Monday, 22 September 2008

Taking The Proverbial: Top Five Spoof Movies

With the release of Ben Stiller's cod-epic war extravaganza Tropic Thunder hitting the big screen last Friday, I decided it was time to look at a handful of classic spoof movies that subvert and play with existing movie conventions.....

1. Spaceballs (1987): Mel Brooks' take on the Star Wars triology, Star Trek and other futuristic nonsense, given the po-faced original (Harrison Ford once said to George Lucas, "you can type this shit, but you can't read it"), was like shooting fish in a barrel, with characters including Dark Helmet (played by Rick Moranis), Yogurt (re: Yoda, d'uh), and Pizza the Hut, and a story involving a galaxy far, far away. An animated TV sequel hit US networks just last weekend. Top Quality Quote: Dark Helmet, aiming magic "Shwartz" ring at Lone Starr's privates, "Say goodbye to your two best friends, and I don't mean your pals in the Winnebago".

2. Airplane! (1980): The 70s was the decade of the disaster movie, beginning with Airport (1970), and ending with this definitive spoof flick, making a name for Leslie Neilsen in the process. A fairly simple plot which involves a veteran pilot conquering his fears to land a commercial flight when it is stricken by a case of food poisoning, it provides some of the funniest laughs ever in a movie, and some immortal dialogue. Airplane also made it into AFI's Top 100 funniest films ever, at No 10. Top Quality Quote: "Surely you can't be serious" "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley".

3. This Is Spinal Tap (1984): My personal favourite from this, or any list of comedy films, this early eighties mock documentary about a fictional British band on a promotional tour in the US for their album "Smell The Glove". Famously unfunny to rock musicians of actual bands, including Steve Tyler and Eddie Van Halen, who found the humour too close to home, most of the laughs are improvised by the 3 Americans Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, with perfect accents, setting the standard for future generations of character comedians and fans of the documentary format, including Ricky Gervais and Sacha Baron Cohen. Top Quality Quote: "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever".

4. Austin Powers Trilogy (1997-2002): The International Man of Mystery, and all-round ladies man, Mike Myers' comic creation obviously owed a debt to James Bond movies, and the spy genre, which provide fertile ground for hilarity. Shag-adelic Powers is a 60s spy who escapes from his own decade and the clutches of nemesis Dr Evil, with the help of cryogenic freezing. He then thaws out in the late 1990s, finding social mores have changed (sadly free love isn't the order of the day anymore), while his battle with the arch enemy re-initiates. Oh, and watch out for characters with names like Fat Bastard, Felicity Shagwell, and Alotta Fagina. Top Quality Quote: Dr. Evil: "Begin the unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism".

5. Blazing Saddles (1974): Another Mel Brooks classic, this satire of Western movies sends up every convention of the genre. The story involves a corrupt politician who appoints a black man as the new sherriff of a small town in the Old American West where everyone has the surname Johnson, is not for the politically correct, containing the use of the word "nigger" 17 times - it was partly written by none other than Richard Pryor, by way of explanation. The black comedian's sparring partner Gene Wilder plays the Waco Kid in the flick, while screen cowboy John Wayne refused a cameo in the movie, fearing it was "too dirty" for his wholesome image. Top Quality Quote: "You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know…morons".

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