Let’s Face It: We Will Never Appreciate Good Satire
Alright, you guys, it’s time for a little sit down – an intervention, if you will. I’ve gathered all of your closest friends and relatives (as well as a gaggle of top movie executives and investors) to help you through this difficult time, but also to highlight the ways in which your problem has affected us all over the years.
What’s that? You say you’re not sure what the problem is? Well, they say that the first step in recovery is admitting that there’s an issue, so let me spell it out for you: You don’t seem to “get” satire (or you’re just turning a blind eye to it) and it is killing how comedies are being made.
Over the weekend, The Lonely Island – you know, the trio of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Shaffer behind such classic parody songs as “Jack Sparrow”, “Threw it on the Ground” and “I’m on a Boat” (and every memorable SNL Digital Short from the past decade) – released their first feature film, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. It’s been hailed as everything from “a breath of silly, brilliant, larger-than-life air” to “the best mockumentary since Spinal Tap” and is currently sitting on a 77% “Fresh” rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, and yet YOU DIDN’T WATCH IT. Not you, not your sister, not your uncle Moe with the gimpy leg who is always offering people cough drops for some reason. NONE OF YOU.
Surely it performed on par with whatever microwaved dog sh*t the Seltzer-Friedberg team is serving up these days, right? Wrong. WRONG. Popstar actually b-boyed its way to a paltry $4.6 million opening here in the states, which is lower than almost every “Movie” movie that’s ever been shat onto this Earth by a member of the Canis familiaris subspecies and then reheated in a microwave at a later time. Even worse than its haul was Popstar’s B rating on Cinemascore, which brings into question if we can even trust the same people who gave The Blindisde an A+ anymore.
Filmdrunk’s Vince Mancini attempted to make sense of the madness, and I think he sums up the sad situation that your problem has created rather nicely.
“Adjusted for inflation, that’s actually worse than Walk Hard‘s $4.1 million opening in 2007, which is honestly the last spoof before Popstar I can remember being worth a shit (it’s worth noting that Popstar had a significantly lower budget, $21 million vs $35 million). Popstar‘s opening was worse than any of Seltzer-Friedberg’s unwatchable garbage (not including the last one which barely made it to theaters), which makes me wonder if maybe we just don’t deserve funny spoofs.”
It’s hard to argue with him when you look at the hard evidence. The last movie that Sandberg truly starred in was 2007’s Hot Rod, a bit of inspired (if narratively jumbled) irreverence that made less than $15 million in its entire theatrical run. Or how about MacGruber, which took one of the greatest SNL sketches of all time (it’s right up there with Sylvester Stallone’s “Orange Julius” sketch in my opinion) and turned it into a wildly-funny feature length flick that raked in a whopping 9.3 million for its efforts. Do I have to reiterate that Walk Hard made 4 f*cking million opening weekend?
Time and time again, we have been gifted if not necessarily “smart” then at least “original” attempts at satire, only to pass them over in favor of the familiar, the mediocre, and the cesspoolian creations of Marlon Wayans. Did you know that Office Space, Idiocracy, and Shaun of the Dead – considered three of the greatest comedies/satires of the past 20 years – made less combined than Neighbors 2 – an admittedly well-executed retread of a mostly mediocre surprise hit from 2014 -- has in just a few weeks? It’s no wonder why studios like Warner Bros. are growing increasingly wary of taking a risk on anything that isn’t a sequel, prequel, or remake. Who needs actual written jokes when your audience can be entertained by prank fail videos and Vine stars aping Carlos Mencia’s more hacky material? I thank the Gods each night that Airplane! was made in a time before Zach Efron was considered the world’s most capable comedic performer (and am sure he’ll do great when the remake is announced in the next 2-3 years).
And it’s not just comedy. Just look at how the Coen Brothers Hail, Caesar! or The Witch were received. The former was a multi-layered, witty send-up of old Hollywood, featuring some of the most gorgeous cinematography you’ll see outside of an Emmanuel Lubezki joint; the latter was a cerebral, almost annoyingly-accurate horror film set in the 17th Century, and despite opening to decent returns, received two of the lowest Cinemascores of the year. The C- that both received was lower than Dirty Grandpa, The Angry Birds Movie, Fifty Shades of Black, and the same as Meet the Spartans, a movie which I feel compelled to inform you thinks an impromptu dance-off and completely intangible Britney Spears gag are not only jokes, but the best jokes with which to sell you their movie.
Do we “deserve” good spoofs? It’s hard to say, but I do know why there have only been a handful of truly memorable ones in the past 20 years. It’s because of people like you, your brother, and that one cousin of yours who retweets Jaden Smith. How can you sell satire to the same people whose music rarely rises above a third grade reading level? The answer, I think, is by sitting them down and hitting them with a combination of the facts and a rolled up newspaper until they understand the difference between this and this. Have them start by seeing Popstar.
Agree? Disagree? Think I should quit whining about movies and move out of my mom’s basement? Hit me up on Twitter and I’ll proudly defend her honor.
Popstar: Never Stop Stopping is now in theaters. It is 87 minutes long and is Rated R for some graphic nudity, language throughout, sexual content and drug use.