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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Vampires Suck

Title: Vampires Suck

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: January 8th, 2011

MPAA Rating: PG-13

In what should have come as no surprise, someone decided to greenlight a movie that would spoof the popular Twilight saga. And then someone made the fatal mistake of allowing Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer to write and direct the project. Maybe that shouldn't have been a surprise either. After all, why take the time and effort to produce a quality effort when you can just sleepwalk the whole thing, keep the budget minimal and reference everything topical in pop culture? With a formula like that, it's nearly impossible to produce a flop. That's why Friedberg and Seltzer have earned a reputation as entertainment exploiters instead of respected filmmakers.

Vampires Suck is their latest offering. The title was probably bait to lure in the non-Twilight fans that take great pleasure in mocking Stephanie Meyer's fanbase at every turn. More likely though, it will only remind them of how goofy the franchise is and then drive them further away from anything vampire-related. Such a shame too. It used to be cool to like vampires.

The plot is pretty much a carbon copy of all the major events from the first two Twilight stories. Nothing wrong with that, except that it foreshadows a lack of creativity. Our hero is Becca Crane (Jenn Proske), an outcast teenager that moves to a small town named Sporks. She has trouble making friends at first but soon falls in love with two people that are only half human. Vampire Edward Sullen (Matt Lanter) and werewolf Jacob White (Chris Riggi). As casual Twilight followers can probably already conclude, a significant amount of Friedberg/Seltzer's humor revolves around replacing a familiar name with a slightly modified or opposite word. The rest is mainly a series of gags about how dangerous and socially troubling it is to be romantically involved with mythical characters. Of course, you only need to watch the actual movies to see this idea explored. An often overlooked fact is that the Twilight films are already tongue-in-cheek to begin with. To bank on the notion that they aren't is like saying Superman doesn't know he is strong. Case in point: Jacob reveals to Becca that the reason he appears shirtless all the time is because his contract forces him to. This joke doesn't work because Jacob's bare chest has already been a running gag in every humor/satire outlet since New Moon's release, including the movie itself. This script doesn't offer any new perspectives on already existing absurdities, which is the job that parodies are expected to perform. It just points out the obvious and expects people to laugh out of familiarity.

Pointing things out is the biggest fatal flaw of Vampires Suck. It's bad enough that the pop culture references are doomed to be dated. (Will anyone remember Snooki, the Kardashians or the Jonas Brothers ten years from now? I think not and I hope not.) But just in case a reference gets lost on you, the movie is quick to spell it out. As an example, Becca is told to stop singing like Taylor Swift. This hurts the value of multiple viewings. The best parody films work because they keep direct references to a minimum and require the viewer to look between the lines for more rewarding humor. This habit of spoon feeding gags is something Friedberg and Seltzer have yet to learn from.

They also need to learn how to create clever musical numbers. When the werewolf gang spontaneously danced to The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men", I reached for the liquor bottle that wasn't there.

This part was challenging, but I did manage to conjure up some positive things to say about Vampires Suck. More often than not, the storyline remains tied to its primary target. This is an improvement from the pair's past projects that detoured from the original idea to reference random movies with no clear purpose. Some of the acting performances are quite good. Jenn Proske does an exceptional imitation of Bella Swan's mannerisms. Some media outlets have unfairly classified it as a Kristen Stewart impersonation, even though anyone who has seen Stewart in movies other than Twilight should know better. Unfortunately, Proske seemed to have run out of different face twitches to use twenty minutes in. Then the gag becomes annoying. But kudos is owed to the lead actors for doing their best with what they had to work with.

In the end though, nothing has changed. A pair of hack comedy writers has once again cashed in on ideas that weren't their own. Once again, they're counting money and laughing their way to the bank. And once again, the reputation of the spoof genre takes another blow, increasing audience skepticism. If I was David Zucker or Jim Abrahams, I would do everything in my power to arrange a long conversation with Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Preferably behind closed doors.

Rating: 2

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