Television & Film


Mystery Science Theater 3000: Experiment 1111

Written by Joel Hodgson et al
Directed by Joel Hodgson and Robert Cohen
Copyright 2017

Given the reputation of sequels in general, it’s no surprise that MST3K has had a fair few of them pass through its portal doors. There’s the Gamera series, of course. Then Cave Dwellers, the two Amazing Colossal Man movies, a few Godzilla films here and there, a dash of Hercules. Then there’s the sort-of sequels: where TV shows such as Fugitive Alien and Master Ninja are taken and episodes spliced together into ersatz movies for the Saturday-afternoon-UHF market. What is unusual is to get two in a row: this week’s episode is the second blow of a one-two punch that is positively devastating.

It’s a rainy day in outer space (wait, what?) and the SOL crew are moping around until it’s time for the invention exchange. Jonah & the bots introduce GIF Notes: book summaries done entirely in emojis for today’s attention-span-deprived students who can’t slog all the way through the Cliff’s Notes version. It’s a cute idea, but I hear their version of The Naked Lunch is longer than the actual text. The Mads introduce us to Punt Bunnies: cute little bunniewunnies who actually enjoy getting a swift kick into next Tuesday.

Well, it says sequel on the tin, but Wizards II seems to bear only the faintest relation to the original. The setting is extremely similar, the storyline follows a (now vastly more annoying) young wizard around as he battles not one but three evil sorcerers. The big walking shag rug is now an elderly, moderately shaggy wizard who keeps his dad’s skull in a cave, and the boozy ex-hero who tags along to bail them out every few minutes is now played by David Carradine.

Now, this movie…I know better than to expect good in these things. I mean come on, this is MST3K. But most of the films we get are at least semi-competent. Even the first Wizards movie was fairly adequate. But this? This is actually quite surprising in how thoroughly awful it is. First off, someone along the line decided to go with making it “funny”–I guess they thought the laughs should be on purpose this time. The jokes, unfortunately, tend to fall flat. The fight choreography consists of people lightly tapping one another with swords and then having a nice lie-down. The villains are not only bad at their job but seem to be made of pure ham. The situations are poorly thought out, and the “hero” almost never actually does anything on his own. We’re talking flatline character arc, here. This reviewer literally lost track of the number of plot threads that wound up going absolutely nowhere. I mean, we got a lot of cheesy films on the SOL, but very few of them are this level of just plain broken.

The first host segment has the crew presenting an instructional video on how to run a pub like the one Carradine’s character has at the start of the movie. Suffice to say he’s even less of a restaurateur than Hulk Hogan (Pastamania, anyone?). Remember: get their money first, then stab them. Not the other way around. That’s important.

The second segment takes on the movie’s (*cough*) humorous tone, with Jonah reminiscing about the 80’s and the wizard-comedy craze. He then proceeds to take them through a bunch of Jeff Foxworthy-esque jokes about how you just might be a crummy wizard. He even provides a giant pop-up book full of said jokes. One can only imagine thousands of copies sitting in medieval outhouses and boxed up in castle towers, gently moldering away unread.

In the third segment, Kinga gets a visit from Gramma Pearl, and discusses ratings and how to dominate on-demand television in a world without timeslots. She decides to get married in a cynical publicity grab and make herself the center of the show. “I appreciate the depravity of your motives,” says Pearl in my personal vote for quote of the year, but declines to help out, preferring to bail.

Post-movie, the SOL crew are OD’ing on bad movie, prompting Jonah to come up with “remedy” movies to counteract the various pain points of this week’s experiment. Some rather excellent suggestions, here, actually.

Well, this was a real groaner. It somehow manages to make the original look–well, not all that bad, considering. Poorly written, poorly acted, most of Carradine’s best scenes are lifted wholesale from his earlier film The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984). And worst of all, the humor. Lord help us, the humor. In Woody Allen’s Shadows and Fog (1991), a character says, “Nothing is more terrifying than attempting to make people laugh and failing.” To that I would say nothing is quite as wince-inducing as being on the receiving end of that transaction: that mix of annoyance, sympathetic embarrassment and mild nausea that comes with watching someone desperately and repeatedly failing to be funny. That is Wizards II‘s greatest crime, and all in all it’s just as well that they never did a third one.

What do you think, sirs?

Kelly Luck has found that if you don’t fumigate your bookshelves every few months, Jeff Foxworthy books just show up unbidden. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.

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