Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Brief Study of Mel Brooks

I grew up on Mel Brooks movies thanks to my father, they (along with Monty Python) were some of his favorite comedy and were an integral part of my youth. Of course most the humor went completely over my head, but the things I did get I thought was hilarious. I decided to rewatch (or in one case watch) the majority of his movies and reassess them as an adult and see if they still work for me.

History of the World Part I

I watched bits of this one as a kid, but missed 90% of the movie thanks to my mother stepping in to say it was way to much for a child, watching it as an adult I can honestly say I don't think I missed much. From start to finish it is just crude...and not even funny crudity. There are some rather funny parts like the oh so singable Inquisition song that makes you feel so guilty for singing along with it. The entire French Revolution scene is funny (still too crude...subtle perversions people! Much funnier than the obvious) and it has that famous line that has been part of my lexicon since I first heard it "it's good to be King". I love poking fun at the craziness that is Versailles at its most decadent...it is good comedy because you know it is based in at the very least the peasant's idea of what the aristocracy was like. Perhaps I would not judge this movie so harshly if the opening scene would have been something other than masturbating cavemen, it really leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. I give this movie a 4 out of 10 (I think that is the total number of funny moments in it)

Men in Tights


This was such a favorite of my childhood, I remember many an evening watching it with my dad and giggling at all the jokes and 90s references. This was my first time experiencing the beauty of the fourth wall and how fun it is to break it, also the sexiness that is Cary Elwes. First the bad things, because deal with it! The problem with making movies with tons of pop culture references is how bad they become...well, almost immediately. Most the things referenced in this movie were so lame in 93 that it is just jarring and bad comedy (also very lazy in my opinion). Mel Brooks repeats so many jokes from previous movies that again, it is just so stale! This movie really did not survive the taking off of the nostalgia goggles, alas. For the good parts, I find Cary Elwes just the best thing ever, I love watching his smirk, sarcasm, and hearing that swashbucking voice. I found the scene where Robin crashes the party mostly hilarious, the bantering and of course the smashing the Sheriff in the face with the gauntlet is great. The scene with archery contest is mostly stale, but I did giggle at a few of the jokes. I give this movie a 5 out of 10

Spaceballs


I have no real attachment for this movie. I first saw it when I found it in a dollar store movie selection, noticed it was Mel Brooks spoofing Star Wars and thought it would be funny...because nothing is more fun than spoofing Star Wars! This movie is the pinnacle of underwhelming, there are so many potentials for funny that just seem to be skipped over and of course the same old jokes are there. It is not raunchy and off-putting like History of the World can be (which at least kept it from being dull) and the two funny scenes are not worth the hour and a half of movie. The two funny scenes I speak of are the overly polite Self Destruct announcer (only because it reminded me of GLaDOS, maybe it was her early work) and the dancing Chest Burster at the truck stop (again because it reminded me of something else, much funnier...classic Looney Tunes's frog) I give this a movie a 2 out of 10.

The Producers

Another movie I had no attachment too, unlike the others this one I love! I will admit there are some things about the recent remake that I like more (but that is another ramble for another time) what really makes this movie for me is Gene Wilder. You kinda feel guilty for laughing at this anxiety ridden and most likely autistic character having a total freak out...but if you are at all like Leo Bloom (I have a bit of the crippling anxiety so I get it) it is a little bit funnier. Max is a great counterpart to Leo, a total skeezeball that you hate but cannot stop laughing at. And of course the best part of the movie, that song...Springtime for Hitler, I break out singing it at times very awkward times...so catchy and wrong  it makes his later Inquisition song look so tame. The Producers have a great mix of high brow comedy, slapstick, and perversion that it makes for great comedy. I give this movie an 8 out of 10

Blazing Saddles

This was my first time watching Blazing Saddles and I enjoyed it. I did not find it overwhelmingly funny, but I certainly thought it was good fun! There are some very quotable lines in it (my favorite being " Hello Handsome, is that a ten gallon hat or are you just enjoying the show") the acting was enjoyable, especially from my favorite Gene Wilder...who knew that man was such a sharp-shooter. The movie not only breaks the 4th wall, it utterly destroys it, I found this very amusing at first but did think it went on a little too long. My favorite part of this 4th wall devastation was not just the 'hey we are in a movie' feeling you get when they break through the stage and into another studio...but an almost blending of realities, where does the 'real world' end and the movie begin. It can be looked at in an almost philosophical look at reality and if you discuss that in certain circles will give people an impression that you are extremely deep. I give this movie a 6 out of 10

Young Frankenstein 

I did not need to rewatch this movie, I have most of it memorized...but I never miss an opportunity to watch Young Frankenstein. It is one of my favorite movies, and one of the first ones I saw as a kid (sitting with Legend, Snow White, and The Holy Grail) I could write an entire blog about the movie, breaking down the good and bad about each scene...but I won't bore anyone who reads this. Young Frankenstein is so evocative of the classic horror: the atmosphere, music, filming technique, even the special effects are a wonderful homage that should make any fan of classic horror a little giddy. This is Mel Brooks at his best, so I will try to pick the best and worst things about the movie...narrow it down a bit. I think the best part of the movie is the beginning where Dr Frankenstein is teaching his class, such wonderful exposition and Gene Wilder is hilarious. I suppose the worst part is how memetic it has become, it is constantly quote and referenced. This is only bad because (and I am guilty of this too) I feel it makes people lazy to constantly quote other people's works. I give this movie a 10 out of 10

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