Saturday, January 12, 2013

Top 5 Movie Guide: Spoof Movies

For the latest edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we turn our attentions to this weekend's "A Haunted House" for some inspiration. The film is written by and stars Marlon Wayans, the same man that brought us "Scary Movie" and "Scary Movie 2" a decade ago (and really, the only two films from that series that are even tolerable). This latest film appears to be something very similar in tone and style to his earlier Scary Movie work, hopefully rekindling some of the inspiration that was noticeable in those films. As for the film's relevance this week, we decided to borrow its genre for a bit, the Spoof Comedy genre, and take a look at some of our favorites that have entertained us over the years.


Spoof or Parody films are those which satirize other movie genres. Just about every genre of film has been spoofed over the years, though, interestingly, you can see common trends from decade to decade. The 2000's has focused a majority of its efforts on the horror genre, while the 1980's, for example, saw big play for the action genre. While the 1970's can probably be credited for the genre's rise to fame (once Mel Brooks got his hands in the honeypot), the first spoof movies are credited the Abbott and Costello back in the 1940's, when the genre was first spoofing Hollywood horror films.

If you're older than the age of 20, then you've probably seen the drastic decline that the genre has suffered over the past decade or so. Studios have realized they can churn these things out for pennies on the dollar, putting very little effort into the writing outside of cramming as many pop culture references into a film that they can, that almost all creative inspiration has disappeared. While the genre has never been anything of a truly acclaimed art, the 70's, 80's and even 90's saw real interest being put into it. I'm reminded of a segment in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights" where Jack goes to his editor as they're first making the films with Marky Mark and the editor says to him that 'this is a real film' (even though it was pornography); when VHS is introduced and they realize they can make films for very cheap and mass produce, he again checks on their latest film, and the editor says, very passively, 'it is what it is'. If that doesn't sum up what's become of this genre over the past decade or so, then I don't know what does.

Anyway, apologies for the mini detour. Hopefully we'll see the genre again return to its glory days, but until then, hit the jump to see which films made each of our lists!

Alex Schopp -
While I didn't plan it this way, reviewing my picks, it's interesting that my favorite of this genre is the oldest title, and as the picks increase, the dates advance as well. While you won't see anything from 2000+ on here, I think this is a fine example of just how the genre has changed over the years: it's gotten considerably worse with every passing decade.

     1. Airplane! (1980)

Honestly, it was hard to choose between this film and the second, "Airplane II: The Sequel". Both are great, and exactly the type of comedy I like to see in films like this. I love that dry, deadpan style that this film mastered.
     2. Top Secret! (1984)
Has Val Kilmer ever done anything better? I didn't discover this one until about eight years ago, but I'm so glad I did. It's such an absurd film, but so funny the whole way through.
     3. Spaceballs (1987)
While anything that plays off the Star Wars name automatically gets bonus points, this film is mostly here because of this scene!
     4. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
Leslie Nielson might be the face of spoof comedy. He's just done so many of them over the years. The Naked Gun movies just happened to be a series I kind of grew up with.
     5. Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)
Emilio Estevez is great in this! Plus, you gotta love Bruce Willis making a semi-Die Hard cameo in a film that's spoofing that series (mostly 'Lethal Weapon' though, I know). Plus, there are tons of other great cameos in this film.

Ben Foutch -
There were films that fit into the spoof spectrum, that would have made this list, but didn't seem to represent the tone or spirit for what this list is inspired by. Also, I didn't realize how much my opinion changes for these types of films over time. Ask me to make this list next year, and there might be some discrepancies.

     1. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

I'll take this over Costner's Robin Hood any day of the week.
     2. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
I can never tell if the film is completely making fun of the rock/metal lifestyle, or if it's a love/hate scenario like The Cabin in the Woods. Either way, it's pure comedy gold.
     3. The Naked Gun: Files From the Police Squad! (1988)
This is a comedy/spoof classic. Leslie Nielson is in top form.
     4. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Had Meyers not have overstayed his welcome with this series, I might have inclinations to watch this more often.
     5. Student Bodies (1981)
If you are not familiar with or a fan of classic slasher cinema, do not attempt to watch this film. It is more of a testament to the time period.

