Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory is a periodic check-in on what’s going on in the world of movies that didn’t make it to theaters.
Not Another Not Another Movie (2011)
I have a friend who spent one exceedingly lucrative day many years ago pitching jokes for a Seltzer-Friedberg production that will go unnamed, in part because my friend was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement attesting that he would never publicly attempt to claim credit for the work of the most reviled duo this side of Leopold and Loeb. My friend described the experience as one of the worst in his professional career, 10 hours of misery where he and 20 or so other grotesquely overqualified, expensively dressed gag-smiths brayed obnoxiously at each other’s asinine suggestions and generally pretended not to hate themselves and each other for degrading the art of film and the art of comedy in one fell swoop. My friend does not drink, not even a little, but after he left the meeting he was sorely tempted to get blackout drunk in an attempt to purge the experience from his mind.
Spoof movies, as practiced by the cultural blight that is Seltzer-Friedberg, aren’t just troubling from an aesthetic viewpoint. They’re horrifying from a moral standpoint as well. The parody of the Zucker brothers and Mel Brooks is defined by love, knowledge, and appreciation: The Zucker brothers and Mel Brooks love, know, and appreciate the source material they’re spoofing enough to get all the details perfect. The comedy of Seltzer-Friedberg, in sharp contrast, is defined by contempt: contempt for the attention span, intelligence, maturity, and frame of reference for the audience, and an even more raging contempt for the source material they’re spoofing. Friedberg and Seltzer aren’t writers; they’re comic terrorists who cavalierly destroy what others create for their own ugly self-interest. Their success is entirely dependent on making comedy a dumber, crasser, less dignified place.
Spoof movies have such a dreadful reputation, and deservedly so, that when an interviewer for Hitfix brought up Scary Movie 5 during an interview with Marlon Wayans, who was promoting A Haunted House, Wayans was quick to point out that his film wasn’t a spoof at all but rather a found-footage horror comedy with “parodistic elements,” bitchily boasting that his film came from “an authentic place” and is a “labor of love” that illustrates an oft-overlooked type of comedy, in sharp contrast to the Scary Movie sequels he accuses of “doing it wrong.”
Marlon Wayans made a fortune playing a little person who masquerades as a baby in Little Man and a black man who masquerades as a white woman in White Chicks. But even he was palpably insulted to be lumped into the current wave of trashy “spoofs” he helped kick-start with Scary Movie, an all-too-influential surprise blockbuster, the screenwriting credits of which happen to include gentlemen by the names of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.
Having Marlon Wayans slam your film for being hacky, soulless, and crass is like being publicly dressed-down by the neighborhood crack whore for possessing an unforgivable dearth of class and propriety. Spoof movies are seen as such a cancerous boil upon the face of cinema that even Marlon Wayans wants nothing to do with them.
Spoof movies may be beneath contempt (though I would argue their enduring popularity and profile make them eminently worthy of contempt), but are they beneath parody? That is the terrifying query posed by Not Another Not Another Movie, a surreally incompetent, inherently failed attempt to parody a parody, whose official website crows:
“Led by an all-star comedy cast of colorful and quirky employees, this film promises to keep viewers rolling in the aisles as they watch the downfall of a movie studio willing to do anything to make a buck, even if it means ruining its reputation and running the entire movie industry into the ground. When Sunshine Studios is faced with making a hit or closing its doors, the company puts everything on the line to make the biggest parody of all time. With no script, no name, and no idea what they’re doing, they set out to make Not Another Not Another Movie.
Following in the footsteps of highly successful, audience-favorite mockumentaries like Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, and The Office… Not Another Not Another Movie is the first of its kind to lampoon the parody industry. In this hilarious non-stop ride we follow Sunshine Studios, the absolute worst film company on the planet, a studio that produces such wonderful films as Vampires In Mexico 2, Attack Of The Bulldozer, and Titanic 2: The Ghost Story.”
Not Another Not Another Movie is a classic bait and switch. It professes to be a parody of parody movies when, like the films it pretends to imitate, it honestly does not seem to have any idea what parody entails. It professes to be a movie starring Burt Reynolds, Chevy Chase, Vinnie Jones, and Michael Madsen, when it’s secretly a vehicle for the comedy stylings of co-writer David Leo Schultz, a plus-sized funnyman who, judging by his performance here, is the last-place contender in the Next Chris Farley Olympics.
A firm believer in the theory that no joke is so dire it cannot be saved with eye-bugging, flailing, and mugging, the intensely non-charismatic Schultz stars as an oblivious production assistant who dreams of making a deeply personal film based on his own experiences enduring horrific childhood abuse. Seriously. In a good indication of the film’s appalling lack of judgment, it thinks nothing of grounding a scattershot, episodic, lowbrow comedy in child abuse, narcolepsy (which is treated throughout like a dumb, tasteless joke), and Alzheimer’s.
