There are many great episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. There are some, however, that stand out. Manos, The Hands of Fate, for example. Teenagers from Outer Space. And of course, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.
Redoing a classic is always fraught with peril but the Cinematic Titanic trailer was hilarious, boding well for this particular remake. The verdict?
Somewhat surprisingly, the weakest of the new releases. They did manage not to repeat a single joke, however.
The challenge with all movie riffing is that it ebbs and flows. You can’t really blaze your way through 80 minutes with wall-to-wall jokes. Hitting a good rhythm is a challenge. The last several episodes started out all six-guns firing and then tapered off, sometimes too much, surging toward the middle, and usually dragging a bit by the end.
I gotta believe this is the most difficult aspect of riffing. A little ebb is good, particularly at a point where the viewer needs to concentrate on the action or dialogue–as a prelude to setting up jokes later on. Putting a bunch of jokes into a kind of cohesive whole keeps the audience involved when the jokes are looser.
Case in point, the original Claus had a running gag about “lentils”. Teenagers had “TORCHAA!” Even Manos had Torgo. This new Claus sorta has Droppo, but the unfunny clown is unfunny no matter how you mock him. (See Catalina Caper, or any other flick where there’s someone trying–and failing–to be funny. And also note how few episodes are based on actual, attempted comedies. Far worse and harder to watch than any cheesy horror film is a failed comedy.)
So the good things about this episode were that the jokes were pretty steady. There was less in the way of long ebbs (though a few). At the same time, the jokes were mostly solidly in the chuckle categoy.
And there was some excitement CT was trying to generate over the fact that they could show the whole movie, whereas on MST3K, they had to cut parts to fit into the format. (No worries, though, the episode is still under 90 minutes.) But by the end? They were just bitching about how long the movie was.
This is a fine line, but it’s not really riffing to bitch about how bad or long a movie is. It’s just complaining. “You’re coming in too cheap!” in the trailer is funny–funny even when you see it a 4th or 5th time in the movie. And there’s a point about 2/3rds of the way through where they act like the movie’s ended and then get pissed when it’s not: It’s an old gag, but it works well.
Joel’s Christmas gifts segment was awesome. I think it’s a mistake for CT not to exploit the wild creativity that was a good third of MST3K’s charm. And we are seeing more personality and a bit more of the backstory, so this is good.
I don’t want to harp on it, but there were about five political jokes. One of these, paralleling John McCain’s Vietnam adventures, was hilarious. There was another really good bit, too.
The rest, though, sort of fall into the clap humor. “Why can’t they do that to Ann Coulter?”, for example. Yeah, okay. Why not reference Rush Limbaugh when they’re taking the pills, while you’re at it? (Actually, I think they did take a shot at Limbaugh….)
As I’ve said before, this stuff leads to comedic laziness.
Anyway, overall amusing but far from hilarious. (The Boy liked it better than I but I didn’t hear that much laughing coming from him, either.)