Spoofs? Don't make us laugh

The latest crop of parody films has marred the genre

Andrew Johnson
Sunday 30 August 2009 00:00 BST

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Louise Thomas

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Ever since Abbott and Costello first met Frankenstein in 1948, Hollywood has excelled at the spoof movie. But recently Tinseltown seems to have lost the plot. Critics didn't just take their knives to the latest offering, Dance Flick, they carved it up and spat it out, making it a contender for the worst film ever made.

The critic Mark Kermode called the parody of dance films such as Footloose, Fame, Hairspray and Save the Last Dance "a whole universe of unfunny". "It's not funny, not original, not up to the minute, not one single laugh in the whole thing."

Others were less charitable. "This comedy is so bad it will make you want to tear out your eyeballs and use them as ear plugs," said Cosmo Landesman in The Times, while The Independent's Anthony Quinn added: "You don't have to be a moron... but it would certainly help."

Dance Flick is not a standalone turkey, however. Whereas 20 years ago audiences were treated to pastiche gems such as Airplane!, Blazing Saddles and Naked Gun, in the past few years they have had to endure such raspberries as White Chicks, Meet the Spartans, Date Movie and Meet Dave.

There have been a few notable exceptions, such as Tropic Thunder, as well as Britain's Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, but many recent offerings are just too clever for their own good, according to Henry Miller, who writes for Sight and Sound magazine.

"Parody reaches an audience that knows what's being spoofed," he said. "Dance Flick parodies a film that a lot of people had no interest in in the first place. Meet the Spartans was a spoof of one relatively successful film [300]. You could watch Airplane! without ever seeing a disaster movie. There were lots of gags in it that didn't need anything else because they were funny. And that's not true of Dance Flick or Meet the Spartans."

The film critic Barry Norman added that spoofs were no longer made with "care and hard work". "A spoof movie seems easy to do," he said. "But it's not that easy. You need a good script, actors and directors. Blazing Saddles is a very good example of that. The wave of spoofs we've seen recently show a paucity of imagination. They are made just to make a quick buck."

Hollywood spoofs...

Date Movie

Hollywood's biggest love of all is hard cash, and this ugly duckling earned four times its £12m budget, despite what The Washington Post called "sight gags best appreciated with a blindfold".

Disaster Movie

Aptly named. It was the worst film of 2008 according to The Times. It expired under the debris of its scattergun script, garnering six Raspberry Award nominations. But it did manage to pull a small profit from the ruins.

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"Deplorably unfunny", said Time Out.

White Chicks

Black dudes dressing up as white chicks creates a target as big as a barn door for sharp satire. The Wayans Brothers still missed, however, in this parody of the buddy cop movie. "Requires a full frontal lobotomy to enjoy" said The New York Times.

Meet the Spartans

This spoof of the film 300 – a retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae – was unprepared for the slings and arrows from outraged critics. "As unfunny as a drowned kitten", said Empire Magazine.

Tropic Thunder

Patchy exception that proves the rule. Whereas White Chicks's racial play missed, Tropic Thunder got the white-man-playing-a-black-man just about right. Skewered Hollywood and made a tidy profit.

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