What happened? I was supposed to like Fifty Shades of Black. As someone who wasn’t afraid to stand up for Marlon Wayans’ Haunted House spoof series, Wayans’ riff on Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey should’ve been up my alley. So, indeed, what happened?
I believe Michael Tiddes’ lack of control over improvisation has finally caught up to him in Fifty Shades of Black. With A Haunted House and A Haunted House 2, the freewheeling filmmaker allowed his actors to ad-lib until they were blue in the face. Since the film was working within the bounds of the found footage sub-genre, this string of unpredictability worked to an extent.
In Fifty Shades of Black, Tiddes is working with the framing of a traditional comedy yet wants to crowbar the same endlesse comedic jam sessions. It doesn’t work because, unlike the Haunted House movies, there’s no endpoint. Scenes abruptly end and characters disappear never to be heard from again all because Tiddes is wanting to stick with the original pacing of Taylor-Johnson’s movie. There’s no motive behind Fifty Shades of Black except to be a copycat with some added shocks.
It’s also not funny when an actor is too aware of a punchline. Co-writers Rick Alvarez and Marlon Wayans will set up a comedic situation only to have a participating character shout out why the scene should make movie goers laugh. That gimmick is good for a couple of chuckles, but Fifty Shades of Black believes it’s one of the only tricks it needs. The other tricks consist of gross (and poorly constructed) genital props, overdosing on stereotypes, and miming sexual activity until the audience begs mercy.
There are attempts to call attention towards how suspect Fifty Shades of Grey can be with its alleged seduction, but Tiddes’ comedy would rather be obscene than cunning. A hint will be dropped by Wayans’ Christian Black, and then be smothered by Jenny Zigrino’s obnoxiously inappropriate Kateesha. Meanwhile, Kali Hawk (who plays love interest Hannah Steale) always looks as if she’s caught in the crossfire.
I remember a movie that was crass and clever, successful with spoofing its source material, and was able to pitch originality towards the audience. It was called Scary Movie, a comedy that Marlon Wayans and his team should revisit before conceptualizing another spoof.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie