Marlon Wayans has repeatedly flexed his ability to gauge cinematic trends and respond with quick turnaround parodies. Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James’ horrendous ‘erotic thriller’ and its equally horrendous film adaptation that drove swooning and titillated audiences to box office glory last year, are his latest targets in Fifty Shades of Black.
By all accounts such drivel is ripe for parody – some might even say it’s already a self-parody. But what happens when your comedic sensibilities and relevancy clash at lightning speed? The end result is a rushed and mostly unsatisfying product that misses the mark.
Marlon Wayans plays title character Christian Black, the affluent and wealthy businessman with a thing for dominance-submission sexual escapades. Hannah (Kali Hawk) is the awkward college student that ends up in the claws of Christian’s proclivities. She’s a drab interviewee that fills in for her boisterous and nymphomaniac friend Kateesha (Jenny Zigrino). Black practically stalks Hannah at her boring hardware store job, installing security systems in her house – without her consent of course.
Reluctantly, Hannah is somehow swayed of Black’s kinky obsessions and they fall into a game of sexual exploration and curiosity. But can Christian’s sexual affronts be considered romance, when they are so clearly carnal desires?
What I found exciting about Fifty Shades of Black is how it takes the ridiculousness of Grey and completely rips it apart, scene-by-scene. Every “memorable” moment from that hideous film is spoofed here, occasionally diverging to include other recent films like Magic Mike and, strangely enough, Whiplash. Everything in Fifty Shades of Grey that seemed to promote misinterpreted romance and creepy stalker behavior, confused/condoned as romance, is accounted for in unrelenting fashion, only amped up.
Fifty Shades of Black turns out to be not so funny – which is not surprising. But as someone who actually enjoyed A Haunted House (I liked the gags), I was hoping for an experience along the same lines of purposely stupid parody. The film isn’t entirely unbearable, especially compared to its bland source material, but relies too much on dismantling the silly romance genre – often cliche-by-cliche. What is supposed to be a satisfying exposure of the stupidity of Grey’s naively sexist and misogynist material comes off as flat and at times less than pleasurable.
Fifty Shades of Grey is ripe for ridicule, but Fifty Shades of Black isn’t up to the task, mustering only a few chuckles and stale laughs. As with most parodies, familiarity with the source material helps, and unless one has suffered through E. L. James’ turgid prose or its filmed version there isn’t much here to recommend. Nevertheless, as bad as this parody may be, I’d much rather sit through this deliberately inane parody again than watch another Fifty Shades of Grey sequel flaunt itself as romantic…when it’s anything but.