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Posted at 10:23 AM ET, 08/18/2010

With 'Vampires Suck,' isn't it time to stop the spoof-movie genre?

By Jen Chaney

The poster for "Vampires Suck" -- the latest in a seemingly never-ending assembly line of movie spoofs -- sports the tagline: "Some Sagas Just Won't Die." Presumably, the marketing team at Fox is referencing the "Twilight" franchise, which serves as the bloodsucking butt of pretty much every predictable joke in "Vampires Suck." But they could just as easily be talking about the genre-parody flicks they've been cranking out since 2006's "Date Movie," and that were born several years earlier, with Dimension Films' "Scary Movie" series.

These comedies may be silly escapist fare, but they're silly, escapist fare of the basest, least imaginative kind. And there's one group of people to blame for the fact that these films continue to get made: ourselves.

When I say ourselves, I am referring to the American movie-going public at large, which consistently buys enough tickets to these 90-minute extended SNL sketches to justify greenlighting additional ones.

"Scary Movie," the 2000 riff on horror tropes that came mostly from the minds of various Wayans brothers, remains the most lucrative of the bunch, earning more than $157 million in North American theaters. But even when "Scary Movie" co-writers Justin Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer co-opted the cinematic-mockery concept, took it to Fox and directed "Date Movie," the financial results were positive. "Date Movie" earned $48.5 million in North America and $84.7 million worldwide, on a production budget of $20 million.

So they cranked out some more. And -- to a degree that is almost uncanny -- on most occasions, the global box office intake exceeded $80 million. "Epic Movie": $86.8 million worldwide. "Meet the Spartans": $84.6 million worldwide. "Disaster Movie," which was distributed by Lionsgate, is the only one of the Friedberg/Seltzer collaborations that tanked, earning just $34.8 million globally. Even spoof efforts from other filmmakers and studios, like Paramount's "Dance Flick," managed to more than recoup the money they cost to create.

In other words, these movies are cheap to make and bring in enough cash in theaters -- not to mention on DVD and from TV broadcast deals -- to keep them going from now until the end of time. Clearly -- as evidenced by the audience member at last night's screening of "Vampires Suck" who laughed so hard when the "Bella" character passed gas in Edward's face, I thought she was going to damage an internal organ -- some people find this stuff funny. And that's certainly their right.

The problem is that the more we happily accept lousy Hollywood fare, the easier it is for studio heads to justify not investing money in movies they deem too niche to make major bucks (please see paltry box office results for the clever "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") or to not even bother putting certain films in theaters at all (please see "Cemetery Junction," the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant effort that went straight to DVD in the States).

The only way to put an end to "Vampires Suck" and its ilk is very simple: people just need to stop buying tickets. Until they do, expect more juvenile genre-satire to keep on coming, until perhaps we reach the very meta day when someone finally does a spoof movie about spoof movies. Now that would be inventive.

By Jen Chaney  | August 18, 2010; 10:23 AM ET
Categories:  Movies  | Tags:  Summer Movies  
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Some movies don't need to be spoofed.

Posted by: kabuki3 | August 18, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

If someone were to make a Spoof Movie about spoof movies, perhaps the entire genre would be a jumped shark.

And speaking of trends that have overstayed their welcome, can we please do something about cupcakes and reality shows about cupcakes?

Posted by: MStreet1 | August 18, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't the genre go back even further? Now I know I was just a kid when it came out, but I thought the popular Airplane movie(s)spoofed the apparently-very-popular-at-the-time Disaster Genre of the 70s: Airport, Poseiden Adventure, Towering Inferno.

Posted by: cookgirl1 | August 18, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Oh - totally agree about the cupcake nonsense.

Posted by: cookgirl1 | August 18, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget all the Leslie Nielsen parody movies.

Posted by: buffysummers | August 18, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget all the Monty Python movies spoofing -- well, everything.

This is not a new genre and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. What we should be asking for is quality spoofs rather than tired old jokes being repeated for 2 hours. A good spoof movie is a commentary on the subject it is spoofing. A bad one is beyond pathetic and should be put out of its misery quickly.

Posted by: epjd | August 18, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"Some movies don't need to be spoofed."

Because some movies seem to be spoofs of themselves already.

I don't think spoof movies need to go away, I just think they need to be actually funny.

Posted by: DCCubefarm | August 18, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

cookgirl, agree re the Airplane movies. Even earlier were Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" parodying westerns, and Woody Allen's parody version of "Casino Royale."

