Did you ever have a canker sore? It’s painful and uncomfortable, but for some unexplained reason, you compulsively rub your tongue across it, even though doing so causes an almost immeasurable level of pain. Why we subject ourselves to this is unclear, but we’re always doing it in one form or another.
For me this masochistic impulse presents itself in the form of parody movies. I don’t enjoy parody movies on any level whatsoever and yet dozens of these low-brow shitfests have wormed their way into my personal film library. To make matters worse, I’ve probably seen Spy Hard and National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 more times than the films I actually like. I don’t know why this is happening, but I suppose in some respects I’m a closet fan subconsciously repressing the part of myself that actually enjoys the sight of Sherman Hemsley and a Napoleon Dynamite look-alike reenacting the bullet time sequence from The Matrix inside of a giant toilet. It’s a very strong possibility, but I’d rather not think of it. Instead let’s take a look at some the worst and strangest films the parody genre has to offer. And may God have mercy on your soul.
A Man Called Sarge (Stuart Gillard, 1990)
Mocks: World War II military dramas Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon
Synopsis: During World War II, a platoon of nutty soldiers, lead by forgettable "Saturday Night Live" cast member Gary Kroeger, are on a zany mission to slap-happily blow up a crazy fuel dump in daffy Tobruk. Will they succeed, or will they succumb to the madcap villainy of Von Kraut (Marc "Beastmaster" Singer)? It’s laugh-through-your-piss- hole jokery at its koo-koo-kookiest!
What Went Wrong: Did I mention that this is a goofilicious comedy of silliness? Because it is! Seriously, the zaniness quotient found here is at near toxic levels. There’s an almost palpable sense of desperation behind A Man Called Sarge. Every time there is a sped-up Benny Hill-styled chase scene, or whenever a kvetching Jewish stereotype does something stereotypically Jewish, it’s like director Stuart Gillard is right there in your living room holding a crudely made shiv to your throat demanding you to "laugh, dammit, laugh!" Not surprisingly, this was made by Cannon Pictures while it was going through its final death throes.
Although I Did Like: The exploding Hitler alarm clock.
Fun Fact:A Man Called Sarge marks one of the earliest screen appearances of Natasha Lyonne. Billed as Natasha Leon she plays an "Arab girl" who is punched in the face by Marc Singer. Funnier Fact: In 2001, Natasha Lyonne drunkenly crashed her rented Dodge into a stop sign. When the cops arrived, she told them she wanted to speak to her "entertainment lawyer."
Rips off: The purposely bad 3-D effects from the old Dr. Tongue sketches on "SCTV," and the skydiving sight gag from Hot Shots. After the Credits: An American Indian scalps German soldiers in an unexpected way.
Silence of the Hams (Ezio Greggio, 1994)
Mocks:Silence of the Lambs, Basic Instinct, Star Wars, and the "Thriller" video
Synopsis: Contrary to what the punny title and unfunny box art may suggest, Silence of the Hams is actually a fairly accurate parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
What Went Wrong:Silence of the Hams is something of an anomaly. Any film where almost every scene starts and ends with someone yelling or farting can’t and shouldn’t work and yet this film does, which is strange because it’s never really all that amusing. I think it has more to do with its washed-up cast of dinner theater vets, which includes proud American patriot Billy Zane, Dom DeLuise as Hannibal "Cannibal" Pizza (ugh), constant embarrassment Bubba Smith, a deadpan Martin Balsam reprising his Psycho role, and Phyllis Diller, who is repeatedly punched in the face by effeminate unfunny man Rip Taylor. Lowest Point: Right before the closing credits, we see the one-sheet for director Ezio Greggio’s justifiably unrealized follow-up Jurassic Pork.
Rips off: The gag where seemingly non-diegetic music is revealed to be part of the scene á la High Anxiety.
The Back of the Box Says: "[In comparison to Hot Shots and Airplane!] this spooftacular gag fest wins "Hams" down!"
