The Spoils Before Dying full movie review - Extended SNL Skit
I've talked to far too many friends who have stopped watching Saturday Night Live over the past decade or so and every one of them has said the same thing: it's just not funny anymore.
Oh don't get us wrong, there are the occasional moments when past glories seem at hand but 99% of what they offer just doesn't make us laugh. I would explain it away as our getting older but when talking with younger people those that watch say the same thing and their number is few.
Which brings us to this movie, a compilation of six episodes of a "lost movie" that originally aired on IFC and has ties to FUNNY OR DIE, the online web humor site. I use the term loosely because like SNL the site isn't funny very often. One of the founders of the site is Will Ferrell, an SNL alum and one of the main people behind this series which explains a lot.
The concept behind the series is a lost film by director and author Eric Jonrosh (Ferrell), a story set in the fifties jazz scene where a famed piano player named Rock Banyon (Michael Kenneth Williams) has been framed for the murder of chanteuse Fresno Foxglove (Maya Rudolph). Having passed out the night of the murder he has no alibi and the police bring him in for questioning. As their prime suspect he asks for two days to prove he's innocent which the police allow. From there he tracks down what few clues he has to find the culprit aided by another singer he was once in love with, Delores DeWinter (Kristen Wiig).
Apparently this is a sequel to the earlier made SPOILS OF BABYLON, a parody series of the old epic mini-series that aired on TV in the eighties. That too featured Ferrell as Jonrosh doing the same thing. He presents a pompous character who thinks his every word is gold and who introduces and closes each episode. My biggest problem here was that this character sounded and acted like characters Ferrell has done before, offering nothing new and presenting little that was funny. That bothers me because honestly Ferrell can be one of the funniest actors around as well as a darn good straight actor (see STRANGER THAN FICTION). But as with many comedians from SNL and the stand-up scene of the time it's as if he's been surrounded by yes men who do nothing but tell him how great, how fantastic and how funny he is even when he isn't.
Williams is wasted here. Having seen how good he can be in the IFC series HAP AND LEONARD I know what he can do and here he's not given much. Wiig is another SNL alum who has great potential and yet picks up roles like this one that offer nothing much. I'm guessing it was a favor to fellow SNL actors. Several more are included in the cast like Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Molly Shannon and Chris Parnell. Once more each deserves something better than this.
I really would love to say I enjoyed this or that it offered a great parody of the genre but it felt forced to me rather than something that flowed with an admiration on the part of the writers, director and cast. Instead it felt more like it was trying for an AIRPLANE feel but falling far short. On the good side it never drops as far as the lame parody films like EPIC MOVIE, DISASTER MOVIE and THE STARVING GAMES.
Ferrell continues to make movies that take on a roller-coaster feel going up and down when it comes to both popularity and the ability to make us laugh. Wiig has shown she's still doing great with roles in THE MARTIAN and BRIDESMAIDS. But isn't it time that ex-SNL cast members stop staying so close to one another to the point that they can't make a move without one another? And rather than listen to sycophantic crowds who surround them they need to find someone willing to say this doesn't work or this could be better rather than those who tell them how wonderful they are now.
While not the worst thing I've watched in a while this movie is lacking. I tackled the first three episodes at one time and didn't get back to watch the last three until days later never feeling like I was missing anything in doing so. It would be nice if comedians would choose to make things funny for their audience rather than for their so called in group of friends. When the rest of the world just doesn't get it then the truth is it's not funny.