The idea of spoof movies in recent years has become something dirty, which is unfortunate. With the likes of Airplane!, Naked Gun, Not Another Teen Movie, most of Mel Brooks’ illustrious career, and more, they’re responsible for some of the funniest, cleverest movies ever made. But they’re quick and cheap to produce, can be cast with unknown actors, and take aim and low-hanging fruit, which is why we too often wind up with dimwitted, subpar send ups like Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, and others of that ilk. Add to that pile the abysmally unfunny Fifty Shades of Black.
If one good thing comes from me watching this movie, it’s that hopefully I’ll be able to convince someone else not to. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting greatness. Marlon Wayans’ track record in this genre is spotty at best—though some of the early Scary Movies are solid, and Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood is sheer gold, the likes of Dance Flick and A Haunted House are better left unmentioned.
Fifty Shades of Black is best described by my experience at the theater. It didn’t screen early for press, which is never a great sign, but it’s not necessarily a kiss of death. So, I bought a ticket for an early Thursday show, figuring it is the first day after all, better safe than sorry. I got to the theater ten or fifteen minutes early and handed my ticket to the ticket taker. She laughed in my face and said, “You’re the one.” At that point, I was the only person who had bought a ticket. Ultimately, I wasn’t the only one in the theater, however, there were five total. Two walked out fifteen minutes in. Another left fifteen minutes after that. When I walked out, a dude saw what movie I was leaving of and laughed at me. That about sums it up.
If you’re even passingly familiar with Fifty Shades of Grey, you know how the story unfolds. Christian Black (Marlon Wayans, who also co-wrote the script, which reteams him with A Haunted House and A Haunted House 2 director Michael Tiddes) is a wealthy businessman with a dark sexy secret. When he meets the homely innocent virgin Hannah Steele (Kali Hawk), he falls for her and she falls into his secret web of sexy times, whips, handcuffs, and spanking.
What follows are the laziest attempts at humor you’ve ever seen. There are black jokes, white jokes, gay jokes, fat jokes, incest jokes, roofie and water-boarding jokes, and they say the word “vagina” as if it’s a punch line. Surprisingly, there aren’t any fart jokes. There are dildos, swollen prosthetic balls, fake wangs, and repeated gags that, if you have lived through the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon in any way, even obliquely, are already stale and dated. Or maybe a Taylor Swift joke and a character that is a parody of The Weeknd (with one of the aforementioned prosthetic wangs) are super edgy. They’re not.
Admittedly, every once in a while there is a laugh. I laughed—and by laughed I mean even as minor as a chuckle—six times. I kept a tally; it wasn’t hard. One was a poop joke, and one was a Soul Plane joke. I’m human, after all.
For the most part, this never strays too far from mocking the original Fifty Shades, but occasionally, Black delves into other territory. There’s a Magic Mike scene with some swollen balls, a Whiplash gag that no one who sees this movie will get (and it involves Florence Henderson), and Jane Seymour shows up to spout some tired racist jokes, which just makes me sad.
Clocking in at 92-minutes, Fifty Shades of Black should fly by, but it plods on and on and on as jokes that miss the mark in the first place are dragged out exponentially, the actors sleep walk through the empty steps of Fifty Shades of Grey (there’s a “torture” scene where Christian reads to Hannah from the book), and nothing interesting or amusing happens. Ever.
There is absolutely nothing to recommend Fifty Shades of Black, unless you’re a Marlon Wayans completist. This is super cheap and will probably make enough money that it won’t kill the genre, but goddamn we can hope it does. At best, it’s dull and boring. At worst, it just feels mean-spirited, hateful, and so much lower than the lowest-common denominator. This is, being generous, thirty minutes worth of material stretched out to feature length. Full of every last stereotype you can name, without anything clever or even remotely interesting to say about them, Fifty Shades of Black is dull, dimwitted, and, worst of all, not even remotely funny.
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