Fifty Shades of Black

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 01/29/16 09:41:00

"Whip It Not-So-Good"
1 stars (Sucks)

As any attempt to give “Fifty Shades of Black,” the barely-awaited parody of the S&M juggernaut “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the kind of extended analysis that I try to afford most films that come down the pike, no matter how trashy or idiotic they might seem, would be an exercise in futility at best and more likely a one-way ticket to a descent into madness, I instead offer up just a few pithy observations.

1. Many of the reviews for this film—in which Marlon Wayans and Kali Hawk offer very broad spoofs of some of the more infamous moments from last year’s screen version of the best-seller that generally repeat the original almost beat for beat before ending with a pratfall, a tired pop culture reference or some type of gross-out gag—will undoubtedly suggest that it contains fewer laughs than the original film even though the chuckles in that case were of the unintentional variety. This is unfair since the original “Fifty Shades of Grey” actually contains more intentional laughs as well—the contract negotiation scene in that one was actually kind of inspired while the variation offered here is as painfully unfunny as everything else on display.

2. One of the many criticisms of “Fifty Shades of Grey” was that even though it was meant to be this daring and explicit sexual journey, only Dakota Johnson was required to supply full nudity while the nether regions of whats-his-name managed to stay discreetly out of frame. This time around, that equation is reversed as the male characters are the ones letting fly while the women generally remain under wraps. This might seem like a brave corrective on the surface (even if all the key moments of nudity are obvious fakes) but all it does is prove that there are few things in a movie that are less amusing than close-ups of any kind of genitalia, especially of the comedically distended variety on display here. (To put it less delicately, if I had wanted to see a bunch of grotesque dicks bouncing around for 90 minutes, I would have stayed home to watch the GOP debate that night.)

3. There is one comedic conceit here that is almost clever—that as the relationship between the faux Christian and Anastasia develops, it transpires that he is using his extreme sexual peccadilloes to cover up the fact that he is terrible in the sack while she has reservoirs of kink that he has never even contemplated. Needless to say, before this joke can even reach something resembling a punchline, it is abandoned for more tasteless slapstick.

4. At one point, we get a flashback to our tortured hero’s relationship with the older woman that infamously entered him into the world of kink, a role that has been filled, in a casting decision that makes Robert De Niro agreeing to appear in “Dirty Grandpa” seem plausible, by none other than Florence Henderson. This means that after nearly 40 years of trying, Henderson has finally managed to find a vehicle to appear in that is even more appalling than the legendary “Brady Bunch Variety Hour.” (Fred Willard and Jane Seymour also turn up in the kind of roles that usually inspire changes in management.)

5. By a weird coincidence, I happened to see this film immediately after rewatching the Tommy Wiseau anti-auteurist epic “The Room.” If my evening had ended by being approached by aliens from a distant galaxy that wanted me to explain to them what competent filmmaking was and the only films available to me were those two titles (hey, stranger things have happened, though few immediately leap to mind), I would not hesitate before steering them towards “The Room,” a film which, from an artistic standpoint, might as well be “Room” when compared to “Fifty Shade of Black” (and is arguably funnier as well).

That is about all I have to say on the subject of “Fifty Shades of Black,” an embarrassment for everyone involved with its production, distribution and exhibition—yes, even the concession stand workers should be hanging their heads in shame. Put it this way. When I saw it, I was literally the only person in the theater watching it. In other words, if sanity had prevailed and I had skipped the film entirely, it would have inspired the exact same number of laughs as if I had stayed.

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