Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) / Comedy-Horror
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual humor and some gory moments
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Steven Weber, Peter MacNicol, Amy Yasbeck, Harvey Korman, Mel Brooks, Lysette Anthony, Avery Schreiber (cameo), Charlie Callas (cameo), Anne Bancroft (cameo)
Director: Mel Brooks
Screenplay: Mel Brooks, Rudy De Luca, Steve Haberman
Dracula wasn't the only thing dead after this dud dropped in and out of theaters - so was Mel Brooks" (Spaceballs, History of the World Part I) career as writer and director. At this point in his career, Brooks's brand of humor had become old fashioned, and a film like Dracula: Dead and Loving It seemed not only like a step backwards for him creatively (think Young Frankenstein redux), but the gags were tired. It also didn't help that Leslie Nielsen (Men with Brooms, Scary Movie 3) had been doing little but regurgitations of his Airplane/Naked Gun persona for years - a shtick that the public had grown weary of around the same time as they had that of Brooks.
Dead and Loving It is, more or less, a spoof of Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, although anyone familiar with the Dracula legend will have no problem following along without missing many gags (although some things, like Drac's funny looking hairpiece, probably merit a passing familiarity to truly understand).
Some of the gags are funny, and there is an amiable charm that makes the film difficult to hate outright, but when you cut right down to it, Brooks is virtually on autopilot throughout this one, spinning out overused gags that many other vampire spoofs had already explored ad nauseum. The cast gives it their all, but sadly, like the material itself, they all seem a bit too long in the tooth as comedians to ad-lib something we haven't seen before. Leslie Nielsen has excelled in screwball comedies in the past, but what this film really needs is new blood if there were to be any chance at sustaining our interest.
Not to knock Brooks and co. too much, as I honestly have enjoyed many of their films in the past, and still consider him to be a very engaging personality, but sad to say, nearly every great comedian, musician, and entertainer has that day when it becomes obvious that their brand is no longer what fills the seats. Brooks almost single-handedly revitalized the comedic form known as slapstick, and by the mid-90s, seeing someone falling on their rear-end just didn't pack the same humor punch it once had for him. I credit Brooks for having the class and mental fortitude to realize this, leaving behind the film world, and a comedic legacy that would rarely be matched since. As Dr. Frankenstein might say, he created the monster, so it's only appropriate that he would be the one to finally kill it, and boy, Dracula proved such a misfire, the once eagerly anticipated thing called a "Mel Brooks Movie" became a relic of the past.
©2005 Vince Leo