Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya..."

An open topic for this weekend, inspired by something I did last weekend. For our anniversary, Marian and I spent a day in Manhattan -- musuems, good restaurants, that sort of thing -- and the highlight was getting tickets last-minute for a matinee of "The Drowsy Chaperone," a new musical that's still in previews. The book was written by two of the writers of "Slings & Arrows," if that helps suggest the tone. The basic idea is that a middle-aged gay theater fan is sitting in his crappy apartment one afternoon when he puts on the soundtrack album of a long-forgotten 20s musical, which is then performed for us, with frequent breaks for the fan to explain why, say, a certain character didn't seem quite so racist in the 20s, or why the leading lady was known in real life as "The Oops Girl."

What's great about it is that it simultaneously functions as a musical parody and as a great musical. If you're into this sort of thing (hand raised here), there's tap-dancing, big production numbers, slapstick, etc.

Which brings me to the open question: what's your favorite parody that also works as the thing it's parodying? For me, the easy winner would be "The Princess Bride," which is brilliant whether you take it straight or not (Inigo and Westley goof around, then have an Errol Flynn-level sword fight), but I've also become very partial to "Galaxy Quest," which plays on one level as the best "Star Trek" movie since "Wrath of Khan."

It can be a movie, a TV show, a book, a play, whatever. Nominate and explain away.

15 comments:

Heather K said...

Mine is a musical too. I love "Urinetown" which has brilliant send-ups of all sorts of musical-isms while also being a kick-ass musical, plus there are funny songs about urination and defecation (and yes, the lyricist made those words rhyme in a song called "A Privilege to Pee."

SM said...

Sticking with the "musicals" theme, the South Park movie is an excellent example of this.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I listen to that "South Park" soundtrack all the time. Good call.

"They may cut your d--- in half, and serve it to a pig..."

Alan Sepinwall said...

I should add that "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" is actually in my iPod's Workout playlist.

Toby said...

I've got two nominations. I have to submit them together; I just can't break up the set:

'Young Frankenstein'
&
'Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein'

Yes, both were comedies, spoofs of the horror genres. But both work within the world created by James Whale in those first three Universal movies. (In fact, it could be argued that the blonde, curly-haired little boy of the third movie grew up to become Gene Wilder's character!)

Both movies even use the classic electrical generators from the original movies.

And in their own ways, both comedies are scary. I remember watching Bud and Lou vs. Dracula and the Monster and the Wolfman when I was about 12 years old. I had the mumps and was banished to my room.

I got so scared, I ran to join everybody else - and promptly gave the mumps to my two younger brothers.

I hope those work for what you're looking for.....

Oz said...

I think "Scream" may be the most notable example of what you're talking about-- not only did it send up the horror genre, but it was often genuinely scary. But Galazy Quest is a great choice, too.

undercover black man said...

I wish I could say that the movie musical version of "The Producers" fit the bill. But, if I may be allowed this sacrilege, I didn't like the new songs. Mel Brooks thinks he's a better songwriter than he is.

My pick is "Slumber Party Massacre," a slasher film from '82, back in my college days, when I saw a lot of slasher films. This one was written by feminist (and lesbian) Rita Mae Brown, and directed by Amy Jones, who went on to write "Mystic Pizza" and "Beethoven." It works as a sly, socio-politically aware sendup of the slasher genre, but also works as a slasher flick.

According to imdb, Ms. Brown wrote the screenplay as a flat-out parody, but the producers decided to film it straight, even though they marketed it as a little bit of both (three-foot drill bit dangling between the killer's legs on the movie poster, etc.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

My friend Phil also suggested Spinal Tap -- not so much the movie, but the band itself, which is actually a good heavy metal band. ("Big Bottom" is a great, hilarious song.) And while we're on the subject of Guest movies, the play at the end of "Waiting for Guffman" would actually be pretty good if you beefed up the production values and the talent level of the cast; I always applaud politely at the end of "Nothing Ever Happens on Mars."

Christina said...

Tenacious D. Come for the highbrow comedy, stay for the music.

lady t said...

One of my favorite cult movies fits the bill perfectly here:Phantom of the Paradise,a Brian DePalma dark musical satire with great songs by Paul Williams(who also played the main villian,Swan).

Joss Whedon cites the movie as one of his inspirations in writing the "Once More,With Feeling" season 6 episode of Buffy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It occurs to me in looking at this list (not to mention the Broadway show that inspired it) that it's almost impossible to do a good parody of musicals where your own songs aren't great. (Though I'm with UBM about the forgettable quality of most the new "Producers" numbers.) If your songs stink, so will your parody.

Now, making fun of swashbuckling adventure or Star Trek or slasher flicks while doing credible imitations of them... that seems tougher.

Adam said...

I've long argued that many Paul Verhoeven films (Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers) are intentional parodies of their respective genres, and that each can be enjoyed both as comedy and as straight-on drama.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who firmly believes that the real gift of the music in the Christopher Guest movies is the fact that they're not simple Bad Songs. They are songs that come from a place of true appreciation, love, and most importantly, SKILL. Anyone can write a bad song, but not everyone can write, say, "Eat At Joe's" which is a brilliant satire of that style of folk music, a terrible song (tiny bits of racism, annoying, and falsely sweet), and a catchy, singable ditty.

bill said...

More music: The band Dread Zeppelin, specifically their first album Un-Led-Ed.

Basically, they're taking Led Zeppelin tunes, hybridizing them with reggae, and the whole thing is sung by an Elvis Impersonator with a split personality. Sounds interesting, could be horrible, but ends up being absolutely brilliant.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dread Zeppelin! I think I owned that album at one point! I remember they did a version of "Heartbreaker" that turns into "Heartbreak Hotel" halfway through.

And anonymous, you're right about the skill level it requires to write those Guest songs. "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" is corny and schmaltzy and naive, and yet it's a really sweet, pretty tune. And don't get me started on "Eat at Joe's." Between Guest's vibratto ("We-eeeelll...") and Shearer's basso profundo voice (made funnier after he's in drag), I could listen to that thing all week.