“Caters to the lowest common denominator”
You would think with all the accumulated earnings the Wayans brothers, Shawn and Marlon, have obtained after being on Television and in films for years that they would invest their money and their time in projects that would be a bit more thoughtful and entertaining. Instead, ever since the runaway success of A Haunted House in 2013, the two, particularly Marlon, have been keen on making movies that fit the bill for the lowest common denominator of entertainment. Fifty Shades of Black, a horribly obvious and persistently unfunny array of cheapshots at the erotic novel/film series that is already too easy to joke about, continues Marlon’s streak and incredible failing to make something out of his Baby Way Productions company.
I’ve always found it interesting that while Tyler Perry’s films are anything but consistent, and there are about an equal number of bad films in his catalog as good films, he often gets blamed for making films about black people that cater to the lowest common denominator and showcase them in a negative light, yet the recent collaborations of Marlon Wayans and Michael Tiddes go pretty much unscathed. These are films that evoke some of the most putrid and ugly stereotypes about nearly every race and, for that matter, exist simply as unapologetically crude and contrived projects that do nothing but attempt to evoke laughs based on brand-recognition. These films are just a slight notch above the dreaded works of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.
As hinted, Fifty Shades of Black is a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey, and it takes pretty much the safest, most convenient route to parody the film by making the jokes largely centered around the absurdity of BDSM and its culture, race and ethnic humor, the ordinariness and “ugliness” of its lead female character, and the enigma surrounding its titular character, who in this case, is Christian Black (Marlon Wayans). Christian is a multi-millionaire mogul who begins a sexual relationship with his new intern, Hannah Steale (Kali Hawk) and what entails is a relationship filled with sex, sexual violence, and downright bizarre encounters.
While whatever Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison gang is cooking up this year is likely to get plenty of Razzie nominations, Marlon Wayans and his cast of familiar faces such as Affion Crockett, Missi Pyle, Mike Epps, Fred Willard, and more should be looking at the same award. It’s incredibly rare to see a cast ostensibly operate on auto-pilot and look like the end product bearing some essence of quality is the furthest thing from their minds, but perhaps given the lazy screenwriting of Rick Alvarez and Wayans himself, this was to be expected.
Shockingly enough, Fifty Shades of Black offers more laughs than both of the Haunted House films put together, especially during a sequence that parodies one of last year’s Best Picture contenders at the Academy Awards. However, in order to get to this sequence, one has to succumb to the drudgery of enough racial and bathroom humor – so much that it gives Laura Mulvey’s concept of “phallocentrism” a whole different angle to explore – that it ultimately isn’t worth sitting through the amount of trivial nonsense to get to that particular scene.
We’re not even in February yet and this year has already been incredibly interesting for comedies. After seeing Ride Along 2, I didn’t think many more comedies of the year would get much worse than that. Then I saw Dirty Grandpa the following week and I thought the same thing; there was most likely the weakest comedy of 2016 that I would have to sit through. Now, almost exactly a week later, I’ve seen Fifty Shades of Black, and if this isn’t the worst comedy of 2016, I seriously fear what I have to endure in the coming eleven months.