Chicken Park (Jerry Cala, Italy, 1994)
Mocks:Jurassic Park, Edward Scissorhands, The Addams Family, The Last Hunter, The Deer Hunter, and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
Synopsis: While wandering the lower fringes of the internet, I found the following synopsis of Chicken Park. Its nonsensical and grammatically inept sentence structure sums up everything that’s great and horrible about the movie. "A rooster from combat comes embezzled to the owner (Jerry Cala) and carried in one villa it to the film where the usual scientist is creating a race of polli giganteschl (gigantic chickens)."
What Went Wrong: Wow, where to begin? Planned as a comeback feature for fading Italian comedian Jerry Cala, Chicken Park fails in such a uniquely fucked up way that it scrapes brilliance. Jokes senselessly barrel along without a point or a purpose, sight gags are often disturbingly surreal, and at the center of it all is lumpy Cala, who speaks in a weird, halting delivery that sounds like he’s perpetually asking a question? It’s almost exactly like a Luis Buñuel film, but without all of those needless elements like competence, relevance, or craft. At one point, we’re supposed to laugh at an unconvincing Morticia Adams stand-in (played by Almodovar regular Rossy de Palma), who pleasures herself with a severed hand. Terrible, but in a rewarding way. Lowest Point: Bypassed theaters completely and instead had its worldwide premiere on Italian television. Openly
Rips off: The 9 1/2 Weeks parody from Hot Shots.
The Back of the Video Box Says:: A comedy 65 million feathers in the making.
Fun Fact: Lawrence Steven Meyers, who plays mad scientist Dr. Eggs, went on to produce the Diane Lane film Unfaithful.
Funnier Fact: I picked the above information off the Internet Movie Database so there’s a very good chance it’s a dirty, filthy lie.
Plump Fiction (Bob Koherr, 1996)
Mocks:Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, Reservoir Dogs and Nell
Synopsis: Imagine if Pulp Fiction were a comedy and had no reason to exist.
What Went Wrong: Just how terrible is Plump Fiction? Allow me to illustrate... "Life is like a box of laughter!" Plump Fiction may not be as complex, multi-layered, or as timeless as Pulp Fiction, but it does have many hilarious references to Forrest Gump and that has to count for somethingand by that I mean nothing. Nevertheless, Plump Fiction deserves credit for fearlessly exposing that film long after people stopped giving a shit about that sweetly retarded fucker or his love of ping pong. Oh NUNsense!: What’s funnier than angry, gun-toting, foul-mouthed nuns? Well, practically anything, actually. With that said, I think we should applaud director Bob Koherr for incorporating nuns into his Reservoir Dogs parody even, though he clearly deserves to just fuck off and die.
Julie Fucking Brown and Jimmie JJ Fucking Walker are in this: Can you fucking believe that Julie Fucking Brown and Jimmie "J Fucking J" Walker are fucking in this fucking piece of shit? I mean, fucking, what the fuck?
Although I Did Like: The out-of-left-field "homage" to the opening credits of the old "Monkees" TV show.
Lowest Point: The fact that Dan Castellaneta and Paul Dinello are in this. After the Credits: A drag queen mincingly reveals that it’s been, "One long, mixed up, crazy, out of sequence day."
2001: A Space Travesty (Allan A. Goldstein, 2000)
Mocks:2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Crocodile Dundee.
Synopsis: Leslie Nielsenwinner of AARP’S Senior with Sass awardstars as Dick Dix (Har, har! It’s funny because God hates me), a U.S. Marshal assigned to travel to the faraway planet Vegan to rescue President Clinton, who has been cloned by rubbery aliens for reasons too incomprehensible to care about. Only through hitting his head on a series of blunt objects and by wearing a fake beard stuffed with spent condoms can Dix safely return the president to the Oval Office. Assisting Dix in his mission are a mumbling woman who looks like a sexy version of Eric Stoltz’s character from Mask, Silence of the Hams director Ezio Greggio as an inept master of disguise, and a wisecracking black guy whose dialogue consists of weird (possibly fabricated) urban slang (e.g. "You all up in his ice cream and you don’t even know the flavor.").
