Monday, June 23, 2008

FILM: Action Spoofs

Spoofs tend to stride the fine line between slapstick and whatever genre they're aiming for--whether it's action (Get Smart) or sci-fi (Spaceballs). The boys behind Scary Movie, Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, have reigned supreme in spoof-making in the last decade, continuing the trend with Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and soon Disaster Movie. But some of my favorite spoofs are mainly in the action genre.

While Leslie Nielsen's dim-wittedly debonair police officer in The Nake Gun makes for a classic law enforcement example, I started to wonder what other great idiotic action spoofs have joined film history in the last decade...besides Steve Carell in this month's Get Smart remake?
[Feel free to disagree.]

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Back when Mike Myers was more known for being a stoned, music-savvy TV host in Wayne's World instead of an animated ogre, he debuted one of his most famous characters: a horny 60s secret agent brought out of cryofreeze in the 90s to face off with Dr. Evil before he uses his nuclear weapon. Out-dated outfits? Check! Mugging for the camera? Check! Corny jokes with props? Check! Spooftastic!

Zoolander (2001)
It's a cult favorite directed and co-written by Ben Stiller that is one of the most tongue-in-cheek spoofs in recent years. The movie mocks models and their pretentiously vain profession while also adding an over-the-top plot about a model brainwashed into being an assassin. The film is so embedded in pop culture that people still break out their Blue Steel poses.

The Tuxedo (2002)
While most of the action films Jackie Chan is known for can be classified as slapstick humor, this--I would say--is the closest film to a spoof that he's made. He starts off the film as the driver to a mysterious secret agent with a powerful suit, and when his boss falls into a coma, he ends up rocking the hi-tech tuxedo himself and saving the day...of course, mostly by accident.

Johnny English (2003)
Rowan Atkinson plays a legendary character known as the mime-like, overly curious Mr. Bean. He infused that persona into the title character of this movie to play a British spy who must find the stolen Crown Jewels. Many spoofs evoke the viewer's desire to ask the question, "What is wrong with that guy?," and Atkinson often makes you want to yell that at the screen.

The Pink Panther (2006)
Steve Martin revives this 70s comedic mystery which follows a detective that is almost as unaware of his ineptitude as Maxwell Smart--except it's worse because he's French and supposedly too obnoxious to admit it. It makes for several accidental victories and "I meant to do that" moments.

Hot Fuzz (2007)
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost pair up again after their horror spoof of Dawn of the Dead, appropriately titled Shaun of the Dead. This time they spoof buddy action comedies like Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon, playing cops put on a seemingly cold beat. Pegg plays the competent one, while Frost plays--as usual--an idiot with a badge. Critics loved their manipulation of the genre's formula and I'm sure film majors use it as a drinking game--one shot for every cinematic wink at buddy action movies.

Shoot Em Up (2007)
It stars Clive Owen as a vigilante who goes out of his way to protect a comically indestructable baby from an arms dealer and his goons. While he's more athletic and cunning than Nielsen and Carell's characters, how he fends off his enemies like 007-meets-MacGyver makes it hard to take him seriously.

Of course, not all action spoofs are easy to sit through. For example, Cedric the Entertainer's Code Name: The Cleaner, which I'm sure Lucy Liu wishes she could erase from her resume, as well as her memory. (I know I do.) Then there's the uber-racist and randy Undercover Brother, which was pretty much the last time anyone took Eddie Griffin serious. Lastly, there's Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy's unwatchable I Spy, which was based on a 60s TV show that was probably best left alone.

Did I miss any that you love...or hate?

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