Friday, June 6, 2008

Meet the Spartans - DVD Review

MEET THE SPARTANS (*) - Starring Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra, Ken Davitian, Kevin Sorbo, Diedrich Bader, Method Man and Phil Morris.
Written & Directed by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer.

Maybe these guys don't get why the movies they're making aren't funny. Let me try to explain something to the makers behind Date Movie, Epic Movie, and coming this August, Disaster Movie.

The key to comedy is surprise, and brevity is the soul of wit. Now to the first part, surprise. Comedy comes in two parts. First you offer a premise or situation. Naturally from that premise or situation, the audience will make an assumption. Then you offer a surprise, taking that premise or situation and turning it on its head. The audience laughs from the trickery. To the second part, brevity. A punchline that takes two seconds is much funnier than one that takes two minutes.

Now let's deconstruct some alleged "jokes" in this movie.

Ken Davitian is the short, fat guy from Borat. It is a funny idea to have him be Xerxes, since in the movie 300, Xerxes was this well-sculpted giant. However, right before he is revealed as Xerxes here, the narrator tells us he looks like that fat guy from Borat. There's no surprise, therefore no joke. They could have had a joke, but they sabotaged it. In addition, there's a Borat reference about ten minutes earlier in the movie, further diluting what humor could have been squeezed from this idea. No Borat impersonator shows up, thank goodness, but that's most likely because they already had one show up in Epic Movie. To stand there and say "I'm Borat." And that was the whole "joke" from that movie.

Another example. When the 300 (in this movie, 13) go to march to battle, they do it to "I Will Survive" skipping off-camera. This was the only thing in the movie that made me smile. It was quick and silly and wasn't telegraphed ten minutes before it happened. Then at the 65-minute mark, when the closing credits begin, they bring out whole cast to sing and dance to the entire 4-minute song. So that's funny... how?

Another. Rocky Balboa shows up. Why? Because it came out in the last year. That is where most of their jokes come from, putting in references to stuff that came out within the last year. Rocky's shorts fall, and he's wearing a Depends. We get a close-up. Then a character stares at it and says "An adult diaper?" Really, if you spell out each punchline, none have a chance to be funny.

Another. In 300, the young hero faces a wolf. Here he faces... a penguin. Why? Cuz Happy Feet was recent. And if you forgot that, the penguin starts to dance. And if you still don't get it, the young hero says "Ah, you've got happy feet."

I can see Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer on vaudeville now.

JASON: Who's on first, What's on Second, I-Don't-Know's on third...
AARON: Who's on first?
JASON: Who's full name is Obadiah Thomas Who, and his father is Gregory Daniel Who, and their last name sounds just like Who, so you're misunderstanding me. Get it?
AARON: I just farted.

The movie brings out American Idol, including Sanjaya, America's Next Top Model, Deal or No Deal, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and every easy, lazy target you can think of. When one guy says "Save the cheerleader, save the world" we can't just leave it there. Another character has to say "I don't follow Heroes." Those of us who do got the reference. Those who don't aren't going to then laugh if you turn to them and say "It's a catchphrase on this TV show called Heroes. Ba-dum CHING!"

(Ever notice Jay Leno rimshots take ten seconds each? Ba-dum CHING CHING CHING ba-da ba-da-ba-dum dum dum CHING CHING CHING! Thank you, Kevin Eubanks! But I digress.)

(Or do I?)

I was going to say this is like a 70-minute episode of MadTV with no commercials and all the skits tied together as one long skit, but it's more like a dramatic interpretation of a 70-minute Jay Leno monologue, with the joyless additions of projectile vomiting, two fuzzed-up crotch shots, and more gay jokes than an Eddie Murphy-Andrew Dice Clay 1987 stand-up concert tour.

Ugh. I've seen 25 movies released in 2008 now and I can only honestly recommend three of them.

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