Though he appears to be mentally challenged in about half the film’s scenes, Schultz aspires to art but is wracked by a condition as strange as it is offensive and hackneyed. Because his father forced him to watch The Naked Gun hundreds of times as a boy, every time the narcoleptic Schultz falls asleep, he experiences a nightmare involving a parody of a different blockbuster. This provides the clumsiest, most awkward excuse possible for an endless series of spoofs of creaky and dated fare (Die Hard, Titanic, Braveheart), which might inspire a few chuckles from an overly generous crowd at improvisation night at a local comedy club, but dies an agonizing death onscreen.
This speaks to one of the film’s many fatal flaws: It’s essentially a sketch-comedy movie, and a dreadful one at that, that intermittently attempts to shoehorn in a plot and a steady parade of celebrity cameos. The film opens with Burt Reynolds addressing the camera with a look of weary resignation and confiding:
“This is stupid. The whole movie is just stupid. Makes perfect sense why I’m here. Because this is a good part. I’m directing. I’m playing a mafia guy. [Does a terrible Brando in The Godfather voice.] I thought it would be very good. You might think it’s a great opportunity, but it’s not. You know what? Who cares? I’ll just bite my tongue, think happy thoughts, and get through this. Who am I kidding? I’m screwed.”
Reynolds is ostensibly playing an actor who also directs films for Sunshine Studios, but it’s not hard to hear the actor through the role. Reynolds and the rest of the film’s guest stars are simply picking up a paycheck doing work they probably assumed, justifiably, no one would actually see, let alone remember. He’s a professional among rank amateurs, a man who once conquered the world and now is reduced to playing straight man to a lead actor whose greatest claim to fame otherwise is making it to the final round of auditions on MADtv during the show’s final season. (I picked up that bit of trivia on an IMDB bio page for David Schultz written, not surprisingly, by David Schultz.)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Reynolds at least has it easier than Chevy Chase, whose incompetent studio head is introduced telling a group he believes to be his underlings, “I have horrible news for all of you. You’re all going to be looking for another job. In a nutshell, the movie that we made, that we hoped would make money, came out and we didn’t make zero. I know that sounds good, but it’s actually bad news because we ended up owing money.”
Has anyone in the history of the universe ever spoken that way? I would imagine that if a studio did put out a movie that lost $55 million, as Sunshine Studios’ last film did, the head of the studio probably wouldn’t need to announce that news to his staff, nor would he feel the need to specify that he is talking about that one film they produced that “they hoped would make money,” in sharp contrast to the many films studios produce every year that they desperately hope won’t make money.
Watching Chase badly ad-lib his way through the monologue, I couldn’t help but think that at the same time he was lending his improvisational genius to Not Another Not Another Movie, Chase was publicly disparaging Community as a lower, less artful form of comedy than the kind he preferred. Chase was essentially treating Community the way Marlon Wayans treated Scary Movie 5, which would be mindboggling in its hypocrisy even if Chase weren’t also lending his name and presence to one of the worst films I’ve ever watched for this feature, and believe me, I have seen some real dogs here.
Chase quits in disgrace and leaves the company in the hands of his murderous brother Michael Madsen, who in turn is arrested for killing a bunch of people, is replaced by a big bruiser named Nancy Longbottom (played by professional scary dude Vinnie Jones), who attempts to keep his underlings in line by telling them a story about “Bullet Tooth Tony,” the character Jones himself played in Snatch. This embodies both the film’s groaning self-consciousness and its pop-culture-reference-as-punchline approach to comedy.
Another problem is that the reality of Not Another Not Another Movie shifts dramatically from scene to scene. In one scene, Schultz is a good-natured idiot, a dopey man-child who only wants to become a successful writer so that his Alzheimer’s-stricken grandmother can afford the best possible treatment. In the next, he’s a condescending, obnoxious prick who talks down to his cast and crew. The film goes to absurd lengths for the sake of gags that are complete non-starters, like having Schultz be terrified of the villain of Kindergarten Cop to facilitate a bizarre, borderline nonsensical running joke in which Schultz casts the aforementioned villain (Hollywood luminary Richard Tyson) in a movie and flees in terror every time he sees him.
Schultz’s character has two main goals here: He wants to make money to provide for his grandmother’s care, and he wants to marry longtime crush Ellie Gerber (in the Anna Faris role as the sweetly oblivious naïf), though he hasn’t gotten around to actually asking her out yet. In the curious world of Not Another Not Another Movie, people apparently get engaged without ever going on a date first.
It isn’t just that the film is bad. It’s also incredibly depressing in its reductive, ugly take on comedy. Worst of all, this overlong sketch of a movie lasts an interminable 99 minutes. If any film merits being a mere 70 minutes, it’s this abomination. Hell, it merits even less than that: It never should have been made in the first place, and now lingers as an enduring embarrassment in a rancid subgenre seemingly devoid of shame.
Just how bad is it? It’s beyond dreadful. It’s sub-Seltzer-Friedberg, if that’s even possible.