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Classic Ten – Greatest Spoofs


Everything is fair game in a spoof. And that’s just the way we — and some of the best minds for mockery: Mel Brooks and Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker — like it. Reveling in the absurdity of movie conventions, spoofs remind us that Hollywood — like anything else —  does not always need to be taken seriously. The ten best at busting our guts:

Hot Shots!.jpg10. Hot Shots! (1991)
Jim Abrahams of the inimitable Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker comedy trio struck out on his own to spoof Top Gun with Hot Shots!, a riotous piece of silliness that remains fresh thanks to zingers that would make Groucho Marx proud (“You have the whitest white-part-of-the-eyes I’ve ever seen. Do you floss?”) and an inspired performance by Lloyd Bridges as a loony admiral who’s probably seen one dogfight too many — “You know, I’ve personally flown over 194 missions and I was shot down on every one. Come to think of it, I’ve never landed a plane in my life.”

A Shot in the Dark.jpg9. A Shot in the Dark (1964)
Peter Sellers’ Inspector Jacques Clouseau was merely comic relief in the original The Pink Panther, but the character proved so popular, Panther‘s sequel became a veritable Sellers showcase. His catastrophically bumbling, French detective drives everyone around him bonkers, including his surprise-attacking assistant, Cato, and long-suffering nemesis, Commisioner Dreyfus, who furiously claims, “Give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world!”

Mars Attacks!.jpg8. Mars Attacks! (1996)
Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! was actually a double spoof. Based on the old Topps trading card series, the movie version mocked alien invasion B-movies of the ’50s and ’60s, but it was also a response to the jingoistic, big-budgeted updates such as then-recent hit Independence Day. Instead of national pride being valorized through all-out war with Martians, Burton’s movie roasts American vanity, stupidity, and militarism with an A-list ensemble cast led by Jack Nicholson as a gullible and incompetent U.S. president.

Shaun of the Dead.jpg7. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
A recent glut of zombie movies meets its comic match in Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, a loving shout-out to the best of zombiedom, especially George Romero’s classic series of Dead
films. With Simon Pegg’s titular everyloser leading the way, Shaun’s
best bits involve a Monday morning walk to work that resembles the slow
trudge of a zombie and a battle against an army of undead brain eaters
choreographed to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

Sucka.jpg6. I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
Keenan
Ivory Wayans’s anything goes parody of blaxploitation flicks would set
the satiric revue-style structure for later Wayans Brothers hits like
TV series In Living Color. With jokes such as Kung Fu Joe,
Pimp of the Year, and Eve Plumb — Jan Brady herself — as a militant
Black Panther’s equally militant wife (“Power to the people!”), Sucka gave a dying genre a fond and funny tribute.

Austin Powers.jpg5. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
A generation of filmgoers was reacquainted with the swinging Sixties in Mike Myers’ first Austin Powers
movie, a celebration and goof on the classic Sean Connery Bond movies.
Calling attention to the series’ outlandish contrivances (“Why don’t
you just kill him?” “I have an even better idea. I’m going to place him
in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and
exotic death”) it made icons of its throwback psychedelic hero
(“Groovy, baby!”) and oversensitive villain, Dr. Evil, both played by
Myers.

Blazing Saddles.jpg4. Blazing Saddles (1974)
At the height of his career as innovative funnyman, Mel Brooks brought the world Blazing Saddles,
which, aside from containing the first fart joke in a major motion
picture (but that’s what you get when you feed cowboys nothing but
beans), it desecrated every Western cliché like a gunslinger
coldcocking a horse — one of the movie’s finest moments. Watch it
again for Madeline Kahn’s turn as a singing Marlene Dietrich parody.

The Naked Gun.jpg3. The Naked Gun (1988)
The Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker machine found another hit spoof by reviving their TV series Police Squad!
as a feature length send-up of the cop drama. As unflappable dolt Frank
Drebin, Leslie Nielsen manages to mangle “The Star-Spangled Banner,”
impersonate a major league umpire, molest the Queen of England, and fit
into a full-body condom, all in his never-ending quest for justice. The
opening credits, with a police car going down a city street, into a
women’s locker room, and onto a rollercoster track, is pure genius.

Young Frankenstein.jpg2. Young Frankenstein (1974)
Many of the best spoofs display a genuine love for the material they’re lampooning, but none more so than Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, a virtual recreation in all but tone of James Whale’s Frankenstein
movies of the 1930s. Shot in black and white and with many of the same
props as in the original movies, Brooks pays deft homage to the
atmosphere of classic Hollywood horror even as he upends it with a
story about the inept heir to Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced
“Fronk-en-steen”).

Airplane!.jpg1. Airplane! (1980)
With only a single film credit to their names, comedy team David
Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker completely changed the face of
spoof with Airplane!,
an anarchic, uproarious satire on the late-’70s disaster movie. With
the help of Leslie Nielsen and Peter Graves, it took deadpan literalism
to new heights of absurdity (“Surely you can’t be serious.” “I am
serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”) Unafraid of combining the corny
with the perverse, and skewering everything from Hare Krishnas to jive,
Airplane! had audiences rolling in the aisles from beginning
to end, and has been endlessly imitated — even by its creators — ever
since.

What’s your favorite spoof?

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