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Talking pictures: Unclever spoofs among worst of awful flicks

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Leslie Nielsen stars as the president of the United States in David Zucker's "Scary Movie 4," from 2006.

Leslie Nielsen stars as the president of the United States in David Zucker’s “Scary Movie 4,” from 2006.

Dimension Films

I've got a soft spot in my heart for bad puns and other humorous groaners. Which probably explains why the 1980 film "Airplane!" is one of my favorite comedies.

The movie smartly spoofed the "Airport" films. It also turned stone-faced Leslie Nielsen into a comedy star.

"Airplane!" was a surprising hit, and it was followed by the underrated "Top Secret!" (1984) as well as three "Naked Gun" movies, spun off from the short-lived but hysterical "Police Squad!" television series.

Unfortunately, the "Airplane!" creators didn't stop there. Co-creator Jim Abrahams also directed two "Hot Shots!" movies, as well as "Jane Austen's Mafia" (1998). And the Zucker brothers were involved with a couple of the installments in the "Scary Movie" series.

Worse still, their early successes led to whole slew of like-minded but irritatingly stupid spoofs. Among them were "Date Movie," "Epic Movie," "Not Another Teen Movie" and "Superhero Movie." There was scarcely a funny joke among them.

The whole genre may have hit a new low with "Vampires Suck," a mean-spirited riff on vampire romances — specifically Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" books and movies.

At the time this column was written, the film had the worst critical "score" I've ever seen on the popular Rotten Tomatoes Web site (www.rottentomatoes.com), which compiles reviews from around the country and then assigns a "score" based on that. The last time I checked, "Vampires Suck" was sitting at zero, meaning there were no positive reviews for the film, out of 22.

Getting back to my original point, I may love "Airplane!" but spoofs have become one of my least-favorite movie genres. Others include:

COMICS-BASED MOVIES

I'm obviously a huge comics fan and I'm certainly not saying that all comics movies are bad. Batman, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Superman and the X-Men had worthy big-screen adventures.

But whether these characters needed to have multiple sequels is another matter.

There were even three "Blade" films, and when characters as obscure as Barb Wire, Ghost Rider, Howard the Duck and Jonah Hex all get movies, you know things are getting out of control.

HORROR REMAKES

Look, was it really that hard to make better movies than the original "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" features were?

TALKING ANIMAL COMEDIES

When "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is arguably the best of the lot, you know things are bad.

(The less said about "Alvin & The Chipmunks," "Cats & Dogs," "G-Force" and "Marmaduke" the better.)

"TORTURE PORN"

I'm still at a loss to explain how and why the first "Saw" movie became a hit.

I remember seeing it at a late-night screening during the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and being struck by its laughably awful writing and acting.

Supposedly, October's "Saw 3-D" will be the "final" movie of the series. We can only hope.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com