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Fido is a movie that starts with an excellent idea, but it doesn’t carry it far enough.

All That Purgatory Allows

The production design team captures the 1950s as recalled by TV, movies, and industrial films
The production design team captures the 1950s as recalled by TV, movies, and industrial films

The premise is that the world has lived with zombies long enough that we have begun to harness and control them. George Romero’s own Day of the Dead started from the same premise, but with a more serious tone. In contrast, Fido is a comedy and a spoof. It doesn’t have the brains (so to speak) of a good zombie horror film.

In the world of Fido, a company called Zomcon has built a business on the walking undead. They capture zombies, attach a collar that makes them subservient, and sell them as slaves to 1950s-era families as butlers, chauffeurs, and gardeners. Corporations use them to man factories, mow lawns, and deliver milk and newspapers.

The look of the movie is outstanding. Without specifically mentioning a date, the production design team has captured the 1950s as recalled by TV, movies, and industrial films. Fido almost looks as good as Far from Heaven. Every car, bike, costume, makeup job, and haircut fits neatly into place. But instead of a utopia based on technological time-saving marvels, this 1950 is a utopia based on slave zombie labor.

More Brains!

As I said, this is an excellent setup, especially for a movie with brains. If I had this setup to work with, I’d explore the topics of slavery, prejudice, immigration, corporate ethics, outsourcing, life after death, and the meaning of work and leisure. I could deal with these social issues head-on in a zombie movie that, in a drama, would otherwise just seem preachy and boring.

And in fact, Andrew Currie hits on some of these. He tosses off lines like “building a bigger fence” to keep the wild zombies out of “our” towns. People deny the zombies’ humanity while recognizing their useful human traits. There’s even one bachelor neighbor who keeps a young female zombie as his “personal assistant,” which is both troubling and funny.

But don’t look for substance in Fido. The movie is too enamored of making jokes about the wholesomeness of the 1950s. The protagonist is a boy named Timmy. When his family gets a zombie, he names it (him?) Fido, and there are a few too many “Good boy, Fido” jokes. The Zomcon logo is everywhere, which at first seems funny, but eventually it just seems implausible and desperate for a laugh.

Billy Connolly, who plays Fido, is very good, by the way. Behind all the gray makeup and wordless groans, you can still see the gears turning and hear the heart beating. All the more reason it’s too bad the movie didn’t make more of the social issues raised by introducing a new slave class into the world.

Shaun’s Dog Fido

The biggest disappointment, however, may not be the fault of the movie, but of the marketing department. The poster uses quotes from critics that praise the “deadpan” nature of the film. I had the impression the movie would play it straight rather than ham it up. So when the movie missed multiple opportunities for social commentary in favor of too-clever jokes, I was all the more disappointed.

Fido is no Shaun of the Dead, which works as a horror film, a comedy, and a romance. Fido isn’t nearly as ambitious. Still, it’s not bad, and it’s probably much better if you can catch it in a full theater on a Friday night.

But it’s a bit like the zombie paperboy: a good idea, kinda funny to watch, but it doesn’t actually deliver as well as you might like.