I still like cupcakes, dammit! Just not all the mania surrounding them.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | August 18, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Maybe "Vamires Suck" sucks because movies generally the past 10 years or so have really sucked. I haven't seen a single American movie worth seeing in a very long time. But this shouldnt be a reason to abandon the genre. Spaceballs is timeless!

Posted by: pjs1965 | August 18, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Maybe if the original movies weren't so awful that they deserve spoofing, there would be fewer spoofs. I'm not concrned about the spoofs being awful - I'm concerned that the originals that they spoof make me gag. It's been a while since I've seen a film that was actually worth a buck to see.

Posted by: garoth | August 18, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

When you talk about cupcakes, are you talking about the eating kind, or ... maybe that wasn't the best way to put the question. In my mind, any "reality" tv is "cupcake" tv. Little invested, to little purpose, appealing to minds who would know a cupcake from real dessert. How about something worth watching? We can get hundreds of channels on tv now, and still I'll sit down on the couch, turn on the tv, look at the listings, and turn it off again at least six of seven days a week. At least it gets me back to reading. Now, if I could only find a really good book....

Posted by: garoth | August 18, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

What H.L. Mencken wrote a century ago is still true:

"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | August 18, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I completely disagree that parody movies need to go away. I think such an attitude is too dismissive of an entire segment of American humor and popular culture. Satire is a staple of the American humor repertoire, and satire in general has probably been around as long as humans have walked the planet.

Parody movies are funniest to those who are big fans of whatever genre is being spoofed. The fans know all the inside jokes that an “outsider” might not recognize. I am actually looking forward to Vampire Suck because I have read/seen the Twilight books/films. Someone else who isn’t familiar with the whole “Twihard” concept might not find it as funny. Perhaps Jen isn’t one of the en”light”ened . . .

I am a huge fan of the Airplane movies because I had previously seen all of the Airport/Towering Inferno/Poseidon Adventure films (Really – who can forget that classic – Airport ’77 ?) Mel Brooks is also brilliant in this genre: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, Silent Movie, Spaceballs, etc., etc., etc. As someone else pointed out, there were also the Leslie Neilson TV shows/movies of the 80s - Police Squad/Naked Gun series, etc. (remember O.J. when he was just an ex-football player-turned-bad-actor?) There are differences in tone: Mel tends to take a more reverent view of the subject he’s parodying, and the Scary Movie/Date Movie/Meet the Spartans variety goes for a more “of the moment” view.

P.S. I think Mel Brooks was the first to really highlight the “one required fart joke per parody movie” tradition, but it might actually have its origins in Vaudeville theatre. As long as there are parody movies, there will be . . . PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFTTT!

Posted by: pfallsgirl | August 18, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

the problem isnt that parody films are terrible - it's that THESE parody films are terrible... and if you want to gauge what will work at the box office - just apply the Horatio Sans test(1)... Jen, you simply dont have the same Jimmy-Fallon-is-a-Comedic-Genius sensibility that the rest of America has...

(1) - a test whereby the question is asked 'Would 5 minutes of Horatio Sans laughing at himself reading out of a phonebook be a memorable addition to the film' (we know he thinks it would be funny... that's not the question). It should not be confused with the similar 'Comic Sans' test - where we ask 'which Sans is most likely to actually make you laugh' (kind of a sucker bet really - Comic Sans CVs are always funny)

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | August 18, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"the problem isnt that parody films are terrible - it's that THESE parody films are terrible" --quintiliusvarus

BINGO. Two seconds into "Date Movie" I was done. Awful. One "Scary Movie" was enough, too. Others take a funny 20-minute sitcom idea and turn it into an unfunny, uneven 90-minute movie (cf. Mike Myers as Austin Powers).

For those remembering "Airplane," I give you Carol Burnett a few years earlier spoofing Karen Black in "Airport '75." Hilarious, and that was just a 15-minute TV show sketch. Enjoy:

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | August 18, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I find them funny for the length of the commercials used to promote them. I would never go see the movies in question.

Posted by: Roxie1 | August 18, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

For the record, I totally agree with what many of you said. I didn't mean that all spoofs dating back to "Airplane," Mel Brooks, etc. should go away, I just meant that *these particular* spoof movies should, as quintillusvarus said.

Thanks for making the distinction.

Posted by: Jen Chaney | August 18, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

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