Airing for a woefully brief two seasons from 1994 to 1995, The Critic is an under-appreciated gem of animated satire focused on lampooning the film industry.
Jon Lovitz turns in his greatest performance as the titular movie critic Jay Sherman, but the show also features some current Hollywood heavyweights behind the scenes, such as Judd Apatow, Brad Bird, and Hans Zimmer. Looking back, some of the show’s humor seems a bit dated (Orson Welles’s weight is a recurring punchline, which probably isn’t something teenagers are talking about). On the other hand, some of it is unfortunately all too relevant today.
But one aspect of this truly well-written series that stands out as a strong point are the parodies of Hollywood films usually presented on Sherman’s morning review show, Coming Attractions.
Throughout the series, these fake films are presented in clips, marquees, and dialogue that parody what the show’s writers saw as the declining aspects of contemporary films: uninspired sequels, cash-grab film adaptations of popular IP, and the corporatization of cinema.
In hindsight, The Critic made a few astounding predictions about where the film industry was headed. Here are the show’s best film parodies.
The Dirty Dozen (The Remake)
Sherman introduces this remake of 1967’s The Dirty Dozen starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, and Michael Caine. Yes, The Critic predicted The Expendables franchise more than a decade before the first film in the series hit theaters. While star-studded ensemble casts are nothing new, The Critic was dead on with its depiction of an action blockbuster that roped in all the genre’s biggest names.
Ike Turner: My Story
Back before the big musician biopic boom that kicked off in 2005 with Walk the Line, The Critic skewered the movies that offered what we’ll call a biased take on the real-life artists they depict.
There’s no shortage of instances where biopics bent the truth or abandoned the facts altogether in order to present a cleaner narrative or appease their subjects. Here, The Critic pushes this concept to the extreme, presenting Ike Turner as a caring romantic partner and devoted feminist.
In this film clip, we see Turner wish farewell to a tearful and loving Tina Turner as he joins Rick James to go found the National Organization for Women. I probably don’t have to point this out to you, but, ummm, this was not the case.
Rubik’s Cube: The Movie
Remember when they decided to start making film adaptations of popular board games, and we ended up with a Battleship movie? Well, The Critic wasn’t too far off when the show described the plot of a movie based around this classic toy.
The protagonist is presented with the colorful puzzle and is told that if he doesn’t solve it within one hour, a plane full of supermodels dies. The catch? Our main character is colorblind. Luckily, his partner isn’t. Also, his partner is a dog voiced by Roger Clinton, brother of the U.S. president at the time who also appeared in Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, as well as three episodes of The Nanny.
Will Work for Food
This movie is only mentioned in a brief, passing line, but it cracks me up: “Will Work for Food: The hot new comedy based on the popular sign.”
Jurassic Park 2: Revenge of the Raptors
In this film clip, we see the familiar cast from the original Jurassic Park trap a velociraptor in a broom closet. Demonstrating its incredible cleverness, the raptor manages to unlock the door and reveal that the raptors have banded together and constructed a crude suspension bridge off the island. Once reaching Venezuela, the raptor plans to hide out working odd jobs under the identity Mr. Pilkington. I should note that the raptor says all this in a haughty British accent while smoking a pipe.
While this may seem absurd, we now have Chris Pratt tooling around on a motorcycle with a pack of highly trained raptors that he can communicate with. Also, we have this astounding moment from the third film in the franchise.
The Critic was very prescient regarding the current state of sequels in Hollywood. Some of these parody sequels mentioned in the show have actually become a reality. In the show’s parody, Home Alone 5 features a 23-year-old Kevin McCallister being left alone by his parents once again.
Next there is M*A*S*H: The Movie of the TV Show, Not the Original Movie. Then we have Rocky 6 Texas Chain Saw Massacre 4, which pits Rocky and Leatherface against one another.
As part of an episode plotline that brings Sherman to Los Angeles, our dear critic is convinced to write the script for Ghostchasers 3. The film is based around unrelenting product placement, and Sherman fails to impress the studio with his screenwriting chops.
One great aspect of The Critic is Sherman’s power-hungry boss, Duke Phillips. As a Southern owner of a corporate conglomerate, Phillips is styled after billionaire media mogul Ted Turner. Turner famously drew heat in the 1980s when he began the process of using digital technology to colorize classic black-and-white films in his TV network catalogues.
In The Critic, Phillips announces a similar endeavor to digitally alter the ends of classic films with downer endings. This technology — dubbed Phillipsvision — first revises the ending of Casablanca so that Rick gets the girl in the end. Next we see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest end with McMurphy non-lobotomized and a sexy Nurse Ratched advertising laundry detergent in lingerie.
The most relevant aspect of this episode is how it predicts the possible downsides of deepfake technology that can perfectly recreate the appearances of living and long-dead celebrities. When questioned about the legality of Phillipsvision, the businessman introduces clips of deceased actors declaring all rights to their likenesses are property of Duke Phillips. Incredibly, this farcical take on retooling classic cinema for a more casual audience is now a possibility.