Friday Night Double Feature: Parodying The Heroes
I’ve admitted previously that I’m pretty tired of the rash of parody movies coming from the Wayans brothers and David Zucker in the past few years. The mishmash of spoofed scenes from other movies, thrown into some sort of (hopefully) cohesive storyline, plays more like a live action version of Mad Magazine than a clever, well thought out parody, and these filmmakers are better than that. Well, David Zucker is anyway. I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive the Wayans Bros for White Chicks.
Not all parodies have to be out and out spoofs of existing stories. To me, it takes more creativity to make something original that parodies the ideas and concepts of a genre than it does to just recreate a scene someone else made and throw some punchlines in for laughs. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but there’s something to be said for creating something that is all your own as well.
Clearly, while I don’t stand alone in my opinion, there are some people who love the laughs made by recreating 300 or Scream with humor. Based on the box office returns for these spoofs, we’re probably due for more in the future, but if you want to check out some more original approaches to parody, here’s a couple of movies that are clever and underappreciated.
The Wayans Brothers didn’t have to be behind Superhero Movie the way they spoofed horror flicks with the first few Scary Movie flicks because there’s already been a Wayans-created superhero parody. Instead of outright parodying superhero movies, the most talented of the Wayans, Damon, made fun of the clichés and overused concepts that make up so many superhero stories, especially those of Batman, by creating his own hero: Blankman. What makes Blankman work is that, despite it parodying superhero stories to some degree, Damon Wayans takes a pretty serious approach to his comedic hero. We get an origin story, a romance, and Blankman (aka Darryl Walker) having to cope with a dual life all in one movie without it feeling like it’s directly ripping off Spider-Man, which was still tied up in litigation when Blankman came to theaters. Sure, it lacks a solid villain and is on par with a Tyler Perry film when it comes to the power of the community, but it’s good to see some originality mixed in with the parody.
Superhero movies haven’t really gotten into the domain of super powered teams, although there is that JLA picture hanging out there that may or may not be made. Right now the team movie is the domain of Mystery Men, which, like Blankman, is more a parody of clichés and overused concepts than any specific superhero. In particular, I love the use of the mentor figure, a role that has been personified by Liam Neeson in recent years, but is boiled down to the simple figure of the reverse-talking Sphinx here. Other enjoyable moments include the use of marketing by Captain Amazing, whose costume resembles something out of NASCAR (why movie producers haven’t figured out that’s an added way to work in product placement is beyond me), and the big debate over Captain Amazing’s true identity being hidden behind a pair of glasses (“That doesn’t make any sense. He wouldn’t be able to see [if he took them off]!”). (Yes, I know Mystery Men was based on a comic book, but that also was part of the genre parody so this still counts as something more original than a spoof)
Other super parodies: The Specials, Meteor Man, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, The Incredibles
Enjoy our Double Feature suggestions? and maybe we’ll use them in a future column.