Yeah, there it is.
Today, Seth Rogen is allowed to make feature-length dick jokes and Joss Whedon's reign of audience-winking continues unabated. It might seem like modern movies are starting to become parodies of themselves, but that's not true at all. They've always been parodies of themselves. As long as cinema has existed, it's always been ready, willing, and able to completely embarrass itself for cash. For example ...
In 1984, Weird Al skewered Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger," the theme song from the latest Rocky movie. Al's version, "Rye Or The Kaiser" (the '80s were a simpler time) tells of a distant Rocky sequel in which an aged Stallone, broke and washed up, is forced to make ends meet by running his own restaurant. This was, of course, intended to be a ridiculous premise. He's not called "Accurate Prophecy Al."
In 1990's Rocky V, we find that Rocky has unknowingly signed over control of his fortune to a shady accountant, who promptly lost it, forcing Rocky to return to menial jobs, and ultimately the ring. Perhaps it was meant as cutting commentary on the fleeting nature of celebrity, or our society's treatment of aging athletes. Perhaps it was a convenient plot device to get Rocky back in the ring. Or perhaps -- and this is obviously our preferred theory -- Weird Al and Sylvester Stallone are in fact the same person. Think about it.
Not too hard, or it doesn't hold up. Only think about it a little bit. Maybe while high.
By 1991, the Terminator franchise had made Arnold Schwarzenegger a literal quip machine. That's also the year The Simpsons debuted its Schwarzenegger parody character Rainier Wolfcastle, most known for playing action hero McBain, whose increasingly dumb puns could be prosecuted as war crimes. Of particular note is the 1993 episode "Last Exit To Springfield," which opens with McBain crashing an evil senator's party by emerging from an ice sculpture and killing everyone at the table. Obviously, he first slurs "Ice to see you." Obviously.
Meanwhile, every action movie producer of the last 24 years has been bitter that this idea was already taken.
Director / famed nipple enthusiast Joel Schumacher must have seen that episode and taken it as a challenge. In 1997, he intentionally filmed Batman and Robin, starring Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. Let's check in on any random second of his screen time:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Terrible, butt-puckering puns were Freeze's first and only language. The Simpsons thought they were poking fun at Arnold's one-liners, then a real movie that cost real human dollars came out, and it beat that dead horse into the dirt. Then it cryogenically froze that horse until a cure for horse-beating was developed, brought the horse back to life, and beat it to death again.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Seriously, if you compile every ice pun into one big supercut, it lasts four freaking minutes.
Minus 20 seconds of gratuitous bat crotch right off the top.
This Reddit thread come to life cost $125 million to make. Divided by running time, a total of four million of those dollars were spent on puns alone. And that's back in the '90s, when the dollar still bought you something besides a stripper's derision.
In the Judd Apatow film Funny People, Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a beloved 40-something comedian and actor reevaluating his life in light of a serious illness. An ongoing joke throughout the movie revolves around little snippets of the fake comedies Simmons has starred in throughout his career, which made him really rich at the expense of his dignity:
It's a fun little self-aware wink to the audience. Sandler makes some goofy films, then makes fun at himself for doing it, and everyone's happy. Two years after Funny People mocked such lazy, phoned-in slapstick ideas as MerMan, the real-life Sandler went on to write and star in Jack And Jill, wherein he plays both "Jack" and his ugly overweight sister.
That cover would be right at home in Funny People's joke montage. Hell, it would be the punchline. Then came The Ridiculous Six, which wasn't just critically panned, but so offensive that its Native American extras staged a walkoff on the set. The movie featured such bitingly clever characters as Beaver's Breath, No Bra, and of course, Sits-On-Face:
The core premise in Funny People was that the Sandler-esque character spent his whole career starring in dumb, hackneyed, offensively stupid movies purely for the cash, and ultimately found that it wasn't worth it. Maybe the studios added another zero, though, because Sandler himself clearly came up with some very different accounting.
In Dracula: Dead And Loving It, Mel Brooks comically exaggerated Hollywood's increasingly bloody vampire movies. In one scene, Van Helsing and his associate Harker must stake a sleeping vampiress. Van Helsing ducks for cover because he knows what's coming, but poor, oblivious Harker has no clue. He pounds the stake in while standing right over the vampire, and gets front-row tickets to a Gallagher show.
Successive stakings unleash increasingly over-the-top waves of blood, and that's how Brooks singlehandedly kept the corn syrup industry afloat for another decade. At the time, this was considered absurd. Then in 2008, HBO premiered a little show called True Blood, a prestigious drama/horror series created by Alan Ball, who penned the Best-Picture-winning American Beauty. Here's one scene from a show that got 16 Emmy Nominations:
When this vampire gets staked, he vomits blood right onto that woman for about 15 full seconds before collapsing into gory mush, prompting another woman to also vomit all over the floor. And that's from season one. They had six more seasons to up the stakes, so to speak.
The exploding blood geyser seemed like a good gag when Brooks first filmed it. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and nobody even blinks. Not even when they get six gallons of blood straight in the eye.
Rambo started off as yet another soldier with PTSD, trying to evade capture in the hills of Washington. The character was almost unrecognizable from the Rambo we know and sort of tolerate today. John Rambo only kills one person in his first movie. There are episodes of Dora The Explorer with a higher body count. Of course, he made up for it in the sequels, with confirmed kill counts of 69 (nice) in Part II and 132 in III.
As the franchise got progressively bloodthirsty, it was parodied numerous times, including in Weird Al's 1989 film UHF, and again in 1993's Hot Shots! Part Deux. In the latter, a "Kill Count" graphic pops up during the big action scene, complete with video game sound effects while points are racked up. Ultimately, the tally passes the death counts of both RoboCop and Total Recall to achieve the distinction of "Bloodiest Movie Ever":
The counter tops out at 289, but there are only about 100 kills actually shown in the movie. Even a parody of violent films can't fit in much more than that -- there's only so much screen time.
Instead of having a long think about the direction of a franchise that began with a message about the horrors of war, Stallone quadrupled down. In 2008's Rambo, Stallone mans an M2 Browning and achieves a respectable slaughter rate of about 100 people ... per minute. In addition to wiping out pretty much everyone in the country, Rambo blows up two trucks, a boat full of soldiers, and probably a partridge in a pear tree.
Because that's totally how machine guns work.
The final onscreen kill count for Hot Shots! Part Deux -- you know, the absurd, over-the-top parody of action movies that jokingly proclaimed itself the bloodiest movie ever? 114 people.
Final kill count for Rambo IV: Rambo? 236 people. And one title.
Dan Hopper is an editor for Cracked, formerly of CollegeHumor and Best Week Ever. He fires off consistent A- tweets at @DanHopp. Mike Bedard is a comedy writer who is occasionally funny on Twitter. When he's not writing, Sam Hurley co-hosts the funniest movie review podcast you've never heard, available now on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and via smoke signals in New Zealand. He also tweets unrequited appreciation at his fave celebs here.
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