Years before the ZAZ trio (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker) hit the big time with their comedic hit Airplane! in 1980, the boys were complete unknowns in Hollywood, endeavouring to find someone to finance their zany sketch comedy movie. Eventually their tireless efforts paid off, and the result of their labours was The Kentucky Fried Movie, one of the first films to be directed by comedy legend John Landis, who went on to helm other classics like Animal House and The Blues Brothers. It would be impossible to produce something like The Kentucky Fried Movie in this day and age, as it revels in politically incorrect humour and is about as raunchy as it gets. The material is hilarious thanks to the script by the ZAZ gang, and Landis pitches the craziness at the right tone, making for hugely enjoyable viewing.
The Kentucky Fried Movie is an anthology of vignettes, each varying in length from ten seconds to thirty minutes. A large chunk of the movie is taken up by A Fistful of Yen, an uproarious parody of kung-fu movies, most notably taking the piss out of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. It displays the type of brilliance that the ZAZ trio went on to exhibit in Airplane! and The Naked Gun!, with plenty of sight gags (a human alarm in the villain’s lair) and general spoofing (an interrogation takes the form of a dating game). Landis brings the material to life with great comic flair, recreating the look and feel of old-school chopsocky flicks. There are plenty of other segments, including news reports, PSAs, trailers, and even a commercial for the JFK assassination board game. The Kentucky Fried Movie is stuffed with cameos, as well. George Lazenby, a former James Bond, features briefly, as does Donald Sutherland, while David Zucker himself also shows up a few times.
Since the ZAZ trio wanted to make their mark, they really went for it here, with no half-measures and absolutely no concern for political correctness. This is the type of flick which uses the N-word for a cheap laugh, and features graphic nudity and sex approaching NC-17 boundaries. The Kentucky Fried Movie barely got financed, so it’s clear that the guys wanted to make it count. For crying out loud, there’s even an infomercial on how deceased people can still be an active member of society, and there’s a faux trailer for Catholic School Girls In Troublewhich is full of bare boobs. The easily offended are advised to stay clear of the film, as it caters for the demographic who enjoy this type of crass humour. Of course, comedy is subjective, so not everyone will find this stuff amusing, but this reviewer laughed consistently. It’s definitely worth at least checking the film out, especially if Airplane!, The Naked Gun! and Top Secret! are to your liking.
From a technical standpoint, The Kentucky Fried Movie is very raw, with so-so production values, a lack of polish and plenty of continuity errors, all of which are understandable given the minuscule budget. This rough disposition is all part of the charm, however. The Kentucky Fried Movie is an unabashedly juvenile exercise in comedy, and it is hit-and-miss, but when it hits…the resulting laughs are legendary. Plus, the lamer moments are forgivable due to the anarchic sense of merriment that pervades the entirety of the saga. It’s obviously a cinematic effort by a bunch of inexperienced guys, which again is part of its goofy appeal, especially since there’s a whiff of “let’s throw everything we can at the screen and see what sticks” to everything that occurs.