Parody movies are nearly extinct these days. Don’t get me wrong, the genre as a whole will never be dead. We’re getting something here and there, but the demand for these types of movies is simply faded away. While Airplane! is far from the first film to make a parody feature, the comedy that mocks disaster movies made the genre a hot commodity. Then more movies like Caddyshack, Leonard Part 6 (I know this is terrible, but it still highlights my point), The Naked Gun, and Lethal Weapon popped up. As you can see, the genre had some clunkers but as a whole had more winners that resonated with the mainstream audience. During the early years, the genre transitioned over nicely, with films such as the Edgar Wright trilogy of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and At World’s End was notably a highlight, though Scary Movie was easily the most popular parody film during that time period.
Spawning from the decent Scary Movie was Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who would be a big contributing factor as to why the genre isn’t as hot as it once was. You see, the key to a great parody movie is that it not only mocks a certain genre or film, but it has a cohesive and original narrative that allows the movie to stand on its own two feet. Scary Movie has enough funny gags to make a decent watch, but it’s nothing overly original, and the jokes weren’t as clever as Scream, a movie that was already a satire itself. Still, the key thing is that the movie made huge bank at the box office by garnering $278 million worldwide. Considering this was a raunchy R-rated feature, this was a huge accomplishment. As great as the Edgar Wright series was, none of those films came even close to matching the heights of Scary Movie. So, the Scary Movie franchise is what people wanted and the series continued to be a huge box office draw as the next three sequels made over $540 million worldwide. However, the most notable thing is that the Scary Movie was never a critical darling. In fact, it appeared that the movies got worse as each feature came out. At the end of the day, Scary Movie is a mishmash of scenes from a popular movie and mocked it in the most obvious manner. However, the Scary Movie franchise isn’t what audience ultimately killed mainstream audiences’ interest in parody films. Friedberg and Seltzer did.
The duo left the franchise following the first Scary Movie but started to create their own separate brand of parody movies: Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Meet the Spartans were critically trashed, but these movies were a financial success by amassing a strong $256 million worldwide, based on a $25 million production. These “parodies” had the same issues as the Scary Movie franchise but with less effort put into it. They were failed Saturday Night Live sketches based on the numerous pop culture references that was hit in your face nearly each second. There was a barely a cohesive story. Gone were the clever writing and originality. If you look at both the Scary Movie and The Friedberg and Seltzer parodies, if the movies that they were mocking didn’t exist then neither would these films because neither franchise has an original story that stands on its own two feet. These layers were gone, but there can’t be any denial over how popular they were. With each Freidberg and Seltzer or Scary Movie, the films got worse and so did its box office performance. Audiences had enough of the terrible movies.
The films were the definition of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. The Scary Movie saga hasn’t hit theaters since 2013. Friedberg and Seltzer haven’t made a movie since 2015. But their parody model still continues. A Haunted House, Fifty Shades of Black, Meet the Blacks continued to be abysmal features that were worse than the movies they were trying to mock. The genre barely exists because the Scary Movie type brand got stale and audiences aren’t interested in this type of humor anymore. The parody genre needs to go back to basics and study what movies like Airplane! or Caddyshack. They don’t need to be Oscar winning films, but these movies need to feel more than just another pop culture-fest cash cow. How do you mess up a parody of 50 Shades of Grey? There’s no telling whether audiences would gravitate towards these films as the state of comedy isn’t exactly great in the mainstream financial wise, but it’s clear that the current state of parodies isn’t working.