When "A Haunted House" arrives in theaters this week, film fans will see a familiar face front and center in the horror genre send-up: Marlon Wayans, who famously launched the "Scary Movie" horror spoof franchise back in 2000. This time around, though, there's one major difference: Marlon is flying solo, with his brothers Damon and Keenen Ivory and the rest of the Wayans nowhere to be seen.
But is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Your answer may depend entirely on which of their movies you've seen, because while the Wayans have put out some major knee-slappers over the past quarter of a century, they've also put out just as many forehead-smackers. So to help you get ready for "A Haunted House," here's our look at the top five and bottom five Wayans Brothers movies of all time — or one entry for each of the ten Wayans.
It's rare that a sequel manages to live up to the original, but 2001's "Scary Movie 2" pulls off the trick thanks in large part to the presence of Shawn and Marlon Wayans in front of the camera and Keenen Ivory Wayans behind the camera. Sadly, the Wayans haven't really been involved in the three "Scary Movie" films that have followed, but if you want a nice preview of "A Haunted House," look no further than "Scary Movie 2," which features a bunch of potential victims who, you guessed it, visit a haunted house.
Frankly, we're kind of surprised we haven't yet seen a sequel to 1994's "Blankman." It seems to be the perfect time for a follow-up to this comedy starring Damon Wayans as a daft inventor who turns himself into a low-budget superhero. And hey, if Damon isn't up for it, "Blankman 2" would be the perfect vehicle to spotlight his son, Damon Wayans, Jr., who appeared in "Blankman" at the ripe age of 12. "Blankman 2: Son of Blankman," anyone?
Remember what we just said about sequels living up to the original? Well, it's true "Scary Movie 2" is funny, but you still can't beat the real thing. 2000's "Scary Movie," which was written by co-stars Shawn and Marlon Wayans and directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, was at the time the highest-grossing film ever made by a black director. It also spawned a host of copycat spoof films and launched the career of Anna Faris. Most importantly, though? It was really funny — and it still holds up after all these years.
There are, in fact, two things about this movie that are a legit menace: The first is that you might choke on your own tongue trying to say the title, and the second is the serious risk of laughing yourself to death. A timely send-up of all the gritty urban dramas of the early '90s (see: "Boyz n the Hood" and "Menace II Society"), 1996's "Don't Be A Menace..." only sounds like a Fiona Apple album title until you actually watch it. Then you'll get to see the film that truly made Shawn and Marlon Wayans into legit big screen stars after earning their stripes on television. Best of all? It's now funny not just for the jokes, but also for the nostalgia. That's a combo that's pretty hard to beat.
Directed by, written by and starring Keenen Ivory, 1988's "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka!" is still the gold standard for the signature Wayans Brothers' style spoof. It all started here with Keenen Ivory paying homage to the blaxploitation films of the '70s as an army veteran named Jack Spade seeking vengeance for the death of his brother. "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka!" is filled with cameos and guest appearances by classic '70s stars like Jim Brown and Isaac Hayes, and it also features a number of newcomers who would go on to become stars, like Keenen Ivory's siblings Damon, Marlon and Kim. Hard to top this one.
Okay, so we want to say this right up front: We kinda like this one, which ratchets up the action with Keenen Ivory as an ex-cop who gets involved with an old flame when a closed case gets reopened. It's got a bit of noir in its DNA, not to mention a lot of laughs. However, objectively speaking, we have to admit the film isn't that great, despite the presence of the underrated Kim Wayans. Want proof? Well, how about the movie's current Rotten Tomatoes rating: 0%. As someone once said, math don't lie.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, to spoof the whole "Step Up" dance movie craze just like they had previously tweaked "Scream" and its ilk. And 2009's "Dance Flick" brought even more Wayans to the table, with Keenan Ivory, Shawn and Marlon writing, Damon Jr. starring, Damien Dante behind the camera and about a half dozen other Wayans you've never even heard of making cameos. But this one turned out to be a case of too many cooks, as the result wasn't really worthy of any of them. And it had such promise, too.
3. 'Mo' Money'
Like "A Low Down Dirty Shame," 1992's "Mo' Money" certainly has its fans. However, it has very, very few of them. Sure, Damon Wayans wrote and starred in this comedy about a con man who outsmarts himself and ends up in hot water as a result. And yeah, Marlon is in it, as is the super-cool actress Stacey Dash, who would later co-star in "Clueless." And... Actually, that's pretty much a complete list of reasons to even think about watching this one. Considering how many films the Wayans have done — and how many Wayans there are — the law of averages suggests that some of their films just won't be very good. This is the proof.
While some fans and critics found the basic premise of 2004's "White Chicks" to be patently offensive — Shawn and Marlon star as FBI agents who go undercover by disguising themselves as, well, white chicks — obviously not everyone shared that opinion, as the film went on to earn over $113 million. Comedy pretty much has one basic rule: Anything can be forgiven as long as it's funny. But that just points out the truly offensive part of "White Chicks," which is that it's not actually funny. Cheap jokes about race are one thing, but cheap jokes that aren't funny? Now that's truly unforgivable.
1. 'Little Man'
Advertised with the tagline "From the guys who brought you 'White Chicks,'" 2006's "Little Man" (or "LiTTLEMAN" as we refuse to call it) has a truly groundbreaking premise, though not in a good way. See, Marlon plays a little person named Calvin who also happens to be a hardboiled crook. Shawn is part of a couple who want to have a baby, so Calvin disguises himself as a baby and tricks them into adopting him. And then no hilarious hijinks ensue. Instead, one of the most unfunny and offensive non-comedies in recent memory unfolds, one terribly painful gag at a time. "Little Man," big mistake.