It astounds me that so many critics can vehemently spit venom at Kevin Smith, proclaiming he only makes movies for himself, yet that same scrutiny seems to avoid a borderline selfish filmmaker like Marlon Wayans. Given the right script and role, Wayans is a funny, talented performer. That I won’t argue. Yet these flavor-of-the-week spoofs he constantly churns out sport the same, unfunny, low-brow sense of humor every single time. These are jokes that make Wayans and his writing buddy Rick Alvarez laugh like pre-pubescent boys – or maybe the jokes were written by pre-pubescent boys, and they just make Wayans and Alvarez laugh. Either way, Fifty Shades Of Black is fifty despicable shades too many. Shocker, right?
Wayans stars as Christian Black, a wealthy “bidness” man who made his money like any other successful entrepreneur – by learning the coke trade and sucking a few dicks! (Yup, strap in.) It’s through an academic interview that he meets an alluring, frumpy student named Hanna (Kali Hawk), and the sparks immediately ignite. Christian begins stalking his prey like the sexually-abusive creep he is, begging her to sign a non-disclosure agreement so they can have weird, kinky, not-safe-for-anywhere BDSM encounters. It’s everything you’ve seen in Fifty Shades Of Grey, except the unintentional comedy has been swapped out for actual jokes (that are sadly less comical). Boy meets girl, invites her over to his play room, shows off his whips – you know, your typical office romance.
So, where do I begin. The immaturity? Trust me, I’m all for a sexual innuendo or crudely-spun gag, but much like his A Haunted House franchise, we’re beaten to death by a barrage of ballsacks and cocks. Literally. One throbbing scrotum joke apparently doesn’t meet Wayans’ prosthetic flesh-pouch quota, so we’re subjected to another usage of the same dangling rubber coin-purse. That, and he yanks a phallic joke right out of Baseketball, repurposing Coop and Remer’s tremendously long dongers for Affion Crockett’s character to swing around. One has to assume that sexual lampooning will run rampant in a Fifty Shades Of Grey “parody” (a term I’ll use loosely), but this is F-grade material – no tact, no delivery, and certainly no class.
The film does branch out to skewer a few different topics, from Whiplash (why?) to our current political landscape (Trump is hot now, right?), and hell, even Florence Henderson degrades herself to be in Fifty Shades Of Black. Too bad it’s all for naught, as the film’s funniest joke comes at the mention of Kevin Hart’s unbelievable film count, meaning Kevin Hart is still the funniest part of a movie he’s not even in. Now THAT’S star power.
Puns simply aren’t thought out, from calling Keanu Reeves a “lucky guy” (ludicrous if you know his history) to rambling bits of improvisation that lose steam after the third failed iteration. For how long can we watch a beautiful specimen like Kali Hawk fellate a pencil before losing all hope in humanity? Probably a good minute before the dude with a boner shows up. And was that before or after the seven billionth joke about anal sex/fisting? Eh, sexual semantics, am I right?
Give credit where credit is due, because Wayans refrains from shitting on camera (through the magic of Hollywood), which happened in both A Haunted House movies (I think? Not like you’d know if I were wrong). He’s either removing his shirt seductively, snivelling like a coward unexpectedly, or making an emphatically twisted orgasm face after sprinting towards the finish line (wink wink). Physically, he’s a talented performer, but as a writer, there’s a glaring lack of depth that never cracks a one-note, racially-charged surface.
We’re just talking about the quality of jokes here – which my extremely diverse audience found equally unappealing. Comments on ethnicities boil down to a mother serving fried chicken to her African American son, or Hannah’s heavyset roommate Kateesha (Jenny Zigrino) talking about her, well, “fiery” love-life. There’s nothing more to Fifty Shades Of Black than saying dirty words and getting away with it, and we’ve seen it all before (probably in the last Wayans brothers movie). Spoof oddities used to embrace properly skewering satires, or speak to larger themes – you couldn’t just inappropriately insert the word “penis” in a scene and call it a day. But, alas, here we are.
Fifty Shades Of Black is the lowest common denominator of spoof comedy, simply because of its sheer laziness. The settings might mirror Christian Grey’s actual office, down to the panda painting, but aesthetic similarities prove nothing about cinematic quality. A comedy is built on laughter, and when audiences aren’t laughing, holy hell is it awkwardly uncomfortable. That’s how I felt through my entire screening of Fifty Shades Of Black, especially during the film’s first suggesting ending (which a couple missed by walking out ten minutes earlier), when a frustrated viewer cried out, “Is this shit over yet?” Sadly, it was not, just so the film could squeak in one more anal reference before the credits rolled.
I didn't like Fifty Shades Of Black, and I really just want to move on with my life. End of story.