place before Freddie and friends go inside Big Ben as its being taken away; we see the musical sequence in the U.S. cut as Freddie and his friends are being taken away inside Big Ben. The number was obviously cut for the amount of times Messina kills innocent soldiers, and having dancing and marching Nazi like soldiers, as well as randomly having dancing KKKs. While I can understand the reasons and the sensitive from people, especially when being in a kids movie, I still love this musical number. Yeah, the dancing KKKs had to obviously go, but surprisingly, if you look carefully in the U.S. cut, you can still see them! As for the Nazi like soldiers, while I can see understand why people can get offended, it doesn't really bother me. The main reason why I say that is because, I've seen Nazi undertones for villains in many other films and shows for younger audiences before, such as the Marching Hyenas in "The Lion King"; "The Star Wars Prequels"; and the TV show "Avatar The Last Airbender". For me personally, along with the stupid KKK cameo, as long as they're still treated as bad guys, while still showing what their exact specialty is (Much like the Nazis in "Bedknobs & Broomsticks" for example), I'm fine with it. However, if you're personally offended by this sequence, I'm not going to blame you. For me personally, despite the violence and racial undertones to make the villains, more villainous, I still love it for the music and surreal animation. Also the whole Big Ben sequence in the U.K. cut, is one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie due to the music and animation creating a really cool atmosphere, as well as getting to spend a little more time with our heroes. The two scenes being re-edited together in the U.S. cut has a mixed opinion and reaction towards fans of the film, and while I do think they did a nice job mixing both scenes together; we see the same recycled animation way too many times, and the continuity of mixing both scenes together is way too obvious. Just for the record and under curiosity; who is El Supremo; how did Messina meet him; and why is she always in her cobra form? Also, did Messina rule the kingdom after killing Freddie's Father, or not?



The final biggest edits in the U.S. cut is the action. The fun and entertaining action that was stupid in the U.K. cut, has gotten worse when the U.S. cut half of the things that made these stupid fights fun. The first piece of action that gets completely cut out of the U.S. cut is Freddie's first fight Messina, as he saves Scotty from getting eaten, which is actually a pretty cool fight sequence, especially when we see Freddie struggle as his head is over a pool of deadly sea monsters, who don't show up too much in the U.S. cut. We also learn why Messina turned Freddie into a Frog; and the reason behind it so she can eat him, along with his friends; and while mentioned in the U.S. cut, we don't see her try to eat Freddie, nor his friends before Freddie and Scotty are dropped into the ocean filled with monsters. The second action sequence as Freddie and friends fight against El Supremos henchman in the treasure chamber as the song "Lay Down Your Arms" is being played. In the U.K. cut, Scotty punches out a guard to get in; Freddie and friends talk to each other as they fight, which makes this stupid fight even more fun; and the guards try to shoot Freddie and his friends when they first enter, to later on using their guns as shields and forgetting that they're carrying guns. In the U.S. cut, the majority of the fun is gone and the guards don't shoot at all (Or at least we don't see them shoot), which makes the sequence stupider than it already is. The 3rd action sequence in the U.K. cut, has Freddie and his friends fight against El Supremo's soldiers again. Freddie uses his powers (Which makes me wonder, why he waited until now to use them); Daffers takes out the soldiers holding her hostage; Scotty activates a barrel shield that was hidden in his jacket (Which he demonstrated how the barrel shield worked earlier) to fight against the henchman who are even worse at firing their guns, especially since Scotty comes charging after them; Freddie comically knocks down El Supremo, who can't fight for his life; and the song "Lay Down Your Arms" is played again, which still sounds awesome. In the U.S. cut, Freddie pushes El Supremo with his magic; turns the henchmen's guns into butterflies; every soldier seems to be knocked out; the soldiers that were holding Daffers have mysteriously disappeared; and Scotty is for some reason not wearing his jacket anymore. Need I go on with how stupid it was cutting the majority of the third fight sequence? The final fight with Freddie is mostly the same in both cuts, however, the endings differ. In the U.K. cut Messina turns into a buzzard and flies away; and Freddie hears that there's trouble in Washington, which was supposed to lead up to a sequel, that would probably clear up most of the plot holes. In the U.S. Cut sadly; Freddie fights Messina as a Boa Constrictor, and after grabbing her; the scene cuts to Messina back in her Cobra form for some reason, being thrown on an electric pool and is I guess supposed to be dead, which I didn't feel like she died at all; not to mention the fact that scene of her landing on the electric poll was recycled footage from the first fight, which was cut in the U.S. version for this scene.

I must honestly say, if there was no U.K. cut, I actually would still give the U.S. cut a 2/5, for the good things it does show, not to mention liking some of the things they added and cut; but knowing that there's an original cut of the film, that may not be perfect either or good for that matter, it had a lot more to offer and show than what the U.S. version brought, both good and bad. Just the amount things that the U.S. version cut-out and re-edited is really disgraceful, plus making a film that doesn't make sense, make it even less sense. The only thing I give the U.S. cut full credit for is James Earl Jones narration, and the different voices for the crows, but that sadly isn't enough to make the film good. While I personally enjoyed the U.S. cut during childhood, I'm going to stick with the U.K. cut, and I suggest you do the same.

RATING 1/5

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