Wednesday, April 12, 2006
David Zucker opens a manila envelope and pulls out a sheaf of glossies documenting his long, strange association with one Robert K. Weiss.
"I've brought some evidence of the movies we've made together," Zucker says. He seems a little nervous, a little squirrelly. Weiss sits next to him on the settee, a bear of a man, noshing a bagel and shmear, warily. "I don't have pictures of our relationship," Zucker explains.
"The police," says Weiss, chewing slowly, "have those."
And they're off. Zucker and Weiss have been making films for three decades. Their collaboration has resulted in the iconic touchstones of late-20th-century cinematic parody, such as "Airplane!," which has been widely acknowledged as the progenitor of the feature-length spoof since its premiere in 1980. The form has since been endlessly imitated and retooled, and consistently profitable. Their original classic was followed by the "Naked Gun" series and the current "Scary Movie" franchise, with the nationwide release of "SM4" this Friday.
If you are not familiar with the genre, what you need to know is this: In "Scary Movie 4," escaped monkeys drive forklifts.
A Michael Jackson look-alike comes to save the little children from a rampaging war of the worlds, unleashed by an iPod. The real Dr. Phil amputates his own foot. Charlie Sheen dies of lethal erection. Cloris Leachman? You don't even want to know.
"Scary Movie" mocks horror films and pop culture. An audience member who does not enjoy physical comedy involving alien sphincters and Oprah may choose not to peruse the Zucker-Weiss product. It is spoof, it is slapstick, it is stupid. And it has made Leslie Nielsen rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams.
"That movie -- "Airplane!" -- it influenced so many of us," says Jay Chandrasekhar, director of "The Dukes of Hazzard," who saw the film when he was 12 years old -- with his mother.
What does Chandrasekhar remember? "It was the first time I saw naked boobs on-screen," he says in a telephone interview. "It was very impactful."
Impactful, yes, but on a higher plane. That jiggling, he says, "was like a first taste of forbidden fruit." The "nonstop hilariousness." The gladiator jokes. "It was the discovery of how to do the spoof," he says.
Zucker places his photographs on the glass table. Here is a picture of him and Weiss, along with their other longtime collaborators Jim Abrahams and David's brother Jerry Zucker, all sitting down, poring over a script, while behind them three naked women are writhing seductively, bound in chains. "I believe this is a script conference," Zucker says, from the set of their first film, "The Kentucky Fried Movie," released in 1977. "We can show our kids someday," Weiss says. "Here's Daddy hard at work."