June 1, 2008

DVD Review: Meet the Spartans - Pit of Death Edition

In 2006 Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg struck out on their own after working on the Scary Movie franchise. With them they took the naming convention, _____ Movie. Using their considerable comedy writing skills, they delivered the hit film Date Movie. A year later the duo returned, following up their initial success with another hit, Epic Movie. These guys can seemingly do no wrong, so they decided to branch out. The first thing they did was loan out the naming convention to the fellows behind Superhero Movie, and chose to have their latest film take direct aim at a surprise hit from 2007, 300, naming their newest creation Meet the Spartans. With their third film, they proved that these low budget comedies could be big moneymakers for the studio: Date Movie made $48.5 million, Epic Movie took $39.7 million, and Meet the Spartans topped $38 million. Sure, they all declined from the prior, but don't forget the DVD market!

If you couldn't tell, the opening was laced with sarcasm. These guys wouldn't know comedy if it came up and gave them a big kiss. I actually paid to see Date Movie on the big screen, partially because I like Alyson Hanigan and partially because, I don't know, morbid curiosity? As I suspected, it was terrible (save for the near inspired, and unexpected, spoof of Rize). Epic Movie followed, and I again found myself stuck in a seat watching this thing, it was flat out terrible. So, when Meet the Spartans arrived, I vowed that I would not pay to see it, and I didn't. However, I have discovered that I am unable to avoid it entirely, as the DVD is in my hands, and I have subjected myself to it.

Just one step removed from the title, you will find one thing that is noticeably different from their first two outings. This time around the creative team decided to focus on one film and then filter in the rest of their spoofs into that framework, where their first two times around the scenes would jump from movie to movie. In terms of structure, this is definitely a step up. This approach allows for stronger focus on the jokes, rather than the haphazard mishmash of movies that their prior two movies are. Unfortunately, this new focus on structure did not help them write stronger comedy.

Where can you begin with a movie like this? To a degree it is critic-proof. You are either going to like or you're not. I fall in the group that did not like it. The jokes were just not all that funny. There was no energy, no punchiness, nothing to really grab onto. This goes beyond the obvious homoerotic jokes surrounding the Spartans and into the fill in jokes featuring Spider-Man, the American Idol judges, Paris Hilton, the guy from Borat, and all the rest. It just did not work.

The movie is stupid. Period. Some will say that stupid is the point, and I agree, but there is a fine line between stupid stupid and inspired stupid. Meet the Spartans is a member of the former category, a category which tends to not be all that funny. Examples of inspired stupid would include the likes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Airplane!, The Naked Gun, Spaceballs, and to a lesser extent Superhero Movie (yes, I thought that was actually pretty good).

As it stands, Meet the Spartans barely qualifies as a feature. Yes, the runtime clocks in at 86 minutes, but twenty minute of that is credits and cut scenes tacked onto the end. That's right, the movie fails to even reach seventy minutes.

I am actually sad that Kevin Sorbo and Diedrich Bader are involved in this. Sorbo can do better, and while Bader's involvement doesn't surprise me, I like to think he can do better.

Audio/Video. Tech specs are fine. If you can get past the content of the film, it looks and sounds fine.

Extras. The disk does have some bonus material of questionable value.
  • Commentary. This track features a variety of cast and crew members and is about as entertaining as the film is. They think they are funny, but they aren't. There is not much insight offered.
  • Know You Spartans Pop Culture - Trivia Game. A lame multiple choice quiz. If you get the answer right, you are rewarded with a clip of Leonidas dispatching someone into the pit of death.
  • Meet the Spartans: The Music. This lets you jump to each of the musical segments in the film.
  • Prepare for Thrusting. This is some behind the scenes footage about the workouts they go through and the preparations they did to get ready for the film, hosted by Kevin "Hercules" Sorbo. (5 minutes)
  • Tour the Set with Ike Barinholtz. Ike plays a few roles in the film, including Dane Cook. This follows him around the set making lame jokes. (6.5 minutes)
  • Gag Reel. Your typical collection of flubbed lines and such. Actually, this is funnier than the movie. (4 minutes)
  • Trailers. Included are two trailers (A and C, I wonder where B is?) for the movie as well as one for Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs. (3.5 minutes)

Bottomline. Skip this. Nothing else need be said. I can hardly wait for their next movie (the in-production Disaster Movie). Yeah right.

Not Recommended.


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