The Death of the Spoof Movie

The days of Airplane, The Naked Gun and Top Secret are long behind us, laments Ron. Meet The Spartans simply doesn't help...

Last night, while flipping through the channels in a vain attempt to find something boring enough to put me to sleep, I stumbled across a little film called Epic Movie. It’s one of the many, many “Adjective Movie” spoof films that have been released in the wake of Scary Movie. I have to be honest. I love spoof films, but when you watch something and say to yourself, “Man, Scary Movie 3 is so much funnier than this,” then it’s time to pronounce the genre officially worn out.

Can we just stop? I know these films don’t cost anything to make, and it doesn’t take a genius to say, “LOL, Harry Potter is old,” so writing them is as simple as getting a couple of jackasses together in a room with a case of beer and a stack of genre DVDs. The whole genre, after a break in the 90s, is getting a serious beating, and I think it’s time to let the horse rest (or at least cast Leslie Nielsen more often).

I haven’t seen Meet the Spartans, but honestly? I know it’s not going to be that good, and this is coming from a Kevin Sorbo fan. If it’s anything like Epic Movie, I’ll spare myself the intense pain. Epic Movie makes Hot Shots Part Deux look like Get Smart, for crying out loud! The only thing a spoof movie has to be is funny, and this was completely not funny. Not even the presence of one of The Kids in the Hall could make me laugh.

In fact, I think seeing Kevin McDonald as Harry Potter just kind of made me sad for him, because I know you could beat him in the head with a frying pan for 45 minutes, and once he came out of the coma he could still write something better than Epic Movie. Can we just not spoof things for like… five years, then give it another try?

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The genre seems to run in cycles of good and bad, except this time the bad cycles are still getting put on big screens, rather than going straight to video like a Plump Fiction or a Scream If You Know What I Did Last Halloween. The early/mid-90s was a great time for spoof movie fans, with The Naked Gun series in full swing, Hot Shots! making waves, and the underrated National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 filling out the genre spoof lineup. Even before then, if you consider stuff like Caddyshack a parody of sports films, Top Secret!, and Airplane!, spoofs were big for a good 15 year period from 1980-1995. Even on TV, where underrated gems like Police Squad and the accumulated works of Rowan Atkinson held forth.

As much as I’m tempted to blame the Wayans Brothers for this, Scary Movie wasn’t completely awful, and Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka are both spot-on parodies of urban/blaxploitation films. Nothing amazing, but a damn sight better than the garbage streaming in cinemas at the moment.

So I turned to a friend of mine, who pointed out the answer I’d been missing all along.

The Keyser Soze who killed satire is David Arquette. The death of satire began on September 8, 1971. You see, the movie that effectively killed satire was Scream, as it broke the line between funny and serious with its fourth-wall crushing kick to the balls of horror. After Scream, David Arquette killed professional wrestling, B-movies, police movies, AM radio, my will to live, and through his wife Courtney Cox, he even managed to kill the network sitcom. He’s like Typhoid Mary, except typhus can be funny.

Is there hope on the horizon? No. Not really. It’s looking bleak. The only live-action satire program on TV right now is the awful Reno 911 (oh Thomas Lennon, you have really and truly disgraced the name of The State), and we have all seen just how well Meet the Spartans and whatnot have done at the box office. The mediocre fart-joke infested satire is here to stay, I guess.

There’s been one satire I’ve laughed at in the last five years, and it’s not a proper movie. It’s not even a television show. It’s a simple one-minute-long advertisement for Mountain Dew starring someone who I’d assumed would be completely and totally devoid of any sense of humour about himself.

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Ron Hogan is really enjoying the lovely and talented Lena Heady’s body… of work on TV. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics, and PopFi.