Movie Review - Fifty Shades of Black

Marlon Wayans made a name for himself with Scary Movie (2000), a spoof of horror films like Scream (1996), done in the vein of Mel Brooks and the Zucker brothers. He was coming off a successful TV series and made this movie that did very well in the box office. From that point, he's done sequels and numerous spoofs since, each with diminishing returns. This one, which is a spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), sadly might be the worse of all movies the young Wayans brother has done.

The reason it doesn't work is because Fifty Shades of Grey is low-hanging fruit, too low. Most people didn't interpret it the way I did, but in my review of Fifty Shades of Grey, I argued that the movie was actually a comedy. It was already a spoof of romantic films. Scream was a kind of spoof too, but that Wes Craven slasher was very well-reviewed critically, so Wayans' comedy had something to fight against, something with which to surprise us. Yet, when you're targeting such low-hanging fruit, something critically panned, there's nowhere for the spoof to go that would be surprising. At that point, if one wants to laugh, just simply watch the original. The spoof is unnecessary.

Wayans wrote the screenplay with Rick Alvarez who helped pen A Haunted House, Wayans last spoof. Michael Tiddes directed this movie and Tiddes was the guy behind the camera also for A Haunted House. Again, most people probably didn't interpret it the way I did, but in my review of A Haunted House, I argued that the movie was basically a treatise on black sexuality, black heterosexuality, one that had interesting moments.

That film almost primed Wayans to write this one because this one also deals with black sexuality and briefly touches upon the fact that black women, as probably other women as well, suffer all kinds of abuse, especially in sexual situations, not only on film but in life. Unlike A Haunted House, the black male in this movie is in such control of the sex and sexual situations, whereas in A Haunted House, the black male had virtually no control and was at the total whim of the woman, so it's a reversal.

While that's faithful to the film being spoofed, it's not interesting. Men, either black or white, are generally the ones in control or have the power when it comes to sex or sexual situations. An example is Pretty Woman (1990). Yes, in most romances or romantic comedies, men are seemingly disadvantaged because they have to woo the woman and convince her where the women either have to say yes or no, and that gives women some power, but in general the men are the ones in control.

Unlike Fifty Shades of Grey, this movie does turn the tables on the man and lets the woman be in control. If that were the dynamic from the beginning, that perhaps would have made this work vastly more interesting.

Marlon Wayans stars as Christian Black, a wealthy man in Seattle who is interviewed by a shy and timid, college student named Hannah Steale, played by Kali Hawk. Christian becomes attracted to her. She's charmed by him in return. Once they start dating, Christian reveals he's into BDSM, which involves inflicting pain on women in order to achieve sexual gratification. Hannah has to decide if she accepts this about him or not.

The movie starts off on the wrong foot. Wayans suggests that a black man like Christian Black only has nice things because he stole it. Instead of coming up with a funny or clever business for Christian, he just portrays another black man as a criminal. The first 30 minutes don't really spoof as much as just recreates the first 30 minutes of Fifty Shades of Grey by just slightly amplifying the jokes that were already there. It's a tad lazy.

The only, truly funny moment occurs 40 minutes into the movie when Christian's mom, played by Jane Seymour, arrives. She's an absolute racist who is very entertaining than anything else here. Yet, even Wayans gets bored and veers off course to spoof other films. He incorporates a spoof of Whiplash (2014) and Magic Mike (2012). Both of those spoofs land like duds.

I suppose the only pleasure is that Marlon Wayans is just as muscular and well-built as Jamie Dornan. When he peels off his top and goes shirtless, Wayans is a believable stud. As a comedian, he always resists that label and always undercuts himself, and makes it out that he wouldn't be good in bed. Once the two get into the BDSM, there is some fun to be had with it like losing the key to handcuffs, but that's about it.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for strong crude sexual content including some graphic nudity, and for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 32 mins.

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