Spoof and parody movies have, in recent years, gone right down the toilet. Movies like the Scary Movie franchise and not another whatever movies have ruined the art of the spoof and parody. Those movies capitalize on the recent trends and pop culture and think topical humor would make good movies; scratch that, they think its an easy cash grab. Instead of implementing timeless stories and plots, let’s parody a commercial with a basketball (I remember the commercial but no idea what it was selling since it’s been over a decade).
The only way to watch good parody and spoofs is to watch the classics where characters were acting like what they were doing and saying was supposed to be an everyday normality. Movies like Airplane and the Naked Gun franchises work is because the actors were treating it as if they’re supposed to say it straight and not be overly goofy. One of the earliest movies that seemed to implement the strategy is Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. This movie is a parody/spoof movie that takes Hitchcock tropes from his The Birds movie and incorporate it into a sci-fi comedy musical. Did it work and does modern audiences even feel any kind of inclination to want to watch a movie with such a goofy title? Let’s look at the plot, the comedy and whether or not it will be funny for modern day audiences. Let’s sit back and see if this movie is ripe (puns are funny) as we review the movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
The plot of the movie is quite different and makes the movie quite interesting. We have mutated tomatoes on the loose throughout the USA and they are attacking and killing people with no remorse. It’s up to the government and a selected few agents to find a cure or solution to the tomato problem and end it before more and more people get killed and hurt. The movie is trying to be a comedy and spoof version of The Birds.
The movie has this feel of anxiousness because we jump from scene to scene with almost as little context as possible; whether we’re showing different short snippets of people getting attacked by the tomatoes or to government buildings and senate hearings and the president sitting in the oval office. The pace of the movie works to its advantage so it can show the “dire” situations of the tomato problem and also compress all these different scenes in as well to make it a longer feature. Are there scenes that weren’t needed in the movie? There were a couple of scenes that didn’t add to the movie and felt unnecessary, but, it doesn’t harm the movie. It makes you want to think, okay, that missed, but, what else do they have to offer. The plot was explained decently with some surprises along the way but, once we got the story out there and no more setup scenes, the pace slowed down and it was a lot more easy to follow who the characters are and what their purposes are.
The comedy of the movie is fantastic. The opening credits has an operatic singer singing the killer tomato song, which the song itself is so goofy that I am genuinely tickled by it. The actors were playing straight characters (not the goofball) and they were just thrown in funny situations (similar to Airplane). Some of the comedy (without spoiling the movie), features government officials having to get on the desk in order to reach their seats because the room is way too small, a paratrooper constantly in his uniform with the parachute always deployed, mocking Donny Osmond going through puberty, etc.
Watching this movie, I can see where movies like Mars Attacks took some ideas from (mostly the loud pitch song to drive the creatures into a weakened state). Not only is the one liners and action funny, but, its also a musical! Yes, a sci-fi comedy musical. There are a couple of scenes where people will break into songs and sing about what’s going on in the scene and what they hope to accomplish. One scene features a commercial public relations head honcho sing about consumerism and people will listen to whatever he says. Another is when the army is facing great odds against the tomatoes, one soldier solemnly sings about American history in war and like that, it turns into a cabaret/early rock and roll boogie woogie style all about what they’re going to do to the tomatoes when they come face to face with them. It came out of nowhere and I was very happy it did.
Comedies are very hard to write. It’s all subjective and in the PC age, one has to be careful not to offend anyone or else it can lead into a trigger attack and people smearing posts on the internet and whatnot. Most of the comedies in this generation are ingrained in pop culture and drugs and innuendos. Sometimes, we need to take a step away from what’s easy to write and think in twenty years, would this still be funny or would it be outdated? When watching Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, I laugh at the scenes that needed to be.
The jokes are funny due to great writing, and the actors portraying their tough exteriors in scenes that are so out there that the audience would have no choice but to laugh at the absurdity. This movie has timeless jokes and antics that don’t get old no matter how many years has passed. This movie was made in 1977 and in the year 2017 (40 years), I was able to enjoy the jokes and humor this movie offers because it wanted to be funny and timeless, not topical and the local fad. People of this generation and next should be able to sit down and find enjoyment in this movie whether it be the absurd premise or the musicality or the goofiness of some of the characters. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes should be on equal or close to equal par with other successful movies like The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane. It’s got a cult following, and one day, it won’t just be a cult phenomenon but will somehow break the glass and just be a forgotten gem that the public would enjoy.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.