Richard Schickel

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419

The Kentucky Fried Movie is a sort of National Lampoon that talks and moves. It offers a compilation of very broad show-business parodies aimed at sophomoric sensibilities (and those permanently arrested in those realms). The picture is indelicate, obvious, often less funny than it thinks it is, but lively and sufficiently on-target to reward casual attention.

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Most of the film satirizes television commercials and movie trailers. Since such bits and pieces cannot, in the nature of things, exceed the length of the material being sent up, the misfires do not detain, and are quickly forgotten. Among those most likely to be remembered—at least for a day or two—are a beer commercial in which those seeking gusto from the suds are a group of Hare Krishna sect members coming in after a hard day's chanting and leaflet peddling, and an institutional plug from an oil company experimentally reclaiming oil from greasy containers cast off by fast-food restaurants.

There is also a public service message … informing the world of death's danger signals and advising what to do when the end arrives (don't attempt to operate heavy machinery). Finally there are previews of coming attractions, the products of the fevered imagination of a mythical movie producer, Samuel L. Bronkowitz, offering foretastes of epics like That's Armageddon.

Bronkowitz is also producer of record of the movie's longest, most carefully worked-out and best sequence, a bargain-basement Kung Fu adventure called A Fistful of Yen. The hero has a lisp. The villain uses a gong instead of a beep to tell callers when to start talking into his answering machine and speaks in a dubbed voice that in a masterly manner sends up all the dubbed voices one has ever suffered through while watching imported pictures.

It would be nice to report that everything in Kentucky Fried reaches the level of this segment, but many of its subjects are themselves self-parodying and scarcely worth even the class-day skit efforts expended on them here. Still, the film avoids the scatological depths of Groove Tube, its most obvious forebear, while offering the hope that television is not bending to the breaking point all the young minds exposed to it. To be sure, a moment or two of genuine outrage might have enlivened Kentucky Fried, but there is a lot of good sense and humor in its assaults on television and the movies' sillier realms.

Richard Schickel, "Lightly Browned," in Time (copyright 1977 Time Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission from Time), Vol. 110, No. 9, August 29, 1977, p. 76.

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