I won't keep it a secret from anyone: I couldn't care less about James Bond. Maybe I'm not a man's man. Maybe I'm not a proper film critic. Maybe I just don't have the time to watch all the 007 movies in order to convince myself that they're not all the same. Whatever the reason for my disinterest in the series, the painful truth is that I'm completely lost when it comes to discussing Bond. This could be why I don't hang out with a lot of movie geeks. Or, more likely, why they don't hang out with me.
It would make sense for my disinterest in Bond to extend to the films that parody the character and the series. Sure, I appreciate a good spoof, but there's not much enjoyment for me in a joke I don't get. So, just as I don't have a desire to watch the Scary Movie franchise because I don't watch the horror movies it makes fun of, I probably wouldn't like a concentrated spoof of the Bond franchise. Luckily for me, most Bond parodies aren't strictly a series of specific jokes and gags that I don't understand. They typically have something more to offer. And those that I can appreciate and enjoy are due to my having a general, pop-cultural knowledge of Bond films, a taste for simple satire and a preference for liberal, anarchic and random humor.
So, I've made a list of ways in which Bond has been spoofed that are accessible to the non-Bond-fan. There are others out there, from pornographic parodies to obscure foreign takes on the character, but I'll let the real 007 aficionados seek out every spoof out there. ...
- Adapt loosely. There are many reasons that the 1967 version of Casino Royale was made as a spoof, and the history behind that is too complex to go into here, but it is hardly a parody of any of the Bond movies, really. It is made from an actual Bond novel, the same one now adapted seriously as the new Casino Royale, and it features the main character by name, which is typically rare in a spoof. It also includes the novel's plot -- although very, very loosely. Sometimes it pokes fun at actual Bond characteristics, such as the spy's playboy reputation, while other times it goes off on ridiculous tangents, including a riotous ending involving a nonsensical, forcefully conclusive fight sequence that has nothing to do with the book. Basically, Casino Royale is less a Bond spoof than it is just a wild comedy that uses the Ian Fleming novel as a simple foundation. And it includes my favorite Bonds: the adorable but sexy Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet) and the maniacally funny Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen).
- Specifically reference. There is nothing too Bond-like about the character of Austin Powers, except for his profession and his success with women, but the trilogy of Austin Powers movies has a great deal of homage parody, much of which I don't recognize with my limited familiarity of Bond films. Still, despite the specific jokes and gags, the three movies have plenty of comedy that isn't exactly Bond-related, and they are all funny enough on their own. They also support the idea that good comedy can overshadow bad directing and editing.
- Self-parody. Roger Moore's appearance in The Cannonball Run is made hilarious by the fact that he plays a character who thinks he's both the actor Roger Moore and the character James Bond. He drives a tricked-out Aston Martin (though Moore's Bond never drove one) and is accompanied by a different woman each time we see him. Another type of meta self-reference exists in the obscure film OK Connery, which seemed to be content with working only on the comedic principle of casting Sean Connery's younger brother as its Bond knock-off.
- Demonstrate irrelevancy. My favorite spoof of Bond is in the corny introduction of xXx. It features a tuxedo-clad spy sticking out like a sore thumb at a Rammstein concert. This gag about the irrelevancy of a Bond-type spy in modern times was obvious and easy, but it worked to make way for the x-treme sort of spy played by Vin Diesel.
- Play it young. There have been a number of youth-oriented takes on the Bond model, including the authorized cartoon James Bond, Jr. and the unconnected teen spy movies Agent Cody Banks (and its sequel), Stormbreaker and If Looks Could Kill. All of these point to the boyish fantasies of the Bond series -- mainly the predilections for loose, sexy women and toy-like gadgets.
- Get stupid. There are two Bond parodies that I would never take over an actual Bond film. One is Spy Hard, the other is Johnny English. Each has more to offer than cheap slapstick, and I hate to even imply that slapstick is a bad thing, but neither has anything intelligently comic to say about the Bond series. Some people out there can appreciate the simple irony of featuring a Bond who is incompetent, but not me.
- Run it into the ground. Here's where people will disagree with me most. I think one way to spoof James Bond is to drag the series out until the character is a parody of itself. Just as many horror franchises become a joke after too many sequels, the Bond series has suffered at times by having its premise stretched thin. I have a good feeling that my disinterest in Bond is partly related to the era in which I grew up. It was a time when Bond films were at their worst, from Moonraker (come on, Bond in space?) to the short-lived Dalton period. I won't say that the Brosnan contributions are great; in fact I can't take them any more seriously, especially the one with Denise Richards, but at least they work for the most part as thrilling action movies, if nothing else (isn't that all we can expect these days, anyway?). It's possible that by going back to the origins, the new Casino Royale will be a fresh start, but eventually somebody needs to put Bond to bed for good.