a eulogy for the movie parody?


Cinematic parody as it once was is dead. And after much searching and researching, I have found the murderer of this under-appreciated sub-genre of filmmaking.

It’s Waldo.

Oh sure, the bespectacled, striped-ski-cap-sporting little geek likes to appear anonymous, but I am positive he is to blame for the current slate of “Movie” movies: “Epic Movie,” ”Date Movie” and, most recently, “Superhero Movie.”If he’s not guilty, ask yourself this, why is he always hiding?You see, it is my assertion that the latest generation of filmgoers was weaned on Waldo in their youths. At an early age, they were trained to snoop and search page after page for the skinny little dweeb, and they approach these films much the same way. “Hey, there’s Borat!” “Oh, that’s a reference to ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’” They do not concern themselves with narrative, character development, plot, rationality, common sense or any other law, be it cinematic or logic. Just throw in a quick bodily function gag or a hip-hop reference and they are pacified.

This sad state rests solely on the scrawny shoulders of that elusive little nerd who populates the books of their youth. “Oh, there’s Waldo in Paris!” “Hey, isn’t that Waldo in Tiananmen Square?” The page is simply turned and the search begins anew. 

The decline

It’s easy to vilify Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer (the comedically bankrupt  parents of such lowest-common-denominator fare as “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie” and “Meet the Spartans.”) , or one of the 8,000 writers of the original “Scary Movie”  (7, 629 of which were Wayans siblings).. But they are merely feeding the audience what it apparently wants.How else can you explain the fact that an intelligent (if flawed) stab at actual parody, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” which actually harkened back to the days of “Airplane!” and “Naked Gun,” blinked in and out of theaters while the bottom-feeding “Spartans” landed atop the box office, making in its opening weekend almost what “Cox” earned in its entire theatrical run? 

“Cox” took the route traveled by the founding fathers of parody (that would be both Mel Brooks and the creative team of Jerry  Zucker, Jim Abraham and David Zucker – collectively known as ZAZ), which meant building an original character based on a cinematic archetype and structuring a cohesive plot that had purpose. Conversely, “Spartans” merely planted actors who not only resembled their previous on-screen doppelgangers, but sometimes merely kept their original names in case it was too difficult for the audience to get it. Then plopped them in nearly identical settings and allowed someone to break wind, vomit, belch or breakdance (or any combination thereof).

Now, apparently, mere imitation is the new parody.

Storylines are cobbled with the only motive of tying the countless references crammed inside (“Spartans” mocks not only films like “300,” “Rambo,” and “Transformers,” but also makes room for television shows such as “American Idol,” “Heroes” and “Ugly Betty,” video games, commercials and even the MTV Music Video Awards). It’s the cinematic equivalent to sitting on the couch with someone who cannot stop flipping channels with the remote. 

The legacy

Done properly, the parody film can enrich a generation with its writing. “Surely you can’t be serious?” you say. And any movie-lover worth his or her salt should be able to adequately answer that question.Take a look at some of these iconic statements made in parody films throughout the ages:

·         “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” (Blazing Saddles, 1974)

·         “Wait, Master. It may be dangerous. You go first!” (Young Frankenstein. 1974

)·         “Go away or I shall taunt you a second time. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975)

·                “ (Silent Movie, 1976)

·         “Joey, have you ever been to a Turkish prison?” (Airplane! 1980)

·         “I know a little German… He’s sitting over there.” (Top Secret!, 1984)

·         “Jane, since I’ve met you I’ve noticed things that I never knew were there before: birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights” (Naked Gun, 1988)

·         “My eyes are ceramic. Caught a bazooka round at Little Big Horn. Or was it Okinawa? The one without the Indians.” (Hot Shots, 1991)   

The future?

Has the eulogy been written for the parody, an archaic artifact left best to the memory, or is there a phoenix-like future for the genre? “Superhero Movie” does not inspire much hope. While it does boast a production credit from “Airplane’s” David Zucker, it was written and directed by Craig Mazin, who, aside from penning the latest two “Scary Movie” installments, has a handful of other minor credits to his name. Really, it does not matter who is behind the lens or the script of such films, as realized by “Dewey Cox,” which was backed by current comic “it-boy” Judd Apatow.

No, I think any future hope for the parody film to make a comeback will rest in the homes of those raised on the exploits of Lt. Frank Drebin, Ted Striker, Hedly Lamarr, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (“that’s Franken-steen!”) and others who not only made us laugh, but made indelible marks in our cinematic psyche. For they now have children of their own who may one day demand a bit more sophistication with their humor and need to no longer help their children find that globe-trotting geek so innocently named Waldo and stop him in his tracks before he kills again.

The future of comedy as you once knew may just depend on it.   

~ by usesoapfilm on March 27, 2008.

One Response to “a eulogy for the movie parody?”

  1. Kudos to you. The new parody films suck more than Clay Aiken at a summer camp for boys.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: