Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Parody and Purity
A song came up on my iPod that was used in the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Myster, which reminded me of how much fun that first film was and how unrepeatable the utter triumph of the original parody has proven to be. I think that's because that first movie was built on Mike Myers's genuine love of the late 1960s movies he so marvelously takes off--the Connery Bond movies, The Avengers, Beatlemania--even Blow-up gets a shout out, and that's all during the opening credits. In fact, the credits reinforce the gag--seeing Michael York's and Robert Wagner's names in the credits adds to the period flavor while reinforcing the joke--the actors become references to their own earlier work, and establishing the appropriate feel for the early scenes.
The later two credit sequences feel progressively more forced, lacking the spontaneity, the fun, the sheer wealth of things to do in the movie that Myers can scatter some of his best gags in the first two minutes. But in that first movie, his comic invention is boundless, and his zest is contagious.
Similarly, while Mel Brooks did many enjoyable parodies, none has measured up to Young Frankenstein:
Note the details of the laboratory, the Monster's awakening, the drawing room comedy and then Gene Wilder going the full Colin Clive. Seriously; here's the original:
Brooks immerses himself in the world of the 1930s Frenkenstein movies at the sam time he mocks it--the love for the movies shows through in a coherent, berserk plot that is both hilarious, and yet gets you rooting for the characters:
Like that first Austin Powers movie, it's willing to throw references around carelessly, do burlesque, comedy high and low, all in the name of good fun, and honoring the movies the young Brooks loved.
Classic parody can only exist where the object of the parody is loved.