National Lampoon’s Men in White (1998)
Film review #537
Director: Scott P. Levy
SYNOPSIS: Two low-ranking garbage men are abducted by aliens that intend to launch a full-scale invasion of earth. They manage to escape, but are immediately recruited by the government to put a stop to the invasion. However, there are mysterious forces at work that do not want them to succeed…after all, who would put two garbage men in charge of saving the world?
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: National Lampoon’s Men in White is a 1998 sci-fi comedy film that is unsurprisingly a parody of the 1997 film Men in Black. The film centres around two garbage men, Roy DuBro and Ed Klingbottom, who are abducted by aliens led by Glaxxon, who intends to invade the Earth with his army. They manage to escape the alien’s clutches, but are almost immediately recruited by the government to stop the invasion by Dr. Strangemeister, who has secretly selected the lowest, most inept government officials to deal with the invasion and fail, since he is secretly working with them. The film is, as the title suggests, a parody of the man in Black film that was released a year earlier, but it is a very loose parody, poking fun at other science-fiction films including Independence Day. The plot is very simple, but it’s just a vehicle for all the gags and comedy, so it’s easy enough to follow. The one thing I’m not sure about is who this film is really aimed at: it has a P.G. rating, and there’s no real adult humour or language, but there’s a fair amount of references that younger viewers probably wouldn’t get. If you’re watching it as a Men in Black parody, there’s enough references throughout the film, and plenty of visual gags that, while nothing special, are still decent. There’s a fair amount of more subtle gags, such as the scenery changing through the President’s windows every scene, which is quite funny, and it reminds me of the Naked Gun films in that no one ever references them. The mix of visual gags, fourth-wall breaking, and slapstick humour is a lot of different techniques that makes threading the film as a whole together problematic; but again, as it’s a comedy-parody film, you can probably just enjoy it for the different gags. Having the National Lampoon’s title attached to it also suggests it would be targeted for an older audience as many of the films are, but I don’t think this is meant to be the case.
The film was produced by Saban International, who most notably do the Power Rangers series, and the aliens and effects definitely have that look and feel about them. Karim Prince, who plays Roy DuBro, also starred in one of the Power Rangers series. There’s a decent mix of CG that doesn’t look too bad for the time, and practical effects that work fairly well. Overall, the film is a mish-mash of different gags that doesn’t really tie together too well, but has a few good jokes (like the scene which makes fun of the Men in Black “neuralyser” that wipes memories). I think the cast is decent enough (apart from the lazy German stereotype of Dr. Strangemeister), but they’re not given too much to do other than delivering bad jokes. It’s not a gripping film, and there’s very little of substance, But I guess for a family film there’s different references and humours for different viewers so I suppose that’s good? I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t watched Men in Black or Independence Day or the like will really appreciate or enjoy it, and it’s references make it a dated film that diminish the humour of the film to modern viewers.
The Three Fantastic Supermen (1967)
Film review # 528
Director: Gianfranco Parolini
SYNOPSIS: FBI agent Brad hires two “supermen” who fight crime in their bullet-proof suits. The three of them join forces to become the “three fantastic supermen,” to investigate an evil plot concerning counterfeit money and bad guys turning people into precious jewels…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Three Fantastic Supermen is a 1967 film. The film opens up with FBI agent Brad testing two superhero crimefighters, Tony and Nick, to see if they are up to joining forces. The two pass the test, and the three work together to investigate a counterfeit money ring and an evil scheme. The film is very much one of the many, many comedy spy films that parody the likes of James Bond-style films, and were especially in abundance in Italy at the time. It also has this superhero element too, with the characters dressing in skin-tight spandex and capes that serve as “bullet-proof suits.” The plot of the film is pretty standard for a spy film parody, but it at least has direction and some twists, with the somewhat uneasy alliance between the FBI and the two vigilante heroes leading to some conflict between them. The main aspect of the film is the comedy though, so everything is done in a silly, slapstick way. Any sense of peril is faced by Tony’s cheeky smile, and Nick’s expressive facial expressions and motion (accentuated by the fact he is mute). Things get even more silly when a machine that turns people into precious jewels gets introduced, as well as the machine eventually being able to clone people, but it also gets a bit sinister, when a class of schoolkids are kidnapped and nearly killed (the cloning machine works properly on children, but not adults apparently). Regardless, it’s a standard bit of comedy and parody, with plenty of scantily-clad women and chauvinism to appeal to its young male target audience.
The three main characters, Tony, Brad and Nick are different enough to make them distinguishable and interesting: as mentioned, Brad is the straight-laced FBI agent who has an uneasy alliance with the other two, although this typically ends with them playing practical jokes on him as he tries to get their secrets from them. Tony is the suave cheeky chap who laughs off any threats, and Nick as the expressive mute gives the scenes a different kind of energy. The supporting cast is a fairly typical bunch, with the evil criminal mastermind, the scientist, and his attractive daughter who serves as the love interest, so it’s unremarkable, but it has the staples of the films it is attempting to parody. The three “fantastic supermen” are also played by trained acrobats, so they can pull off some good stunts and performances, which again give the scenes a unique energy and appeal. There’s also plenty of props and variety in the scenes to make it feel busy and engaging, so while it’s a bit low budget and all over the place, it is still entertaining, although the music consisting of one of about three pieces of music played every other minute does get annoying quite fast. Overall though, The Three Fantastic Supermen is a very typical spy comedy of the time, with the added superhero element adding in a bit of a twist, and the acrobatics giving the stunts a bit more energy. It’s nothing too special or memorable, but it was apparently successful enough to warrant a number of sequels, which we will have to look at at some point…