As Scary Movie 5 arrives in theaters this weekend, just months after A Haunted House, the spoof genre somehow seems to be going strong, even with critics totally unamused. You can say all you want about the divide between critics and audiences, and clearly nobody behind Scary Movie 5 has really been courting critics-- there were no screenings held in advance, and in some cases not even any midnight screenings for critics to file reviews in time for morning deadlines. But there was a time when spoofs worked for everyone, even highbrows folks who didn't want to admit they laughed. So what happened?
Look at the reviews for 1980's Airplane!! or the The Naked Gun or, hell, even The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear. All of them were spoofs of popular movies, all of them slightly ridiculous in their own way, but all of them beloved for at least trying something. Fast-forward to the long, terrible reign of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who got their start on the relatively well-liked Scary Movie before becoming directors on Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie and Vampires Suck, each more reviled than the last.
Scary Movie 5 has nothing to do with Friedberg and Seltzer, or even with the Wayans family who started the franchise (that's where A Haunted House came in). But the Friedberg and Seltzer era can be seen all over Scary Movie 5, from the poster featuring a bunch of faces Photoshopped badly together to the TV ads that promote a ton of pop culture references totally out of context (that girl saying "Honey Boo Boo child" has been on my head in a loop for weeks). And given some of the surprisingly positive reviews from people I knew were dreading the movie, I wonder if the legacy of Friedberg and Seltzer has made it impossible for Scary Movie 5 or anything else to succeed if, by some chance, they actually turn out to be good.
Obviously none of the parodies we've seen in recent years are on the level of Airplane! or even Scary Movie or, hell, Not Another Teen Movie. But has the bar been lowered so much that it's impossible to recover? With the old master David Zucker currently spinning his wheels on Scary Movie 5 (or, even worse, An American Carol), he's clearly not the person to pull us out of this rut. So can anyone? Or is the spoof genre just now left to the vultures, as culture moves on to other forms of comedy? Vote in the poll, and start the conversation in the comments below.
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