Earlier in this project--I'm pretty sure it was in the review for MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK, you can correct me if I'm wrong--I stated that zombie comedies can't rely on subtlety to be effective, that they need to reach new heights of outrageousness in order to succeed. Well, now I'm happily eating those words, having seen Andrew Currie's FIDO, a Canadian zombie comedy from 2006 that not only treads familiar undead territory, but does it within the carefully reserved trappings of the LEAVE IT TO BEAVER era.
Opening with a clever newsreel parody establishing the film's backstory (nailing perfectly the details that the WHAT DO DO IN A ZOMBIE ATTACK shorts mishandled). Set in an alternate 1950's suburbia, FIDO's zombies have been domesticated (thanks to a combination of behavior-modification collars and the safety efforts of Zomcon, the corporate entity behind those propaganda-like newsreels) and function as crossing guards, paperboys, etc. The story centers around the Robinsons, a Cleaver-ish family who've finally gotten their first zombie, which son Timmy names Fido. When Fido eats the mean old lady next door, he triggers a chain of events that could get Timmy and his family banished to the Wild Zone, the area beyond the community's barrier where hungry zombies roam free.
Director Currie, along with fellow screenwriter Robert Chomiak, have crafted an absorbing, multi-layered boy-and-his-zombie tale that tends to lag a bit as it nears its third act, but the engaging characters and admirably-nuanced setting keep it engrossing throughout. Stand-out performances include K'Sun Ray as Timmy, Tim Blake Nelson as a former Zomcon employee with a zombie girlfriend, and Dylan Baker as Timmy's zombie-phobic dad, but top honors go to Billy Connolly who portrays the title role as a warm-hearted Bub from DAY OF THE DEAD. Currie gets plenty of humor out of both zombie tropes (such as schoolchildren practicing their head-shots during "outdoor exercises") and 1950's imagery (like rear-projection backgrounds in cars, or Timmy's parents' separate beds), which also nullifies my theory that flesh-eating ghouls can't work within a McCarthy-era backdrop.
Funny and original, FIDO is a shining example of just how versatile the zombie subgenre can be.