Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Movie Review: Fifty Shades Of Black (2016)

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Since starting my month-long movie marathon, have to admit, the results have been a lot more positive than I was expecting. Sure, not all of them have good but, at worst, we’ve only really touched the realms of lame instead of outright bad. Well, time to change all that. I’ve talking before about watching movies as a form of emotional therapy, and as masochistic as it is, that involves bad movies as well. If there is one thing that cinema has taught me when it comes to the emotional condition of humanity, it’s that even anger has its place in the output. As such, it’s time for me to delve into Fifty Shades territory again, which once again means that I’ll discuss indulging in painful acts under my own volition, as well as revisiting the spoof movie. Let the airing of grievances begin! This is Fifty Shades Of Black… ugh, even the title of this thing makes me cringe.


The plot: Hannah Steele (Kali Hawk), after interviewing him for her college newspaper, becomes infatuated with young multimillionaire Christian Black (Marlon Wayans). As their relationship intensifies, Christian begins to reveal the darker sides of his personality as well as his sexuality, asking Hannah to follow him down this path and become his submissive. Anastasia must decide if her love for Christian warrants her becoming what he wants of her, or if their relationship must end. If this plot breakdown reads like it was copied-and-pasted from my actual Fifty Shades Of Grey review, then know it’s only because the film does the exact same thing.

I don’t hate Marlon Wayans as an actor; hell, when he’s dealing with directors who know what they’re doing like Darren Aronofsky with Requiem For A Dream or even Paul Feig with The Heat, the guy can be good. And sure enough, he actually has moments of suaveness that honestly make him more of a catch than Jamie Dornan. Unfortunately, for the most part, he’s stuck in high-pitched screeching mode that just goes to show why he’s mostly struck with his own scripts to work with: Because no-one trusts this guy to be a consistently decent actor, nor should they quite frankly. Hawk as the love interest at least has a pulse, again making her a better fit than Dakota Johnson, but the heart behind it is maybe a little too willing to go through the numerous body humour jokes that her character is thrown. We also have now-veterans of bad movies Fred Willard, Dave Sheridan and Mike Epps floating around in the cast list, Florence Henderson’s last film appearance before her death, just in case this whole thing wasn’t depressing enough as is, and then there’s Jenny Zigrino as Hannah’s roommate. It is at this point, not even a week after reviewing it, that I take back everything I said relating to Zigrino honestly being kind of hot in Bad Santa 2 because, fucking hell, is she annoying here. I rarely do this, but I’m chalking up her appearance there as a fluke because, for as long as I live, I will always be reminded of the seriously obnoxious she-wigger mannerisms and just plain unfunny sex scenes here.

So, this is a parody of a film that I’ve gone on record saying pretty much wasted its potential to be a hilariously awful flick… and yet, I honestly laughed more at that than I did this. A whole lot of dick and ball jokes, using wacky similes to describe how a person looks (Hack Comedy Writing 101), racial humour that makes the cringe-worthy title look like sheer genius by comparison, sex scenes that fail even the most basic tenets of being intentionally overblown and really, really shitty line-a-rama. Like, holy hell, Marlon Wayans is teeth-grindingly terrible in the negotiation scene. And of course, none of this has anything to do with making fun of Fifty Shades Of Grey. The only times I found myself legitimately laughing were when Marlon was just ranting about other movies… or walking out on a date because she likes Nicholas Sparks movies. No shame in admitting that I would probably do the same thing.

When the film actually does take time out of his busy schedule of doing fuck-all to make fun of Fifty Shades, it’s still going for the literal easiest jokes possible about the source material. Like, flat-out ‘reading from the book and commenting on how bad it is’ kind of easy. Not to say that it’s an absolute catastrophe, as there are actually a couple of jokes that manage to land like the montage showing the previous women Christian brought to his room. Nice to see that even this film acknowledges that there are worse things out there than being a dominant… when it isn’t making hideous waterboarding jokes. Yeah, this film has its spurts of clarity but otherwise, S&M is still just a source for cheap humour. Hell, given the finale, this might actually be even more misguided in its idea of female empowerment, taking a “what hurts the goose will hurt the gander” approach that really pisses me off.

If I could isolate the biggest, most glaring problem with most if not all current spoof attempts, it’d actually be some really fucking simple: Focus. Spoof nowadays is more than willing to hitch its parody wagon to a single film or film series when it comes to titles, but rarely if ever do they actually stick to that subject. It’s almost like these films were made on a whim because the filmmakers thought that there was plenty of material to work with… and then quickly got bored with it and bulked it out with whatever else the scatterbrained writers wanted to take shots at. Not only that, there is no semblance of continuity between jokes which, when you’re dealing with gags involving enlarged belly buttons, makes it quite jarring when it fails to connect from scene-to-scene. Sure enough, this film has all of that in spades. There’s a whole scene dedicated to spoofing Magic Mike, and it’s really sad that that one scene actually does a better job at poking fun at its chosen film than anything else here.

All in all, I got exactly what I was expecting out of this garbage and more, as this goes beyond just being unfunny and legitimately requiring me to take a break after several of the literally astoundingly bad jokes here. It may have gotten a couple chuckles out of it, mainly when it appeals to my film snark wheelhouse, but otherwise, it’s yet another abject failure to make fun of what is already a really easy target. It’s worse than Nocturnal Animals, which may seem obvious but bear in mind that that film’s frankly bewildering praise is seriously starting to tick me off. But yeah, that film is maddening in that sense of “what the hell am I missing here?”, but it wasn’t nearly as stunningly bad as this was. However, even though this is about ear-stingingly bad in its dialogue, this got a couple of chuckles when it got to actual film gripes; Norm Of The North did no such thing.

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