#1. Mel Brooks Movies
(aka Smart Spoofs)
SR-71, a band that might be terrible but that I love unconditionally, has a song called "Politically Correct." The whole song is about how the world has gotten too soft and no one can joke anymore because they run the risk of offending someone, and if you offend anyone, anywhere, you're kicked out of society. The song's catchy, the lyrics are ... OK, but the important thing comes in the bridge, where the lead singer inexplicably scream-sings "You couldn't make a Mel Brooks movie today," and then quietly follows up this thought by saying, "I saw Blazing Saddles yesterday," before jumping back into their chorus about being unintentionally offensive.
It's probably one of my favorite musical moments of all time, a guy who pauses his song to tell us all that he saw Blazing Saddles the day before he wrote the song. No follow up. Just, like, "Man, wasn't that a good movie? Anyway here's the rest of my song now."
I also love that section because he's right. You're right, lead singer of SR-71; you couldn't make a Mel Brooks movie today. Nothing like Brooks' Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Space Balls, and Men in Tights (as well as the non-Brooksian Airplane, Naked Gun, and Hot Shots franchises) exists today. Which is unfortunate, because those movies plus The Simpsons basically taught me what comedy was.
Instead, They're Making ...
The Scary Movie franchise looks like it's trying to be the heir to Mel Brooks' throne, but they're doing just an awful job of it. A Mel Brooks movie was a smart love letter to a genre (sci-fi, Western, romance, etc.). Brooks knew how to poke holes in and deconstruct a movie genre, but it was clear that he could only do this because he genuinely understood and loved whatever he was mocking. Space Balls is a Star Wars/general sci-fi action spoof that also stands alone as a genuinely enjoyable sci-fi action flick.
And Bill Pullman is, frankly, dashing.
The Scary Movie franchise has no heart. It's a series of pop culture references and dick jokes (and, yes, I'm aware that that sentence also can be applied to my entire career/personality). Mel Brooks would look at what was good and bad about a genre and shine a loving spotlight on both. Scary Movie will hire Lindsay Lohan to get in a car accident, look direct to camera, and say, "Not again!" which might not but probably does happen in at least two Scary Movies. The few times I've tried to watch anything in the [Blank] Movie series, I had to give up quickly, because every scene looked like this:
[EXT. Day- A FART NOISE is heard.]
A Wayans Brother: Daaamn. Now THAT's what I call a Big Momma's House!
[We see someone dressed like Martin Lawrence as a woman in Big Momma's House]
Big Momma: Oh no you didn't! Now where's my Austin Powers?
[We see Austin Powers. Actually Austin Powers. Just him, Mike Myers as Austin Powers, not deconstructing or commenting on anything, they just got him for this movie.]
Austin Powers: Don't you mean Lady Gaga?
A Wayans Brother Dressed as Lady Gaga (in a Bill Clinton voice): I did not have sexual relations with that Charlie Sheen.
Charlie Sheen: (To camera) Busted!
This bothered me for a long time. I didn't know WHY we started dumbing down our spoofs, why we stopped doing parodies and started just rolodexing timely pop culture references and boner jokes, but then Abelman, one of our forum members, had a fairly convincing theory. He acknowledged the fact that all of the formal "parodies" are shit, and he thinks that the reason we aren't doing smart genre parodies anymore is because we can't. Because Hollywood is obsessed with reboots, and the reboots are doing the parodying themselves:
"Looking at a movie like Star Trek, one sees real characterization developed and a new story told that nevertheless spoofs some of the old tropes and infuses the film with some tongue in cheek humor."
That's Abelman, and he's right. There's no reason to do a Star Trek parody today. If I was going to make a Trek parody, I'd make jokes about red shirts, or I'd call attention to the fact that every time a complex scientific point is brought up, it's followed up by a really dumb, simple metaphor to explain it to the audience (a common Star Trek maneuver). But I'd have no reason to do EITHER of those things, because both of those jokes were already made in the Star Trek reboot. Modern Star Trek is already winking at old Star Trek, Die Hard 4 winked at Die Hard 3, and Superman Returns winked at the whole franchise. You could try to spoof popular action movie tropes, but why do that when The Expendables is basically a series of references and jokes about action movie tropes already?
When the opportunity for deconstruction or spoof is already taken away by reboots and big Expendables-esque team-ups, there's nothing for the spoof genre to do but rolodex pop culture references and dick jokes.
And when that happens, there's nothing for me to do but complain. About everything.
Or, I guess I could just keep rewatching Die Hard until this whole thing blows over. I'll probably do that.