'Fifty Shades of Black'
How do you even review a movie like ‘Fifty Shades of Black’? Pointing out that it’s stupid barely even feels relevant. Of course it is. That’s the type of parody comedy that the Wayans clan has been selling to audiences for decades now.
I could acknowledge that it’s lazy, but not significantly lazier than the movie it’s parodying. I guess my displeasure with the thing simply comes down to the fact that I barely laughed. There were a couple of chuckles, but given the joke-a-second comedy style that the Wayans brothers pulled from the Zucker brothers, it should be nearly impossible for every joke to pass by in stony silence. The batting average is low, embarrassingly low. It’s a pretty rough comedy to sit through.
Clearly, these movies work for someone. The grosses for Marlon Wayans’ ‘A Haunted House’ movies prove that. It’s unlikely those audiences spend much time monitoring movie reviews, though. For everyone else, I simply insist that you stay away. Chances are you were already planning on it, but it’s still worth mentioning for safety.
So, the plot… Well, it’s the plot for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, almost scene-for-scene, only with wackiness inserted! That’s how Wayans did it back in the ‘Scary Movie’ days and it was confusing since ‘Scream’ was already close to parody (or at least a satire). This time, it’s strange simply because ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ pretty much played like an accidental comedy for those who weren’t blown away by E.L. James’ naughtiness (i.e. anyone with internet access who can spell the word “bondage”).
Of course, the silliness added to the plot is as silly as humanly possible. Kali Hawk plays the demure college student who interviews a mysterious rich man named Christian (Marlon Wayans, naturally) for her school paper. That interview turns into flirting, which then turns into stalking from Christian, which then turns into a sexual odyssey between a prudish young girl and a dude who loves himself some whips ‘n chains. Yadda yadda yadda… love comes in all forms and other BS.
Yeah, it’s the dumb plot of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ with extra dumb humor piled on top. Get this, the parody Christian is horrible at sex and finishes quickly with all sorts of horribly embarrassing noises. Isn’t that hilarious? I sure hope you think so because you’re going to see that joke repeated a number of times and played out painfully long each time. Also, isn’t it hilarious to hear fart noises or see underwear with brown stains? Buckle up! I bet you’d like some mini-parodies of ‘Magic Mike’ and ‘Whiplash’ to pad the running time? No? Well too bad, that’s happening anyway. You’ll also see a lot of flailing around on the floor in the name of slapstick, hear a few dirty words (sometimes spoken by the elderly for extra funniness!), and you’d better believe that benign household objects will be sexualized. This is a broad sex comedy after all, so everything must be dirty!
As expected, Wayans and his writing/directing collaborators go for the easy jokes every time, then repeat them, call them back, and do them louder. Its low comedy, the lowest even. It’s outrageous without being edgy, silly without crossing the line into the surreal, hinting at larger issues without ever engaging in a dialogue with them. You know, the safe stuff.
Admittedly, a few jokes landed for me, which was a pleasant surprise since I was starting to forget what laughter felt like. Much of that was a result of the fact that Marlon Wayans is an immensely likable performer. When he’s gotten a chance to expand beyond his dumb-dumb parody movies in, say, ‘Requiem for a Dream’ or ‘The Ladykillers’, he’s been great. Unfortunately, he rarely gets hired for that and so he’s created a cottage industry out of keeping parody movies alive. They’re pretty dull, but he’s having fun and is occasionally fun to watch. It’s a shame he hasn’t gotten a decent role in a decent movie in over a decade.
Other comedy ringers like Fred Willard pop up, and that helps, even if it reminds you that you could be watching other, funnier movies and that’s sad. Still, it’s better than deliberately racist jokes shoved into the mouth of Jane “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” Seymour. The less said about that the better.
Really, the less said about the movie the better. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a lazy parody movie. Sure, it would be great to live in a world where parody movies were as funny as they were back when the likes of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and the Zucker brothers invented the form. But that’s just dreaming. Aside from the occasional surprise like ‘Black Dynamite’ or ‘MacGruber’, the genre is the home to lazy comedy writers who don’t have any better ideas and know they can sell a parody.
On the plus side, at least Marlon Wayans and his gang are more tolerable than the likes of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (who mercifully seem to have finally gone away). Wayans and his team at least try to make their barrel-scraping chuckle-fests competently. That’s not saying much, but it’s the best I can do. ‘Fifty Shades of Black’ was a rough sit for me, no doubt about it. Still, I guess I can see the appeal for folks who like their jokes to be fast, obvious and easy. Plus, the movie is at least a funnier and less painful experience than ‘Dirty Grandpa’. In the wake of that comedic abyss, ‘Fifty Shades of Black’ isn’t the worst comedy playing in theaters right now. That’s something. Hopefully it doesn’t provide Robert De Niro with the motivation to hop aboard the next Marlon Wayans flick.