Review: “Meet the Spartans”

Those who think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery will no doubt find kindred spirits in the forms of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. The duo managed to once tickle our funny bones with their contributions to the first “Scary Movie” – a half decent riff on the resurgence of the horror film genre in the late 90’s.

It was a one-note idea that they somehow managed to milk through a sequel. When the Zuckers took over that franchise, the two set out on their own and created 2005’s “Date Movie” – one of the most painfully bad comedies I’ve ever had to endure in my life, and I’ve seen much of the collected works of Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen, Ice Cube AND Cedric the Entertainer.

Did they learn? Nope, they came back a year later with “Epic Movie” – an even worse spoof film that mostly riffed “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Now comes “Meet the Spartans” which gives the same treatment to “300” and overstuffs it with gags about either reality shows, trash mag celebrities or the latent homoeroticism of “300” (a film that as I’ve said before is actually one of the most homophobic I’ve ever seen despite all the leather undies).

The trouble with this film series is that it doesn’t seem to understand the basic idea of satire. Throwing together a bunch of modern day cultural reference non-sequiturs works well on animated series like “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “South Park” because they have smart writers who understand that you have to do more than just reference something, you have to send it up at the same time. They trust their audiences to be smart enough to get the reference and even if they don’t, they make it work as a gag on its own.

This on the other hand is simply lazy and juvenile, believing that just mentioning another film or star is a joke in itself and clumsily making sure each time to explain things to essentially let everyone in on the non-joke. A whole mish-mash of celebrity impersonations (Spears, Seacrest, Lohan and the Idol judges amongst others), film references (Happy Feet,” “Casino Royale,” “You Got Served”) and just dumb throwaway bits from step dance numbers and Starbucks sight gags to commercials and the ‘Leave Britney Alone’ Youtube clip chucked in for good measure.

Former British soap star and singer Sean Maguire is game with his impressive Gerard Butler impersonation and manages to be the only thing watchable in this whole mess. He’s the only one that actually seems to be trying and if one good thing can come from this utter garbage is that he might see a career boost from this. Kevin Sorbo, Carmen Electra and Ken Davitian power through the painful scripting and woeful direction.

Sorbo in particular actually seems to have had fun whilst filming this, something we as an audience can’t say watching it – except for maybe the Gloria Gaynor song/dance number which ends the film which provides the movie’s one small smile because it’s cute (not funny). Even at a little over 70 minutes without credits, the film struggles constantly to fill its runtime with something even approaching comedy – in the end vainly throwing crude and pointless “Ghost Rider,” “Spider-Man 3” and “Transformers” in-jokes to try and generate any kind of reaction. A fine example of pop culture eating itself and yielding pure shit.