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To Blee or Not to Blee: What Makes Spoofs So Bad?

To Blee or not to Blee? That is the question that preoccupies my conscience. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the outcry over bad jokes, the distastes, and the lack of quality of a thousand critiques of parody films or, by opposing, end them.

Well, summer has come again and with it comes the competition formed by low-budget, low-quality parody films. Costing only $10 to $20 million to make (compared with their $140 million counterparts), the spoof is as surefire a success as the romantic comedy. If you make it, they will come.

However, as far as the critics go, an unwritten rule is ‘If you make it, they will groan.’ Groan can be replaced by snore, slash, rip, or walk out.

Today Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me hits theatres and audiences with a bunch of laughs and deals a double low blow to critics: a sequel and a spoof. Why me?

Now, although I hated the first Austin Powers movie, I have to really wonder one thing. Is the 2-2 and 1/2 star rating on a spoof mandatory? Do we ever laud these films?

We know that the audience likes them, and we know that we can’t really stand them, but what exactly is it about a parody film is it that we can’t stand. I groan about AP2, yes, but only because I didn’t like the first and don’t expect to like the second. I do, however, have fond memories of watching the Naked Gun trilogy with my two sisters and laughing riotously. I remember noting the vast differences between the editing and unedited versions of Airplane!. I remember liking these things.

Now, I actually try to avoid reviewing them. It’s too risky. If I put out a supremely negative review of a parody film, I get flamed by the people who enjoy it. If I put out a highly positive review, I get razzed at by high brow intellectuals who claim these films are stupid and immature.

So, since no critics seem to be taking the side of the parody film, and since no one seems able to make a case for it, I guess the responsibility falls on me.

Why do we hate parody films so? We call them stupid and immature, but are they really that dumb?

Take, for instance, There’s Something About Mary, a spoof/satire of your basic romantic comedy. Across the board, people raved that it was funny, if only because we enjoyed it. We tried to cover it up by saying that it was going back to a classic comedy form (Marx Brothers, etc.), but we said it was good because the scene with the dog on speed almost made us choke to death.

Now let’s take Airplane!. The highly underappreciated 1980’s spoof of the Arthur Hailey book Runway 108 had some of the most intelligent (and unintelligent) jokes I’ve seen on film. For instance, take the old lady who chastises someone for offering her a drink of whiskey and then does a line of cocaine. Or what about the two black people trying to order their food and having a helpful woman come into the conversation and act as an interpreter by saying, ‘I speak Jive.’

Granted, we had terrible acting, but did we really have that bad of a script? Was it not slightly postmodern to have a picture of Lloyd Bridges with a cigarette in his mouth and his fists on the desk and, in the upper right, have the same picture on the wall? And don’t you think that it was at least highly creative to open the movie with the Jaws theme as we see the fin of the plane fly through the air?

The point is, parody movies, at least as far as the aspect of intelligence, should not be automatically singled out as a stupid film. I often find scripts far more formulatic in the genres of romantic comedy and action/adventure, where it seems as if nothing is new.

Let’s be very honest in our opinions about parody films from now on, OK? After all, if we spend our time watching movies and passing judgement upon them, wouldn’t it make more sense to pass judgement fairly?

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