John Landis Martyn Auty - Essay

Martyn Auty

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The self-conscious irony of equating a junk movie with junk food suggests exactly what is wrong with The Kentucky Fried Movie: its knowing comedy is so disposable as to be almost non-existent. Parody follows parody, each one half-baked and then half-digested. Here and there a trace of humour suggests an idea that might profitably have been developed (the trailer for CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS IN TROUBLE, or the straight black comedy that follows Henry Gibson's lugubrious "United Appeal for the Dead"), but the problem is essentially the same one that defeated The Groove Tube (an inauspicious antecedent). Parody has no existence beyond its object, leads nowhere, is not sharp enough to amount to satire nor sufficiently indulgent to be enjoyable simply as slapstick: Kentucky Fried Movie is precisely half-witted comedy…. More limiting still is director John Landis' dependence on Monty Python-type jokes: a patient in the headache clinic is repeatedly hit over the head with a brick; a lone cinema patron is perfunctorily touched up by an usher at a "Feel-A-Round" movie show. (Landis, of course, has since struck a richer vein of more indigenous comedy with National Lampoon's Animal House.) Laboured in this way, Python-esque humour very quickly goes cold. And it is in this form—though always with a smile—that the Kentucky Fried people serve up their movie.

Martyn Auty, in his review of "The Kentucky Fried Movie," in Monthly Film Bulletin (copyright © The British Film Institute, 1979), Vol. 46, No. 543, April, 1979, p. 73.