4 Mel Brooks Moments That Are Kind of Meh Brooks
Mel Brooks is a national treasure.
There. With that truth out of the way, can we admit that not everything Brooks touches has turned to comic gold? The same man who brought us Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Broadway’s The Producers and the 2,000-Year-Old Man has his share of stinkers as well. Here are four times when the great Mel Brooks was simply Meh, Brooks.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Is there any more unlikely comedy superstar than Leslie Nielsen? His super-serious, borderline wooden acting style made him a perfect authority figure in 1970s cop shows and disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure, but it took the creators of Airplane! to realize that his deadpan delivery was perfect for silly punchlines. The key to it all: It was funny because Nielsen was so serious.
But something unfortunate happened as Nielsen found comedy stardom in Airplane! and the Naked Gun series of movies. Some people, including Brooks and probably Nielsen himself, decided Nielsen was a zany guy. Now he mugged his way through movies like Dracula: Dead and Loving It, making crazy faces while bonking his head on chandeliers. Nielsen and Brooks were two older comedy legends who seemed to have forgotten how this all works. “If any movie proves that Mel Brooks’ genius for skewering creaky genres has evaporated,” said a review in USA Today, “it’s this anemic attempt to draw new blood from low-flying vampire high jinks.”
Spaceballs: The Animated Series
If we’re being honest, the original Spaceballs was already pretty mid. Creating an updated version decades later featuring an animated Brooks as Yoda stand-in Yogurt? Well, watch for yourself.
The animation is awful. Brooks is back, but most of the original’s biggest comedy stars — Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, the late John Candy — are not. G4 was the best home Brooks could find for this effort. IMDb’s featured review says, “Far from a continuation of the beloved cult classic, this abomination is nothing more than a platform for big boobs and masturbation jokes.” And not very funny ones at that.
Brooks cameos in other people’s films from time to time, but it isn’t often that he takes a starring role as he does in the Italian Screw Loose. Brooks is a World War II veteran pulled from a sanitarium to reunite with a European man he saved during the war. The character’s literal craziness is meant to be played for comedy, but oy. For a taste of what Brooks has to offer, check out this scene of Brooks wooing a much younger woman by 1) offering her a flower; 2) burying his face in her crotch; and when that doesn’t work, 3) burying his face in her cleavage. WAY more creepy than funny.
Feuding with Gene Wilder
The original idea for Young Frankenstein came from Blazing Saddles star Wilder, who brought his story to Brooks. He loved it, and the two developed it into the award-winning comedy film. Wilder was a first-time writer so he was all too happy to share “Story By” and screenplay credits with the well-established Brooks.
But Wilder was less happy when he found out Brooks was planning to follow up his Producers triumph on Broadway with a musical version of the script that Wilder had originated, Young Frankenstein. When Wilder found out, according to the biography Funny Man: Mel Brooks, the two old friends didn’t speak for a week. The show was ultimately billed as “The New Mel Brooks Musical, Young Frankenstein.”
Wilder forgave and forgot — he would still make money if the musical was a hit — but the credit grab stung. “Mel was always driven by money,” Wilder said. “Even after he started earning good money, he was still so driven by it.”