Chug Your Beer: for the duration of each of Kateesha’s vile sexual monologues.
Take a Drink: for every prop dick.
Do a Shot: for every joke you can spot as having been recycled from another Wayans film.
By: Hawk Ripjaw (Six Pack) –
Fuck you, you know what this movie is about.
There are occasional morsels of good joke ideas here, although with the scorched earth, numbers game of jokes that Fifty Shades of Black plays, it was bound to land a couple of chuckles. One of these involves Christian losing the key to the shackles binding Hannah (Kali Hawk), necessitating that he call in a series of people—locksmiths, welders, even a magician—to try to get them open. While the execution of the joke wasn’t there, the idea, progressively ramping of the absurdity of a single situation, was kind of clever.
The movie opens with a montage that mirrors that of the film Fifty Shades of Grey, with the billionaire jogging through Seattle, getting dressed, and so on, with the twist being at the end of each vignette he snatches a purse or steals a shirt or car. Because black people steal things, get it?
Later on, the couple wants to talk, but they complain that talking like white people involves “pulling out big SAT words” and decide to just yell and wave their hands at each other.
BECAUSE BLACK PEOPLE TALK ON A LEVEL THAT IS BELOW THAT OF EVERYONE ELSE. GET IT??
This might as well be called Black Stereotype: The Movie. In 10 minutes I counted almost as many racial stereotypes. Is this targeted at a demographic? Is this supposed to be funny? In a matter of minutes, I was taken back almost two decades where it was still fresh to imply that human beings with different skin colors behaved on a level below everyone else. You could argue that Wayans is being subversive and putting gender stereotypes on the table to force us to confront hidden biases, but it all feels very mean-spirited, instead of some sort of inside joke. Jane Seymour and Fred Willard play Black’s adoptive parents, and—surprise! They’re racist. They’ve also adopted a Korean daughter, who is still assumed to be Chinese by the mother (who yells gibberish Chinese across a table laden with food stereotypically thought to be enjoyed by each ethnicity).
When it’s not going straight for racial humor, Fifty Shades of Black reaches for the lowest-hanging fruit for the rest of its gags. In typical Wayans fashion, the movie takes scenes from its source and mildly escalates them. In one scene, instead of taking a bite out of Hannah’s toast, Christian slobbers all over it before handing it back to her. I initially chuckled at that in the theater, but thinking back on it I’m disappointed in myself. In another scene, Christian is about to introduce Hannah to the Play Room, and forcibly… key-fucks the keyhole as he gasps erotically. As you’d expect, the Play Room is filled with an entertainment center and game consoles. It’s all of the laziest, basest jokes you could expect, and when it’s not inserting lazy twists into the story, it’s going for spoofs on Whiplash and Magic Mike and outdated references to Rhonda Rousey interspersed with Jenny Zigrino as Hannah’s heavyset nymphomaniac roommate Lateesha.
As I said, Wayans and company assume that what they’ve made is hilarious, and that’s honestly the scariest thing about this movie. In 2015 we got The Ridiculous 6, and almost every actor in that movie looked exhausted. Adam Sandler in particular was definitely on something throughout the filming of that trainwreck, whether it was hard drugs or his own self-loathing. Yet Marlon Wayans commits so fully to his movie. He throws himself wholeheartedly into the role and the film. Steadfastly committed to the idea that he has created something transcendentally hilarious, there is actual effort exerted here—and while that dedication and confidence is certainly something I can respect Wayans for, it also means there’s probably no end in sight for this brand of film.
A byproduct of a movie that plays it fast and loose with the already-thin source material is that this movie has worse pacing than a sketch comedy in the way it ties scenes together. Fifty Shades of Black lazes from one scenario to the next, gathering up a handful of Grey’s more “significant” scenes with very little connective tissues between them. I’m hard-pressed to believe that anyone without a passing knowledge of the storyline of the source material would have any way of following this.
The movie can’t even assemble coherent, well-developed characters. While that may be a bit much to ask given that the A Haunted House movies and most of what Wayans has written merely involves weird caricatures, Black doesn’t even give these characters coherent personalities. Black will go from suave gentlemen to “screaming Wayans mode” in seconds, while Hannah’s Wayans-ified Anna Steele follows the original character religiously unless she needs to suddenly emasculate Christian. Somewhere in there is supposed to be the gradual reveal of the dominant Christian really just being a trouble man-child, which itself may be a play on the character from the original story, but the fact that I actually had to dig into the movie and try to extract an analysis is just indicative of how poorly put together this movie is.
It’s horrible. It’s even worse than its inspiration, which itself is so bad Felix Felicis and I will probably never recover. It’s racist, misogynistic, and downright vile. Around the halfway mark involving a messy Whiplash spoof starring Florence Henderson as a verbally abusive sex instructor in a flashback explaining Black’s kinks, I was getting lightheaded. It’s crazy, but also entirely possible that this movie raised my blood pressure to dangerous levels.
There’s a requisite gag during a “torture” montage in which Christian is reading the book Fifty Shades of Grey to Hannah as she screams in protest. Wayans mugs into the camera and declares “This is fifty shades of shitty!”
This might be the one time I’ll stand behind E.L. James, so savor it.
Mr. Wayans, you have no right.