What Went Wrong:2001: A Space Travesty is notable in that even after Spy Hard, Reposessed, and Mr. Magoo, this somehow manages to remain the worst film Nielsen has ever starred in. With its unusual collection of sight gags both nonsensical and obvious, Space Travesty often plays like a cheap, Turkish rip off of The Naked Gun series. It’s so poorly edited and cheaply produced I kept expecting to see a mono-browed Superman wrestle a papier-mâché Frankenstein to the floor of a filthy basement. Lowest Point: This little bit of dialog: "Houston, we have a problem: she’s fallen and she can’t get up." Yes, why use two played-out catchphrases when you can awkwardly combine them into one immensely unfunny quip.
Rips off: The scene from The Naked Gun where Nielsen destroys Ricardo Montalban’s office and the birthmark gag from The Naked Gun 2 1/2.
The Back of the Video Box Says:: "...a hilarious comedy that dares to spoof where no one’s spoofed before: on another planet."
After the Credits: We are given a tutorial on the aural subtleties of various farts.
Funny Movie (Gyu-Seong Jang, South Korea, 2002)
Mocks: Such South Korean films as Shiri, 2009: Lost Memories, My Sassy Girl, Nowhere To Hide, The Foul King, Attack the Gas Station, and seemingly dozens more
Synopsis: Two immensely stupid cops, Hwang-bo (who has mystical wind powers, for some reason) and Gap-du, try to foil a plot by the Japanese to disrupt the World Cup in Seoul, which is attended by the president of South Korea and his lover, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.Unknown to Hwang-bo is the fact that his girlfriend, Sang-mi, is really a Japanese assassin.
What Went Wrong: Unlike many of the films listed here, Funny Movie is an ambitious film that not only includes an actual plot but it also manages to live up to its overconfident title. Unfortunately, at nearly two-plus hours, Funny Movie becomes woefully inconsistent around the 90-minute mark. From there, the film slowly becomes an action movie with occasional comic touches. It also doesn’t help that a majority of the jokes require an almost encyclopedic knowledge of South Korean film and pop culture. In fact, this should probably appeal to film nerds more than Chris Gore’s My Big Fat Public Circle Jerk did.
Although I Did Like: The personal identification system that looks suspiciously like the video game "Dance Dance Revolution."
Lowest Point: The fact that all the Japanese characters are depicted as sleazy, impulsive morons who can’t type. After the Credits: Nothing. However, during the closing credits there’s a criminally infectious pop song about a "lucky star" who dreams of becoming a "movie star."
Also Known As:Fun Movie, A Funny Movie, Funny Funny Movie, Chuckle Farm, and Third Floor Rape Factory: Behind Satan’s Eyes.
Wacko (Greydon Clark, 1981)
Mocks: Slasher movies, specifically Prom Night and Halloween
Synopsis: Detective Dick Harbinger (Joe Don Baker), a bloated sea cow of a man, is on the trail of a pumpkin-headed lunatic who is casually murdering the student body at Alfred Hitchcock High with a lawnmower. Meanwhile, in various superfluous subplots, George Kennedy harbors incestuous feelings for his hateful daughter (played by Julia Duffy), tough guy Charles Napier searches for a werewolf, and a gay elephant calls a guy in a silly hat an asshole.
What Went Wrong: In addition to being unable to direct horror, sci-fi, and Lambada- based dramas, Greydon Clark has no idea how to direct a comedy. Potentially funny gags are destroyed by sluggish pacing and inept staging. As a result, the film quickly congeals into a grating hodgepodge of mostly unfunny shit. However, the movie does have one good thing going for it, and that’s Baker. Whether pouring coffee into his briefcase or informing parents of the death of their child while dressed as a clown, it’s clear that Baker will do anything for a laugh and all he asks in return is a little smile, a little chuckle, and 500 dollars in cash. Jim Beam and Fluffernutter don’t buy themselves, you know. Lowest Point: The scene where Baker is whipped by a dominatrix while dressed as a schoolmarm.
Rips off:The Jerk (Harbinger’s family is inexplicably black.)
The Back of the Video Box Says:: "The Halloween spoof that leaves no pumpkin unturned." After the Credits: After taking a lengthy nap on the floor of a high school gym, Dick Harbinger awakens and drowsily mugs for the camera.
