Grade: BKentucky Fried Movie (1977)

Director: John Landis

Stars: Evan Kim, Robert Starr, Marilyn Joi, David Zucker

Release Company: Media Home Entertainment

MPAA Rating: R

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John Landis: Kentucky Fried Movie


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Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee, 1973
Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee, 1973 Photographic Print
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Moscow in flames, missiles headed for New York. More at eleven.


With fake television promos, commercial parodies like the Hare Krishnas enjoying a round of Willer beers and hitting on the girls after a hard day of pamphleteering, and skits that show a rampaging gorilla take over a newsroom, you may think you are watching Saturday Night Live. You wouldn't be far off.

Kentucky Fried Movie plays very much like an R-rated version of SNL, with predictably uneven results. There will be some sketches that entertain you; others will fall flat and seem dated. A favorite among cult film fans, some claim this is the funniest movie of all time.

I wouldn't go that far; the primary movers behind the 1977 project have all done better comedy work themselves. Director John Landis does better work in his next two films, Animal House and The Blues Brothers (but there's no John Belushi in Kentucky Fried Movie). Similarly, writers Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams both went on to write Airplane!.

Watch Kentucky Fried Movie with a group of friends. That could lead into a possibly interesting discussion and give some insights into what your friends think is funny—there is enough variety in this grab bag to tickle and offend.

I found the centerpiece, "Fistful of Yen," to be an especially well-done parody of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. It's unfortunate that the director of the dreadful Game of Death failed to use Kim instead of Tai Chung Kim to double for Lee.
It's amazing to see how well Lee’s mannerisms and expressions are copied from Enter the Dragon, and how humorously its the plot structure is lifted. One of the bigger laughs? When the evil leader questions his guards Dating Game-style before having them executed.

The Bruce Lee parody is inspired although its Wizard of Oz ending cheapens it. But this skit pretty much mirrors Kentucky Fried Movie as a whole; this is a hit-and-miss affair. You're sure to hear different aspects highlighted by your friends, depending on what grabs them.

There's plenty for people who love risqué humor, like the fake trailer for "Catholic School Girls in Trouble," complete with buxom babes pressed against the translucent shower stall, and the poor victim who discovers to his horror that one old wives' tale about masturbation has come true.

In another sketch, a couple is doing the deed on their couch while the TV newscaster magically can see what they are doing (and gets distracted from his duties).

And there's a memorable courtroom skit that rivals Woody Allen's Bananas for the funniest judicial scene ever filmed. Much of the humor here relies on sight gags, so you can imagine what precedes the "He's leading the witness" line. Although I could see that one coming, I hadn't anticipated the one that accompanies the "Are you aware of the penal code in this country?" line.

There are some other chuckles, some things that really seem lame, and others that are just tasteless. You'll have to decide whether certain skits—about extracting oil from teenage skin, advertisements for the “Scot Free” board game about the JFK assassination and conspiracy theories, demonstrations of "Feel Around" movies, or ads for The United Appeal for the Dead to support families keeping their loved ones around like Norman Bates—are worth laughing at.

There isn’t the same intellectual edge to Kentucky Fried Movie as you'll find in many Monty Python skits—it relies more on American pop culture. If you're not easily offended and have liked Saturday Night Live-style humor over the years, you'll probably enjoy this quirky film. On the other hand, if Bob Hope is your comic ideal, you may want to pass.


 


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