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MOVIE REVIEW

A heartwarming tale of a boy and his zombie

Drolly funny 'Fido' spoofs 1950s paranoia and social-repression films

I love that the MPAA has put down "zombie-related violence" as the reason "Fido " is getting an R rating. The folks at the ratings board assume we're so familiar by now with the flesh-chomping particulars of this genre that no further elaboration is necessary.

Well and good. Still, it should be pointed out that Andrew Currie's stylish satire falls into the narrower niche of zombie farce, as pioneered by "Shaun of the Dead ," "Slither ," Robert Rodriguez' s half of "Grindhouse ," and a shambling host of others. "Fido" is also a goof on 1950s social-repression dramas, from "All That Heaven Allows " to "Far From Heaven ."

Oh, and it's a "Lassie" parody, too. Really.

The gimmick -- and "Fido" lives and dies by its gimmicks -- is that a global Eisenhower-era attack of zombies has been brought quickly to heel by the forces of technology and all-American know-how. The ZomCon corporation has invented a metal pacification collar that keeps rotting cannibals docile, much like your dog Sparky with his electronic fence.

Lo and behold, domesticated zombies make good butlers -- and caddies and mailmen and paper boys. "Thanks to ZomCon, we can all become productive members of society, even after we die," intones the narrator of the fake documentary that opens the film. As with those newfangled television sets, every proper suburban household has to have one. Just be careful if the red light on the collar blinks out.

"Fido" concerns one family, the Robinsons : Bill (Dylan Baker ), Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss ), and little Timmy (K'Sun Ray ). Timmy asks too many questions in between target practices at school. Mom's starting to ask a few, too, like how come Mrs. Bottoms down the block has six zombies and she has none? Dad doesn't ask any questions at all. Like a good '50s paterfamilias, he ducks and covers whenever conflict arises.

Mom goes ahead and buys a zombie, anyway, and Timmy promptly names him Fido. The title character is played by the roistering Scottish comedian Billy Connolly , but I didn't even realize it until the end credits. Hair plastered to his head, face swathed in gray make up, Connolly remains mute the entire picture, acting solely with his immense eyes and occasional Lurch-like groans. The joke is that Fido has more soul than anyone else in sight.

Initially wary, Timmy is won over when his new friend rescues him from a pair of bullies. Mom starts to warm up to the big fella, too, even after an unfortunate incident with the old lady across the street. Still best known as Trinity in the "Matrix " movies, Moss hasn't been able to show off her comedy skills until now, and she makes Helen hilariously moving as the character blossoms from a nervous hausfrau to a confident, impassioned woman in love. Yes, this is the story D.H. Lawrence might have written if he'd lived to see "Night of the Living Dead ."

Currie re - creates the 1950s as a small, crisp alternate universe where everyone behaves, or else. It's a limited idea we've seen before, but the film makes the most of it. Henry Czerny plays the ZomCon security chief who moves next door as a strapping Orwellian Big Brother, and Baker is deliciously craven as his opposite number, the suburbanite with seething anger and no spine. "I know when you're young you have a lot of feelings," Bill advises his son. "But you have to get over that."

At moments like these, "Fido" almost wonders who the real zombies are. Mostly, though, the movie's breezy, blood-flecked entertainment, with no aim other than to give you a giggle and a shriek. And while it spoofs Commie paranoia films and forbidden-love melodramas, at heart it's a heartwarming tale of a boy and his dog.

His undead dog. There's one scene you just know is coming, and when that scene finally arrives, it lands with a satisfying pop. "What is it, Fido?" asks Mom. "Where's Timmy? Is Timmy in trouble?" Not any more. "Fido" is a good boy.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to boston.com/ae/ movies/blog.

'Related'

Fido

Directed by: Andrew Currie

Written by: Currie , Robert Chomiak , Dennis Heaton

Starring: K'Sun Ray , Carrie-Anne Moss , Billy Connolly , Dylan Baker , Henry Czerny , Tim Blake Nelson

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 91 minutes

Rated: R (zombie-related violence)

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