Film parodies that fail to raise a smile

A lamentable slew of recent spoof movies has done untold damage to a once proud – and hilarious – genre, says Ben Walsh

Your Highness, Danny McBride's woeful sword-and-sorcery spoof, which had the misleading tagline "Best. Quest. Ever.", is thankfully limping out of nationwide cinemas, still, no doubt, reeling from numerous vituperative reviews: "It's bad. It makes Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights look like a masterpiece"; "Lamest. Gags. Ever."; and, worst of all, "The script is little more than a parade of obscenities, assembled by the charmless McBride."

They're being kind. Your Highness, which spitefully wastes the talents of Natalie Portman, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel, makes Scary Movie seem watchable. Let's face it, decent spoof movies have, like John Cleese's Norwegian Blue, joined the choir invisible. For further proof of their demise, take a sado-masochistic look at Vampires Suck, last year's parody of the Twilight series, which one critic labelled "fanatically unfunny". Once again, they were being kind.

Spoof capers probably reached their zenith with the Zucker brothers' peerless Airplane!, which was full of exquisite sight gags (the Saturday Night Fever dance sequence in particular) and terrific dialogue ("There's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you'll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?")

However, it was Mel Brooks who was indubitably the champion of the spoof. The former Sid Caesar gag writer made a whole film career out of parodies, winningly spoofing Westerns (Blazing Saddles), Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers (High Anxiety, which features a gloriously deranged performance from Cloris Leachman as neo-Nazi nurse Diesel) and – best of all – horror films, with the sublime Young Frankenstein. It was a send-up that worked so well because Brooks clearly adores the genre, lovingly replicating the look and feel of James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein. And all the acting is suitably gamey, with Gene Wilder as the crazed Dr Frederick Frankenstein, Peter Boyle as the randy monster, Marty Feldman as the faithful servant, Igor, and the wonderful Madeline Kahn as the frisky financier: "He vould have an enormous schwanzstucker".

Brooks had less success with Spaceballs (a parody of the Star Wars and Star Trek films) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but then even these poor efforts had their moments.

The Zucker brothers gleefully seized the baton from Brooks, directing and writing both Airplane movies and cleverly using earnest actors – Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges and Peter Graves – and feeding them extremely silly lines: "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?" They followed this up with the deliciously ludicrous (and underrated) spy/Elvis Presley parody Top Secret!, containing Val Kilmer's funniest (possibly finest) performance as a rock'n'roll singer, and the funniest pantomime-cow sequence in a Hollywood film.

The Zuckers flogged the spoof gravy a little further with the Naked Gun movies, which lifted their best gags from the superior US TV parody Police Squad, and starred Nielsen as the smutty ("I've finally found someone I can love – a good, clean love... without utensils") Frank Drebin. The series provided ever-diminishing returns and ended with the painful Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.

Unfortunately, the Zuckers' efforts threw open the floodgates to the likes of the Charlie Sheen stinkers Hot Shots! (a parody of Top Gun) and Hot Shots! Part Deux (a send up of Rambo). Plus, the dismal Austin Powers series, the tedious Get Smart, with Steve Carell, and Date Movie, which one critic described as "deeply rubbish". But not as lamentable as Disaster Movie. Worst. Spoof. Ever.

But even these efforts couldn't prepare us for the Wayan brothers and their surreally unfunny spoofs. Scary Movie, a parody of teen horror flicks, particularly Scream, unfortunately gave the brothers a platform from which they proceeded to give us three more Scary Movies and the dismal White Chicks, a parody of undercover cop dramas.

Spoofing films is probably best left to comedy sketch shows (Armstrong & Miller) or stand-up comedy routines. The films have to stop, because like the demented scientist in Young Frankenstein points out, "It's rotten, I tell ya! Rotten!"

Arts and Entertainment
Britain's Got Talent judges: Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral