MEET THE SPARTANS (2008)
Starring Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra, Ken Davitian, Kevin Sorbo, Method Man, Diedrich Bader, Jareb Dauplaise and Travis Van Winkle.
Screenplay by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.
Directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 86 minutes. Rated PG-13.
There are two kinds of people in the world. There is the kind who will see a movie poster which reads “by the creators of Date Movie and Epic Movie” and happily chortle as they shell out their hard-earned money. Then there is the kind who sees that credit and experiences a shiver of horror, revulsion and nausea.
I’m squarely in the second camp. Frankly, I’m not sure I ever want to meet the first type.
Well, okay I guess there is an even bigger third type, one which is completely indifferent and ignorant to the body of work of co-writers/co-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. However, those people never saw those earlier movies, won’t see this one, won’t read this review and can live out their lives in blissful ignorance of these two hacks’ crimes against cinema and Carmen Electra. (Though, she keeps appearing in these movies, so she can’t exactly be considered an innocent bystander anymore.)
Me, I’ve had no such luck. I have been subjected to those earlier movies and am sad to report that Meet the Spartans is a new nadir, even judging by the low bar set by the pair. Please, please explain to me how anyone would give Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer financing to actually make a movie.
If you think I’m being needlessly harsh in repeating these harmless execs’ names, believe me it is taking restraint not to insist that they have a scarlet H for “hack” sewn on all their clothing. Their ineptitude isn’t cute like Ed Wood, where he was really trying but just didn’t have the skills. Their films stink because they don’t even try to be competent. They take aim at the simplest, most obvious targets and still go breathtakingly awry. Then, they have so little faith in their audience that they have to explain every single joke, which is death in comedy. (Though in fairness, their jokes are abnormally bad and I don’t have much faith in their “audience” either.)
Friedberg and Seltzer are everything that is wrong with modern comedy mashed into a greasy, disgusting ball of puss. They are an endless regurgitation of spit jokes, zit jokes, shit jokes, tit jokes, balls jokes, puke jokes and most importantly – unfunny, disgusting jokes.
The first and most obvious question with Meet the Spartans is: who thought the world really needed a scene by scene “parody” (though that is using the word parody very loosely) of 300?
Is it really shockingly irreverent to suggest that that film was slightly homoerotic? Hardly think so, particularly since everyone got the point pretty clearly watching 300. We don’t need to see a bunch of Spartans skipping through a canyon singing “I Will Survive” to pick up on the gay undertones. And yet the gay-bashing is the only real idea they had, so Meet the Spartans keeps pounding on this all-too-obvious tack trying to get comic blood from a stone.
Of course all of the jokes in Meet the Spartans have that broad, sledgehammer subtlety. Not even to suggest that a parody has to be subtle, but if you are going to be glaringly obvious, at least do something funny with it.
Instead Meet the Spartans will have the narrator describe the evil enemy thus: “Xerxes looked like that fat guy from Borat.” Then they reveal him. Guess who plays Xerxes? The fat guy from Borat. Not at all funny. Not even particularly topical anymore. Maybe a couple of years ago…
Or one of the Spartans, played by Kevin Sorbo of TV’s Hercules, yells as he attacks the enemy army, “I just want to go Hercules on your ass!” Even less funny. Even less topical – going back well over a decade now.
In the middle of this thuddingly ponderous replay of 300, lame parodies of frankly-not-particularly-popular films like Spiderman 3, Ghost Rider, Happy Feet, Rocky Balboa and Stomp the Yard suddenly show up for no reason at all and disappear just as quickly and inexplicably.
Of course, in this film, they are not content to try to mock other films; they take on pop culture at large with no more success. There are unfunny bits on American Idol, Deal or No Deal, Ugly Betty and Grand Theft Auto. This movie’s overreliance on topical references are going to make it as stale as a month-old bread by the time the closing credits finish.
They hired a bunch of actors and actresses supposed to be playing real life celebs, even though they look and sound nothing like the stars they are portraying and have nothing funny to say or do. The characters in the movies have to repeatedly refer to the actors by the celebs’ names, because otherwise you would have no way of knowing who they are. These include Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Tom Cruise, Ugly Betty’s America Ferrara, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Ellen DeGeneres, Dane Cook, Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Sanjaya Malakar. Sanjaya? Really? You couldn’t come up with anything fresher than Sanjaya??? And mocking Dane Cook for not being funny – while it may even be accurate – still seems like a big case of the pot calling the kettle black.
The film also, strangely, does nearly verbatim “parodies” of Budweiser’s “Real Men of Genius” commercials, as well as others for Dentyne Ice, Subway and Gatorade. Yes, that’s right, this film has its own built-in commercials.
I actually timed it to see how long it would take for me to laugh in Meet the Spartans and the pleasant surprise is that it was only eight minutes and twelve seconds in. Well it was more of a chuckle than an outright laugh, but still… kudos for a semi-clever punchline. For the record and without giving up the joke totally, it has a Spartan saying “He was an alcoholic.”
The second time I laughed was… umm… well, I’m still waiting, actually.
At least Meet the Spartans was obscenely short for a feature film – the actual film times out at about 70 minutes. Of course, cheesy to the last, the filmmakers knew no studio would accept a 70 minute film, so they pad it out with an astonishingly long sixteen minutes of closing credits and unfunny outtakes. Think about that. About 20% of the movie’s running time is made up of the end credits!
Sad to say, the endless credits are just as entertaining than the movie itself.
If parody is a dying art, then someone needs to put out a warrant for Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer to find the smoking gun.
I cannot stress strongly enough how much you don’t want to see Meet the Spartans. Beyond the 80-some minutes of mind-numbing boredom, the more people who go to see these movies (and calling them movies is being extremely charitable), the more chances Friedberg and Seltzer will be given yet another chance to work in Hollywood. The world does not deserve that kind of evil fate.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 17, 2008.