Meet the Spartans (2008)
Writer/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are, and I do not say this lightly, the worst filmmakers of all time. They are worse than Ed Wood, they are worse than Uwe Boll, they are worse than Harold P. Warren, who wrote and directed the worst movie of all time, Manos: The Hands of Fate, because of a bet that he couldn’t make a movie (I’m fairly certain he still lost). Friedberg and Seltzer are the antithesis to funny. They mock funny, they spit at funny. Meet the Spartans is their third spoof in three years, or, as I see it, their third miscarriage of comedy.
The plot to 300 is the framework for Friedberg and Seltzer to purge their juvenile gags. King Leonidas (Sean Maguire, who actually used to be a pop singer) leads a band of 13 Spartan warriors, including Hercules‘ Kevin Sorbo, against the mighty army of Xerxes (Ken Davitian). Back at home, Queen Margo (Carmen Electra) must seduce Traitoro (Deidrich Bader).
Meet the Spartans would be hard-pressed to fit the definition of a movie, no matter how generous you are with the term. True, it is a collection of moving pictures, but surely we must have greater stipulations for our movie going entertainment. The actual flick is only 65 minutes long, barely a little over an hour, and then it’s crammed with 15 minutes of outtakes and needless extra scenes to be strewn over the credits. I should be more upset by the total transparent laziness to even construct a film of suitable length, but every minute I was spared more of this junk was an act of divine mercy.
Friedberg and Seltzer are not filmmakers but regurgiatators, wildly lampooning anything that they feel approaches their young teen male demographic. Meet the Spartans, like Epic Movie and Date Movie, cannot be classified as a “spoof” because all the film is doing is setting up references and the references are supposed to be the joke. The film is like a meaningless and random scrapbook for the year in pop culture; the film’s only function to pacify total idiots with attention-deprivation issues. That’s why the movie just continues reciting 2007 movies and 2007 cultural figures endlessly, with no context and no setup or payoff; the payoff is intended to be the reference. So 12-year-old boys can recline in their chairs and think to themselves, “Hey, I remember Spider-Man 3. Hi-larious.” When the fat guy from Borat turned into a Transformer and then hit his TV screen mid section, which played the “Leave Britney alone!” kid … I swear, part of my soul died.
Friedberg and Seltzer have little grasp on he tenets of comedy. Their over reliance on lame pop culture references means that they have set a self-imposed expiration date on their movie. Once time passes this film will serve no purpose other than a crushingly unfunny time capsule. Friedberg and Seltzer think they must be the first ones who poked fun at the homo eroticism in 300. The armada of gay jokes they come up with would be on par with a sixth grade locker room. You want another cutting edge joke? They make a joke about how Angelina Jolie likes to adopt kids. Never heard that one before. Ever. In my life.
There is no such thing as wit when it comes to the comedy black hole. They are simply repeating the plot structure of 300 and throwing in aimless appearances by figures like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan, and blurred shots of all three’s vaginas. At one point the judging casts from American Idol and America’s Next Top Model appear inexplicably, and then they too get knocked down into the pit of death. I ask this question: had Sylvester Stallone not made another Rocky movie and released it in December 2006, would the figure of Rocky Balboa even appear in this flick? I doubt it. The core audience for these cannibalistic films has such short attention spans that they need their fragile brains stroked, and Meet the Spartans will not challenge them in the slightest.
And yet, astoundingly, the movie still feels like it needs to set up its dumb, obvious gags. The film has one Spartan point off screen and say, “Look, it’s Ghost Rider,” and then we cut to a skeleton biker swinging a chain. Gee, the Ghost Rider movie came out not even a year ago, and the character is rather hard to confuse with, say, Marry Poppins, so why did Friedberg and Seltzer feel the need to name check? It’s even more confusing considering that the audience that would go see Meet the Spartans is likely the same audience that saw Ghost Rider. It happens again when Queen Margo changes into a black Spiderman suit and the narrator assist by saying she’s becoming Venom. I got it with the suit, yeah, because everyone saw Spider-Man 3. I can also recognize Ugly Betty when I see her, thank you useless narrator. I don’t need a handicap for non-obscure pop culture bon mots.
The product placement is also insulting and annoying. At one point the Spartan narrator tells us that the fighters needed to take a break to replenish their electrolytes. We are then treated to quick cuts of the Spartans holding Gatorade bottles until one looks directly into the camera and says, “Gatorade: Is it in you?” I must have missed what the joke was when the film just repeats the advertising slogan word-for-word without any alterations in tone and context. There is also a scene where Xerxes imitates a Dentyne Ice commercial and holds the product up to the camera. What is the purpose of either of these moments? If I wanted to watch commercials verbatim I’d stay at home and tune on QVC.
From a production standpoint, this movie looks really cheap. The sets and costumes and props look horrible, like something a high school production would ditch. Just because it reuses the same camera styles as 300 doesn’t mean it gets any closer to parody. For God’s sake, they couldn’t even come up with puns on character names, the only exception being Traitoro and Sonio, neither of which will induce a chuckle. Most of the non-reference “humor” is either insipid slapstick or a handful of moderately gross scatological jokes, and, oh, yes, lots of gay jokes, because those just get better the more you hear. Tasteless doesn’t always equal funny, and people drinking urine is rarely funny without some extra setup.
The actors all seem mildly embarrassed and they do nothing with their roles. It’s not their fault the material sucks so deeply, however, it is Electra’s fault for appearing in her third straight Friedberg-Seltzer spoof fest. The key to a good spoof is to play the damn thing straight. It’s annoying and redundant if the film keeps winking back at the audience.
Meet the Spartans is pop culture vomit. No, this is worse, this is cinematic diarrhea. It’s watery pop culture discharge masquerading as entertainment. This movie is offensive to anyone that appreciates laughter. This film and its ilk are offensive to mankind. And plus, it’s just not funny people, not in the slightest. There’s no wit here, no comedic payoffs, no running gags (besides gay jokes), no thought or upheaval of convention; instead, this movie is a lazy, cheap catalog of pop culture events from late 2006 to summer 2007. Even at 80 minutes (really it’s 65) this thing drags and feels exhausted long before it bows out. Just as I said in my review of Epic Movie, Friedberg and Seltzer must be stopped at all costs if comedy is to survive.
Nate’s Grade: F