Jim Abrahams

Jim Abrahams

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Airplane! Review


Essential
If Airplane! isn't the funniest English-language movie ever made, it could at least get into some spirited comedy fisticuffs with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, A Fish Called Wanda, or Wayne's World for the title. It might win, too. The first non-sketch film from the team of Zucker (David), Abrahams, and Zucker (Jerry) established the joke-a-minute-spoof subgenre, frequented by various iterations of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (not to mention several imitators); this means it gets credit for The Naked Gun, but also the blame for Scary Movie 2.

But Airplane! doesn't reign just by calling firsties. Or rather, it does - because it hit the bull's eye so dead-center that there wasn't much room left for other arrows. It purportedly spoofs the airplane-based disaster movies so popular at the time of its 1980 release, but much of the main plot (a scarred war pilot must attempt to land a passenger jet during a storm when the crew falls ill) and even some specific scene are lifted from the little-known 1957 B-movie Zero Hour (unseen by me); it simultaneously satirizes one particularly obscure film, '70s disaster films, and every bad B-movie you've ever seen.

Continue reading: Airplane! Review

Scary Movie 4 Review


Grim
Scary Movie 4 is inane, gross, ridiculous, and pretty stupid. It also made me laugh more than once. That's evidently becoming the theme of slapstick spoof shtick (or at least the endless stream of Scary Movies), that they head straight for the lowest common denominator but amid all of the diarrhea jokes and people getting beaned in the face with flying objects, they hit upon something genuinely witty, almost by accident.

The dumb jokes are, of course, framed in send-ups of other box office hits from the last couple of years - Anna Faris's spectacularly inept and oblivious Cindy Campbell, who appeared in all the previous films, moves into the house from The Grudge, next door to Tom Cruise's - oh, sorry, Tom Ryan's - house from War of the Worlds. The plot, such as it is, somewhat follows the Worlds story, but is really a cobbled-together excuse to veer from spoof to spoof like a sketch comedy, and the dialogue, such as it is, is almost entirely forgettable. Actually, it's largely a time killer, something for the actors to do while carefully oblivious to the antics around them and not really meant to be heard over the guffaws of the audience.

Continue reading: Scary Movie 4 Review

Top Secret! Review


Extraordinary
I don't care what the Zucker-Abrahams-Zuckers say, Top Secret! is the best parody/farce ever made.

On the new DVD's commentary track -- the trio behind Airplane!, Hot Shots, and a few other classic (and less classic) parodies -- the ZAZ crew are candid about being less than happy with their work in retrospect, and while the film is certainly dated, I still think it's a real winner.

Continue reading: Top Secret! Review

Airplane! Review


Essential
If Airplane! isn't the funniest English-language movie ever made, it could at least get into some spirited comedy fisticuffs with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, A Fish Called Wanda, or Wayne's World for the title. It might win, too. The first non-sketch film from the team of Zucker (David), Abrahams, and Zucker (Jerry) established the joke-a-minute-spoof subgenre, frequented by various iterations of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (not to mention several imitators); this means it gets credit for The Naked Gun, but also the blame for Scary Movie 2.

But Airplane! doesn't reign just by calling firsties. Or rather, it does - because it hit the bull's eye so dead-center that there wasn't much room left for other arrows. It purportedly spoofs the airplane-based disaster movies so popular at the time of its 1980 release, but much of the main plot (a scarred war pilot must attempt to land a passenger jet during a storm when the crew falls ill) and even some specific scene are lifted from the little-known 1957 B-movie Zero Hour (unseen by me); it simultaneously satirizes one particularly obscure film, '70s disaster films, and every bad B-movie you've ever seen.

Continue reading: Airplane! Review

Jane Austen's Mafia! Review


Weak
To my knowledge, there's never been a Godfather spoof, let alone a good one. The cryptically-titled Jane Austen's Mafia! certainly isn't going to change that, but it isn't as bad as some recent spoofs (notably Mel Brooks' last 4 or 5 movies) have been. Thanks to the natural charm of Jay Mohr, an often-funny tale of corruption, casinos (offering Go Fish), showgirls, and the Macarena unfolds. The flip side is that much of Mafia! is not funny, resorting to fart and/or vomit humor to generate cheap laughs. The spoofs range from the obvious - Godfather, GoodFellas, Casino - to the unexpected - Forrest Gump, Jaws - which generally work well. Then again, maybe my expectations are so low I didn't notice how bad they really were.
Jim Abrahams

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