By: Addison Wylie
Mel Brooks hasn’t directed a film since 1995’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It. After watching the comedy for the first time, it’s quite possible this is where Brooks may have fallen out of love with filmmaking – a tragic end to our coverage of TIFF’s retrospective.
Now, of course, I could be speaking out of school. Brooks has served as a producer on numerous projects (including some upcoming work in 2015), and he’s lent his signature voice to some animated features. So, it’s possible he still loves movies and being apart of the moviemaking process. But, in my opinion, his horror spoof shows Brooks realizing his absurd knack had a time and place in the past.
Dracula: Dead and loving It starts off on an awesome roll, and quickly lets the audience know that the next 90 minutes will contain lots of mugging. Lots and lots of mugging. However, when the correct actors can successfully work exaggerations to their favour, the jokes end up working – such is the case for Peter MacNicol and Leslie Nielsen. The two gifted actors know how to perform a perfect prat fall and how far to stretch and contort their reactions. That said, Brooks obviously knew how to direct these skilled performers through practical physical comedy.
That said, speaking of Brooks, once the filmmaker enters the scene playing Professor Van Helsing, Dracula: Dead and Loving It goes limp. Some the physical comedy works, but most of the scenes feel padded out to eventually arrive to an obvious punchline. The scenes are edited with more competence than they were in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and I greatly appreciated the filmmaker not milking any gags. But, the screenplay’s baggy set ups flunks out the film.
One of the toughest decisions one must make in their lifetime is realizing when their starting to overstay their welcome. Dracula: Dead and Loving It may have been that sign for Mel Brooks. As we watch one taxing joke after another filmed against flat set pieces with uneven performances, it’s clear that modern times haven’t been too kind to Brooks’ filmmaking charisma. And, if I’m right about all of this, then we should admire his strong will for finally facing a disheartening truth instead of dog-piling on his lacklustre finale.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Saturday, December 20 at 9:30 p.m.