Thursday, May 23, 2024

Review: Marlon Wayans Spoofs — As Only Wayans Can — with ‘Fifty Shades of Black’

POSTER, Fifty-Shades-of-Black

*Marlon Wayans is at it again. In his latest film, “Fifty Shades of Black” he plays Christian Black, a handsome, filthy rich businessman with “issues.”

And as we know, every issue has its form of expression and Black manifests his as a Dominant. His sexual arousal comes from having a “submissive” – someone that he can torture. And in this role his eye is on a young, sexually inexperienced literary student named Hannah Steele (played by Kali Hawk).

Now before we go any further, Black Folk, let me holla at you for a minute. Many of you will stick your nose up at the premise upon which this film is built. Hey, that’s not a judgement, I was the same way before my book club agreed to read the first “Fifty Shades of Gray” book.

It was different and we only read that ONE…as a group. But I was intrigued and got all involved with the story; so I continued on with the other two books.

And I’m glad I did.

And even though I was front and center at the opening weekend of Fifty Shades of Gray, it wasn’t because I am into that whole dominant-submissive thang. Hell to the nah. I’m not. But I got hooked on something else.

The story.

As fans of the film that inspired “Fifty Shades of Black” will be quick to let you know, there is a real story there.

A love story.

It may be a strange, twisted and unconventional love story, but does that make it any less valid? “Fifty Shades” is the story of a man who, beneath all of the machismo, never really learned how to love a woman properly because his first experience with sex was with his very mature music teacher at a very young age. Yes, in laymen’s terms: he was raped.

But one day the handsome businessman is interviewed by a young, unsuspecting literary student who was forced into the job because her roommate, the one who was initially scheduled to perform the interview, got sick.

Sidebar: In the original film, Dakota Johnson’s roommate is sick with the flu. In THIS spoof, the roommate character (who we will meet later) is sick with chlamydia. 

The handsome businessman with the big secret gets intrigued by the innocent, unsuspecting, obviously awkward and sexually inexperienced young woman; as she is infatuated with him, and the two enter into an erotic, suspenseful and sometimes dangerous mutual relationship.

“Fifty Shades of Black” is a spoof, so you won’t find a lot of the depth that the original movie brings. It’s basically Wayans doing what Wayans does best: comedy. Being silly, often vulgar (smelling the admitted virgin woman’s surprisingly tart panties, then throwing them on the wall—where they stick before sliding down; throwing his own brown-matter-filled-shorts out into the crowd at a strip bar, right into the face of a female admirer).

fifty-shades-of-black-STRIPPER SCENE

Marlon Wayans told Aol Build he knew he was going to parody Fifty Shades of Gray as soon as he read the book. “I was going to do my first parody book. I was intrigued because like, women were all over this book,” Wayans said. “I’d be on planes and there’d be all these housewives and they had their seat all curled up, watching the book, and they was getting all hot and bothered and I was like, ‘what the hell?’”

Wayans elaborated saying that when he and his longtime writing partner Rick Alvarez saw the movie, they were taking notes and writing jokes throughout. By the time the movie was over they had “like 15 pages of jokes and characters and we said, ‘this is a movie,’” he concluded.

Wayans said the character Christian Gray went from being just rich to “creepy” and “stalker” and he wondered how this would manifest if this character was black.

“Because there is only so much stuff you’re going to do to a sister before she’s like, ‘Oh, n*gger, no!’” Hawk (“Black Jesus,” “Couples Retreat”), his co-star in the film, nods in agreement.

Hawk said she was pretty much in when she heard Wayans was making the film. In a phone conversation with Wayans, she was asked what her boundaries were and she told him that she didn’t really have any – a response which she later revealed was a mistake. “You should always have boundaries where a guy is concerned,” she told Aol Build.

In “Fifty Shades of Black” Wayans and Hawk work well together. And in spurts, you can even see Wayans innate ability to be a serious actor. In those moments when he is being Christian Black, the wealthy businessman; not Christian Black the freak, he is actually quite convincing.

Courtesy Open Road Films
Courtesy Open Road Films

…And extremely handsome, I might add. That may seem like an interesting or misplaced statement. For those who may think, “Isn’t he handsome all the other times too?” There is a difference in his look when he is being serious. And if you don’t plan to go and see the film to see that difference for yourself…

I guess you will just have to take my word for it. But the photo directly below gives you a clue.

Fifty-Shades-of-Black-MARLON W

Hawk plays her role as the innocent submissive well, yet there is nothing to “write home about” so to speak. After the first few scenes, we see what amounts to the two quirky facial expressions she pretty much carries throughout the film; and they become pretty anticipated. But she is delightful and likable in the role; and women especially will have fun with and appreciate the scene where she gets her payback in the Red Room.

Audiences may be surprised with some of the casting choices. Who would’ve suspected Jane Seymour (“Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman”) to not only be in such a film, but to play the mother of Wayans’ Christian Black…and so well, I might add. As the out-loud stereotypical white racist (yep, she shows us there is such a thing as the ‘stereotypical’ white racist), Seymour envelops her role.  And when EURweb senior editor, DeBorah B. Pryor spoke with her following the premier, she pretty much confirmed that funny was a welcomed thing in her life at this age. Then there is Florence Henderson (“The Brady Bunch”) who plays the sexually-insatiable “Mrs. Robinson,” the music teacher who got her kicks by sexing up (and humiliating) a young Christian Black and other male students in her music class.

The fact that these two women in particular were cast in a film of this sort, and accepted the roles, definitely makes one appreciate how times have changed for the older, formerly more pristine actresses, in Hollywood.

Further proving that the bottom line reads: Work is work!

Affion Crockett (“Soul Men”), who plays “Eli” — the dreadlock-wearing, counter-cultured younger brother to Christian Black, is an all-around hoot in the role and he easily steals any scene that he is in — except for the scenes with Hannah’s over-the-top roommate, “Kateesha” (played to the hilt with reckless abandon by Jenny Zigrino).

Jenny Zigrino and Mike Epps in "Fifty Shades of Black"
Jenny Zigrino and Mike Epps in “Fifty Shades of Black”

“Fifty Shades of Black” is distributed in the USA by Open Road Films. It was co-written by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez and directed by Michael Tiddes. It opens nationwide on 2,075 screens on Friday, January 29 and is projected to gross $10-11 million. The film runs 1 hour and 32 minutes. See full list of cast and crew.

Watch EURweb on the red carpet in the video below with the stars from “Fifty Shades of Black” and more.

About the Author

DeBorah B. Pryor
DeBorah B. Pryor

DeBorah B. Pryor is a Senior Editor and resident theatre critic at Electronic Urban Report. She is a former actress with a degree in Drama Education from San Francisco State University. As an educator she has taught public speaking and communications at UCLA and as an entrepreneur maintains a small business as an Associate with the #1 provider of legal insurance,  LegalShield.


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