F.R.E.D.I. is a family science fiction film released in 2018, written by Kat and Sean Olson (Max Winslow and the House of Secrets) based on a story by Garrett Brawith. It was directed by Sean Olson.
Dr. Andi Palmer (Kelly Hu) realizes her latest AI/Robotic creation, F.R.E.D.I. (voiced by Candace Cameron Bure), may be too powerful and decides to not only steal the robot but delete all of the records and research so her boss, Grant (Angus Macfadyen) both can’t have the creation or produce a new one. She takes off in her car and stashes it in an old hunting blind before she goes into hiding.
Meanwhile, best friends James (Lucius Hoyos) and Danny (Reid Miller – Joe Bell) notice the commotion in their neighborhood by people following Dr. Palmer and decide to check it out the next day after school. When Danny leaves, we find out that James’s single father, Randy (Tyler Christopher) owns a bicycle store that hasn’t been doing very well and they will have to move to an apartment soon to reduce their monthly bills.
Dr, Palmer is interrogated by Grant but refuses to tell him anything. Meanwhile, James and Danny go looking for the source of the commotion the previous night, but as it gets later, Danny leaves and James eventually stumbles upon the backpack and robot. Later, James manages to activate it and can see some of its features such as having a tractor beam, being able to fly, and of course talk. Danny comes over and the duo finds even more abilities.
James tries out a new skateboard his dad designed on the way to school the next day while F.R.E.D.I. gets him out of a jam with the school bullies by making him jump higher than anybody has ever seen on the skateboard, being captured on video in the process. We also learn that Sam has a crush on Natalie, a girl Danny is tutoring. While at the library, James finds out about Dr. Palmer and intends to contact her, but his internet searches on F.R.E.D.I. alert her former boss’s where the robot might be stashed, and several recovery agents are dispatched. The robot’s power is also diminishing, which will trigger it to explode and level an area of 400 square miles.
As everybody converges on F.R.E.D.I., the robot decides to self-destruct rather than be caught, which devastates both James and Grant. There is good news, however. The video of the skateboard incident goes viral, and the bike store doesn’t have to close, and James doesn’t have to move. The film ends as another F.R.E.D.I. prototype, with the original’s memories, comes to say goodbye to James.
The production value of the movie is actually pretty good, with clever camera tricks to give the appearance of the robot hovering and flying. Similar techniques were used in the original Star Trek (The Changeling) where sometimes you see the top part and sometimes the bottom. The scenes are well lit, shot and it doesn’t suffer from any low-budget weaknesses other films I have reviewed here have done.
That’s the good part.
While Reid Miller is exceptionally good as the best friend, the other actors suffer from a mix of overacting and not much to do. Hoyos as James does what he can, but one of the final scenes where he is crying and hugging his father feels very contrived and awkward for a kid James’s age.
The film is a mixture of D.A.R.Y.L., E.T. and Wall-e, right down to the opening sequence of Dr. Palmer stealing the robot and stashing it like the opening sequence of D.A.R.Y.L.. F.R.E.D.I. is a dead ringer for Eve from Wall-e although with a more articulated vocabulary. The bullies in the film were stereotypical bumbling idiots with low IQs and did little to give a sense of urgency for Danny and James to keep F.R.E.D.I. a secret.
Even with teenage characters, this film would probably only be enjoyed by much younger kids, who will probably tire of the movie after James and Danny discover the robot’s powers. It’s all downhill from there. F.R.E.D.I. probably should have stayed hidden.