Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Director's Report Card: Mel Brooks (1991-1995)

9. Life Stinks
Definitely feels like experiment on Brooks’ behalf. The film is slightly more straight-faced then what you’d expect from him as it does attempt to seriously examine the world of homeless people. However, you get the feeling that he can’t completely commit to the material. So there are just as many typical Brooks gags as there are serious moment. But these goofy moments feel totally out of place and stick out like sore thumbs. They hurt the film in the long run, especially considering that many of these gags aren’t the best.

Lesley Ann Warren gives a really good performance, surprisingly, bringing a real melancholy to the role, though you do feel like the part was written for Madeline Kahn. The scene were Brooks and her dance around an abandoned factory plays like a scene from a forties’ musical-comedy and is easily the best part of the film, full of a sweeping, goofy, sincerity. Sadly, this feeling is missing from much of the rest of the picture.
[Grade: C+]

10. Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Better then it gets credit for. Easily on the same level as “Spaceballs” and number four, behind “Young Frankenstein,” on my list of favorite Mel Brooks films. Almost all of the gags hit, with the rapping minstrels and Don Deluise’s godfather being the only real duds. There are an enough solid gags in this one, that if one misses, you’re immediately sent to another funny set-up, just like in the best of stupid gag movies.

Cary Elwes gives his best performance since “The Princess Bride,” Roger Rees gives a great riff on Alan Rickman, and Mark Blankfield sacrifices all dignity in his role. Also watch out for a pre-fame Dave Chappelle, Isaac Hayes, Tracey Ullman, Patrick Stewart, and Dick Van Patten.

“Men in Tights” is extremely goofy but not in a simple-minded way. It’s silly but rarely all that dumb and enduring in its own way to its audience. Probably one of Brook’s more minor films, but I like it none the less.
[Grade: B+]

11. Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Another fairly obvious attempt to recapture the success of “Young Frankenstein.” I’d like to say that this doesn’t hit as much as that one simply because I’ve never like “Dracula” as much as I do “Frankenstein,” but truthfully, this just isn’t as good.

Peter MacNicol is a great Renfield and gets the most laughs. Leslie Nielson gives it the old college try as the Count and produces a couple of chuckles. Mel Brooks is a good Van Helsing, proving again he does better in supporting role then in the lead.

The number of gags that work and those that don’t can pretty much be split right down the middle. There are some enduring goofy moments, such as the chandelier gag or Dracula’s dream. However, too many of the moments, some of which are potentially hilarious, such as the foundation of blood bit, fall flat. And none of the gags are as hilarious as anything from the other horror parody. The picture is sadly lacking in replay value too. This is just a silly gag movie, with little else to offer.
[Grade: B-]

Mel seems more-or-less retired these days. And why shouldn't he be? The dude is friggin' old. His legacy is secure.