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  Freddie as F.R.O.7 Croak And Dagger
Year: 1992
Director: Jon Acevski
Stars: Ben Kingsley, Jenny Agutter, David Ashton, Brian Blessed, Jenny Funnell, Nigel Hawthorne, Michael Hordern, Edmund Kingsley, Phyllis Logan, Victor Maddern, Jonathan Pryce, Bruce Purchase, Prunella Scales, John Sessions, Adrian Della Touche, Billie Whitelaw
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Animated, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: When Freddie (voiced by Ben Kingsley) was a boy, he was a prince in a French magical kingdom, and his father the king was a sorceror, the good kind, though his aunt Messina (Billie Whitelaw) was unbeknownst to the child an evil schemer. As his mother had died at sea, Freddie had but one parent left alive, though that changed when Messina cast a spell which saw the king fall from his horse and be killed, leaving her as Freddie's guardian and ruler of the land. But not for long, as she turned him into a frog and tried to capture him; he escaped into the sea where he was rescued by Nessie (Phyllis Logan) - and the world would hear from him again...

Movie history is littered with tales of film projects that were intended to kick off a franchise, but ended up with only one instalment, and while Freddie as F.R.O.7 could not claim to have the same level of following as, say, Buckaroo Banzai, it did become a childhood favourite for a few souls who caught it on television or had the video. It did not have much luck overall, as when it flopped in its native Britain, it was recut for foreign audiences and the Americans saw it with a new narration by James Earl Jones. The proliferation of this version led many to believe that the film was a poorly thrown together effort, and as a result it has been dismissed ever since.

But was it really that bad? If you watched the original version then you might have liked it a little better, as it was still no classic, but did offer an example of pleasingly nutty British cartooning, as there were very few animated feature length films to emerge from the country so the novelty value of a production team actually getting one off the ground was not to be sneezed at. There were a few starry names secured for voice talent, with Sir Ben doing his best "'ow do you say?" French accent in the title role, and at least the adults would recognise a few of the others, but for some reason a spoof of that most British of heroes, James Bond focusing on a French secret agent instead did not click with audiences.

That title couldn't have helped, as it told you precisely nothing about the film if you did not know what it was about already, but as for the adventure contained within, it was not much different to a ninety minute episode of Superted with its clearly defined good guys and bad guys, wacky humour and the odd song. The now grown up, man-sized frog Freddie and Messina are set up to clash because she has teamed up with the devious El Supremo (Brian Blessed shouting and laughing his head off) who is successfully pulling off a plan to remove all the landmarks of the United Kingdom and demoralise the nation. And also put the population to sleep, although precisely what these two things have to do with each other is not apparent.

Freddie is recruited by the British secret service, again why there were no native secret agents up to the job is glossed over, and recruits two sidekicks, gadget-inventing Scotsman Scotty (John Sessions) and limber martial arts expert Daffers (Jenny Agutter), who sneak aboard the Big Ben belltower as it is being lifted up by El Supremo's building stealing device. As a hero, Freddie is presumably supposed to encapsulate a certain Gallic je ne sais quoi, but too often his nonchalant reaction to the proceedings looks like he's not too bothered, and the fact that he's happy to break off from the adventure for a lengthy dance number suggests a lack of urgency. But the film is imaginative if unfussy about what it includes in the name of colourful plotting, and at worst is an innocuous attempt at starting an animation studio that sadly never came to fruition - writer and director Jon Acevski never made another film. Music by David Dundas and Rick Wentworth.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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