Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When Comedy Fails: Two reviews by SC magazine contributor Mike Sullivan

With Meet the Spartans looming ominously over the horizon, I felt it was necessary for people to realize that not every parody movie is as excruciating as those that are written and directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Typically, they’re much worse.

Nonetheless, in honor of the notly anticipated Meet the Spartans, let’s take a look back at some of the worst films this justifiably maligned genre has to offer starting with this justifiably unknown and barely released Italian misfire.

Mocks: Jurassic Park
Directed By: Jerry Cala

Synopsis: Jerry Cala, the pudding that walks like a man, plays a destitute chicken breeder who travels to the Dominican Republic in order enter his rooster in competitive cockfights. After a successful match, Cala’s “cock is stolen” by a pair of thugs named Jelly and Beans (Tee, hee!). The thugs turn out to be working for a short, lisping scientist named Dr. Eggs (Lawrence Steven Meyers who supposedly went on to produce the Diane Laine vehicle Unfaithful) who is creating a race of giant, prehistoric chickens.

What Went Wrong:
Mocks the Russian Roulette scene from The Deer Hunter by replacing the original film’s iconic revolver with six hand grenades filled with soda.

All of the female characters lust after Cala even though he looks like he’s melting and sounds like he’s perpetually asking a question.

Openly rips-off the 91/2 Weeks parody from Hot Shots and then attempts to outdo the original spoof.

Tries to wring laughs out of a scene in which Thing from The Addams Family fingerbangs (Thing-er-bangs?) a Morticia look-a-like (Rossy de Palma) as she watches footage of a botched surgery.

Endless moments where jokes and sight gags barrel along without a purpose or a punchline such as the scene where Cala boards a plane in which half of the passengers are monsters, the bit where an American Indian hatches from a giant egg and the unmotivated cameos from Sherlock Holmes, Jaws, The Yellow Submarine and Mandrake the Magician’s assistant Lothar.

The Final Word: Equal parts grating and disturbing, the film’s mere existence answers the question: “What if somebody took Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou and dubbed in fart noises and cartoon sound effects over the original soundtrack?”

The Helix…Loaded (2005)
Mocks: The Matrix Trilogy
Directed by: A. Raven Cruz

Synopsis: In this severely muddled and convoluted movie, a group of stoners led by Nuvo (Keanu Reeves sort-a-look-a-like Scott Levy) and Theo (Vanilla “Fucking” Ice) discover a new designer drug called the Helix that, if used properly, can give its users a deep sense of enlightment. Aiding them in their quest are a pair of mysterious yet familiar characters named Infiniti (Samantha Brooke) and Orpheum (Dana Woods) who are searching for someone who can take the Helix without going insane. Unfortunately, events are complicated by Smack, Crack and Jonesin a trio of ill-defined, FBI drug agent cyborgs (or something) who will stop at nothing to acquire the Helix for their own faintly nefarious purposes.

What Went Wrong:
Tries to wring comic possibilities out of an obvious and dated target.

Struggles under the impression that movie references = jokes.

Gives us terrible dialogue that sounds like it was written by a random catch phrase generator (such as, “I see rabbit people,” “You’re making me sober…you wouldn’t like me when I’m sober” and “The first rule of the Helix is: you don’t talk about the Helix”).

Attempts to compensate for the terrible dialogue by encouraging the cast to mug uncontrollably and speak in silly voices.

Turns Lawrence Fishburne’s character into a midget (who later does a Brando impression for no particular reason).

Gives Carrie-Anne Moss’s character a penis.

Two words: Vanilla Ice.

Gives an inexplicable nod to the Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle one-sheet.

Fun Fact: Believe it or not, The Helix..Loaded somehow managed to have its worldwide premiere at Graumannn’s Chinese Theater. Not bad for a movie that’s basically just an expensive fan film.

The Final Word: The essence of the story, for a film like this which is parody and slapstick and kind of goofy and silly, it’s really kind of a underlying tone; and this is kind of something that is very dear to me: the self’s journey, the journey toward self-discovery, the awakening of the hero’s journey. And through this silly little method we have encoded underneath it a much larger, metaphorical mythology, and that is: every person is seeking throughout their lives a happiness or fulfillment.

- A. Raven Cruz on his film The Helix…Loaded

Mike Sullivan