Derek Clem -

     1. Spaceballs (1987)

An amazing spoof on one of my all-time favorite movie franchises. Also, my step dad is in this movie, so in a way I'm basically an integral part of the Star Wars Universe.
     2. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
One of the most sophisticated spoof movies ever made. In fact, it's so sophisticated it barely qualifies as a spoof in my book.
     3. Airplane! (1980)
All of Leslie Nielsen's other parody work sort of blends together, and I can't separate what comedic bit came from what movie. Airplane!, however, is a must-see standout in his parody library.
     4. Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)
It's so great seeing Samuel L. Jackson act like this. Such a different character than we tend to see him play.
     5. The "Austin Powers" Trilogy (1997 - 2002)
I didn't think these would end up on my list but I have to give them credit. Even though I never think about them or pop them in the ol' player, when I catch them on TV, they still get me to laugh out loud.

Nathan Hinds -
Anyone who has only seen spoof films since 2000 would probably think that it's the shittiest genre of film there is - other than Video Game Movies, of course. It's a shame too, because there are so many good ones that happened in the 70's, 80's & 90's. On the flip side, however, unlike the Video Game genre - which actually has several promising projects lined-up for the near near future - I'm afraid the spoof genre's best days are well behind it.

     1. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

It's a spoof of the rock & roll lifestyle, but what makes it so effective is how close it is to the truth as well. This is one of the greatest comedies of all time.
     2. The Princess Bride (1987)
Rob Reiner, who directed this film and Spinal Tap may just be the Spielberg of the spoof film genre. Okay, I guess he's only done two, but they are both masterpieces.
     3. Blazing Saddles (1974)
I've always thought how amazing it would be if this film had come out today. I would love to see how infuriated today's overly sensitive and politically correct society would get; they would probably shit themselves watching this.
     4. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
Yes, it's a spoof movie, but it's also pretty easily the best Robin Hood movie ever.
     5. Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)
This was the first spoof film I ever saw. I watched it on my own at my grandma's house one day and had no idea what a spoof movie was. I still remember thinking 'what the hell is going on?'.

Andy Schopp -

      1. Young Frankenstein (1974)

I love this movie. I could watch it as many times as I could fit into a single day and still laugh at some of the jokes! Gene Wilder is absolutely phenomenal in it.
     2. Spaceballs (1987)
If this isn't on your list then your list is wrong.
     3. Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)
It takes the literal comedy of "Airplane!" and applies it to a cop scenario in the most amazing and epic of proportions.
     4. Top Secret! (1984)
Val Kilmer doing some of his best work!
     5. Airplane! (1980)
So much literal comedy I just can't take it! I love that stuff! Keep it comin'!

There we have it, folks. From the titles above, depending how much weight you want to give our picks, you can really see the height of this genre spanning from the early-1980's to the mid-1990's. Of the 27 films selected (we'll count Derek's #5 as three films), 23 of them took place in that time frame. Two appeared from the 1970's, and two from the 00's (both of which appeared on Derek's list). Another fun fact: director Mel Brooks easily made out the best here. Not only did he have at least one film represented from each decade of the 70's, 80's & 90's, but he also garnered at least one pick on every writer's list. It's clear this man knows spoof comedy.

As for the notable picks, 14 different films appeared above, with eight earning repeat selections. "Airplane!", "Spaceballs", and "Loaded Weapon 1" were the big vote-getters this week, each earning three picks (the first two also garnered a first-place vote). Otherwise, "Top Secret!", "This Is Spinal Tap", "Robin Hood: Men in Tights", "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me", and "The Naked Gun: Files From the Police Squad!" (grammatically speaking, love colons much?) all earned two picks apiece. I see a few titles in there that could have easily been missed by viewers, so if you're one of them, be sure to catch up, at the very least with this block of films.

In closing, we really just want to leave you with memories of when this genre was at the top of its game. For those younger audiences out there, you might not even know some of these films exist, and just assume that the genre has always been what it is today: a giant waste of time. There is more out there for you. These films are the proof.

So with that, as always, we hope that each of the selections above helps to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that this genre has to offer, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!