My Big Fat Independent Movie (Philip Zlotorynski, 2005)
Mocks: Various independent movies such as Pulp Fiction, The Good Girl, and Swingers
Synopsis: When the two-thousand pound ego of writer/producer Chris Gore terrorizes the residents of a small New England community, it’s up to the town’s sheriff (Roy Scheider) to find the ego and kill it.
What Went Wrong: Okay, I admit it. The above synopsis isn’t of My Big Fat Independent Movie (which, for the record, involves a pair of hit men out to pull a "botched robbery" in Las Vegas), but Gore’s grotesquely inflated ego does play a prominent role in this film. In the opening credits alone, Gore is mentioned no less than six times, including visual references to Film Threat, a split-second nod to his short film RED, and even an embarrassing lyric in the opening theme tune that compares him to Elvis Mitchell and Roger Ebert. This self-congratulatory tone is present throughout the entire film and is completely unnecessary, as Gore and co-writer Adam Schwartz have absolutely nothing to be smug about. In between the obvious swipes at easy targets such as Pauley Shore and telemarketers, the film simply restages scenes from the independent films in question without an apparent joke in sight. Even worse, Gore and Schwartz’s complete lack of comic timing and over-reliance on tiresome gross-out humor indicates that neither seem to understand, or even like, comedy. This is such a horrible, faintly embittered waste of time that I’m still trying to figure out why Anchor Bay released two versions of this shitty misfire on DVD.
Although I Did Like: Bob Odenkirk as the guy who lives in the trunk of the hit men’s car and always seems to be on the brink of death. Lowest Points: A Christopher Walken impersonator, an independent film-themed diner, and an angry waiter played by a Spike Lee look-alike all appeared in Plump Fiction as well.
Rips off: The white zone gag from Airplane!
The Critics Rave: "Anyone who cannot recognize the spirit and imagination which this film possesses is an idiot"Phil Hall
Fun Fact: Phil Hall’s column, "The Bootleg Files," appears every Friday on FilmThreat.com, a website owned and operated by Chris Gore!
Epic Movie (Aaron Seltzer & Jason Friedberg, 2007)
Mocks:The Chronicles of Narnia, X-Men, The Harry Potterem> Series, The Davinci Code, Piratesof the Caribbean, Borat, Nacho Libre, and every other film released in the past two years
Synopsis: Remember The Chronicles of Narnia? Well, Epic Movie is just like that except it has more scenes where Kal Penn accidentally drinks from a sewer line, more hee-larious parodies of songs that were already song parodies to begin with, and more instantly-dated references to loathsome fads that ceased being relevant six months ago.
What Went Wrong: Much like Jerry Cala’s Chicken Park, Epic Movie often plays like an unintentional deconstruction of a parody film. The movie is jaw-droppingly incompetent on all levels, and that includes the amateurish poster art looks like something a fifteen-year-old hastily slapped together in Photoshop. Writers/Directors Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg have crafted an unfunny, thoroughly cynical cash-in that aims for the lowest common denominator and still misses. So far, it’s been my favorite movie released this year.
Lowest Point: It’s a tie. About a quarter of the gags revolve around people dancing who you wouldn’t ordinarily see dancing. Also, a Flava Flav look-alike appears briefly in this which leads me to believe that even Flava Flav felt that Epic Movie was beneath him.
Respected Names Shedding Their Dignity For An Easy Paycheck: Former "Kid in the Hall" Kevin McDonald puts in an embarrassing appearance as a middle-aged Harry Potter. and Crispin Glover who is, unbelievably, forgettable as Willy Wonka. Not So Respected Names Yet Again Shedding What Little Remains of Their Dignity Because Their Phones Were Shut Off...Again: David Carradine as a museum curator and, well, that’s it.
After the Credits: A Michael Jackson stand-in dances, Oompa Loompas sing about Chuck Norris, and an unconvincing Mel Gibson look-alike criticizes the Jewish Community.
The Critics Rave: "Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg [are] the new masters of the parody genre."The Epic Movie Pressbook
Future Films By Seltzer and Friedberg:Sci-Fi Movie, Horros Movie, Oscar Movie, Film Movie, Porno Movie, Musical Movie, The Life of david Gale Movie, Low-Budget Movie, Hastily Written Movie, Ill-Advised Movie, Not Nearly As Funny As Scary Movie and Parody Movie.