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Disaster Movie (2008)

Writers/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer couldn’t leave well enough alone. I had become accustomed to these two tainting the beginning of a new year with their deeply unfunny “spoof” movies. In February 2006, they released Date Movie, in January 2007, they released Epic Movie, and in January 2008, they released Meet the Spartans. One cinematic blight wasn’t enough for these two and so, on the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast, these sultans of suck have unleashed the appropriately titled Disaster Movie.

I won’t even dignify this movie with a plot synopsis. To do so would acknowledge there was at any point a script. They even make fun of Oscar-winning Juno scribe Diablo Cody’s writing. That’s like George W. Bush mocking Barack Obama’s eloquence.

By pacing their horrible comedies a year apart, Friedberg and Seltzer at least have time to gauge what movies have become popular and what pop culture events have stuck in the public consciousness. But Disaster Movie was put on the fast track and was in production before many of the movies it deems worthy of attack were even released. As a result, it seems that the fail twins were watching trailers for upcoming movies and hedging their bets on what would be popular. This explains why they mention movies that made no cultural impact and flopped at the box-office, like Speed Racer and The Love Guru. Seriously, a “funny” reference to a bad Mike Myers movie months after it has opened and closed is, in itself, kind of humorous in how ridiculous and embarrassing this all is. Once again, Friedberg and Seltzer have assembled a highly disposable pop-culture yearbook except this time they took bets on what would be meaningful. Is anyone going to even get a reference to Jumper? How about in a few more months? Yet again Friedberg and Seltzer have assembled a movie that has a built-in expiration date.

photo_15_hires(2)As expected, Friedberg and Seltzer apply their shallow level of comedy to the movies caught in their crosshairs. These guys simply don’t understand the difference between reference and parody, and once again they deluge an audience with cheap references to other movies and the reference is designed to be the joke. Just having a character appear as the Hulk isn’t funny. Having a character appear as the Amy Adams character from Enchanted isn’t funny. Friedberg and Seltzer don’t even mock the disaster movies befitting its title, like The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, or the more recent Day After Tomorrow. The only partially relevant movie they make reference to is Twister because it affords them the opportunity to drop cows on characters (if it’s not funny once, it’s not funny the thousandth time). Disaster Movie cycles through a mix of movies from the fall of 2007 to last summer, including Juno, 10,000 B.C. (a film worthy of parody by smarter people), No Country for Old Men, Sex and the City, Superbad, Beowulf, Wanted, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Prince Caspian (another movie that faded quickly), and others. Friedberg and Seltzer mix in attacks on pop culture figures like Jessica Simpson and Amy Winehouse, simplifying each to a one-joke premise (Amy Winehouse is drunk, never heard that one before). But wait; to prove how in touch they are, Friedberg and Seltzer have used their SECOND SPOOF MOVIE OF THIS YEAR to include jokes about Michael Jackson being a pedophile. Oh my good graces, how do these guys come up with such cutting-edge and timely material in the year 2008?

You want to know how truly terrible Friedberg and Seltzer are as filmmakers? Disaster Movie is the film debut of socialite and tabloid queen Kim Kardashian. This woman is known for one thing and that thing is her thang, namely her posterior. Friedberg and Seltzer fail to make even a single joke about Kardashian’s notable assets. Not only that, from a pure exploitation angle, they even fail to take advantage of Kardashian as a sex object.

photo_13_hires(2)To honor Friedberg and Seltzer recycling the same garbage and calling it by a different name, I will stop writing about their newest example of cinematic ineptitude and simply copy and paste sections of my review for this year’s Meet the Spartans. Enjoy my attempt at Mad Libs style film criticism.

“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. [DISASTER MOVIE] is their [FOURTH] spoof in three years, or, as I see it, their [FOURTH] miscarriage of comedy.

[DISASTER MOVIE] 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 [75] 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 [INCLUDING AN ALREADY PAINFULLY DATED PARODY OF SARAH SILVERMAN’S SONG “I’M F***ING MATT DMAON,” ALTERED TO PG-13 FRIENDLY LYRICS ABOUT “DATING” MATT DAMON]. 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. [DISASTER MOVIE], 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.

And yet, astoundingly, the movie still feels like it needs to set up its dumb, obvious gags. The film has one [PERSON] point off screen and say, “Look, it’s [HANNAH MONTANA],” and then we cut to [HANNAH MONTANA CRUSHED BY A ROCK]. Why did Friedberg and Seltzer feel the need to name check?  It happens again when [A CHARACTER POINTS AND SAYS, “HEY, IT’S ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS”]. I don’t need a handicap for non-obscure pop culture bon mots.

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 setups as [ANY MOVIE] 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 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 [FOURTH!] 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.

[DISASTER MOVIE] is pop culture vomit. No, this is worse, this is cinematic diarrhea. It’s watery pop culture discharge masquerading as entertainment. This movie if 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 [AND COWS FALLING ON PEOPLE, HE HE HE]), no thought or upheaval of convention; instead, this movie is a lazy, cheap catalogue of pop culture events. Even at [90] minutes (really it’s [75]) 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.

In short, don’t see it and punch anyone in the face that ever thinks of seeing Disaster Movie.

Nate’s Grade: F

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.

photo_06(11)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.

If you see these guys (Friedberg and Seltzer) please convince them never to make another movie.

If you see these guys (Friedberg and Seltzer) please convince them never to make another movie.

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

Epic Movie (2007)

I wish to raise a call to arms to all moviegoers who enjoy real comedy, and by real comedy I mean exactly the opposite of what you’ll find in the abysmal Epic Movie. This latest spoof-fest is depressing to watch because I think of all the good independent movies that could have been bankrolled instead of this garbage, but I also drop my head in sorrow for the fact that a generation of mostly adolescent boys will grow to maturity thinking THIS is comedy.

The movie essentially sets its aims on anything from the year 2006 and it becomes almost like a fawning scrapbook for that year that will be obsolete in a hurry. The story is framed around a group of orphans discovering a hidden portal in a wardrobe that takes them to the wonderful world of Gnaria. The White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge, who is actually referred to as “Stiffler’s mom” in this) is looking to take total control and… oh God, it hurts me to even recycle the plot summary. Epic Movie is littered with the same slumming celebrity faces like Carmen Electra and Tony Cox. Only Darrell Hammond is slightly amusing in a fairly decent impersonation of a pointlessly used Captain Jack Sparrow.

Let me make this abundantly clear: Epic Movie and its recent ilk do not parody movies or cultural events, they parrot them. They simply recycle references and treat the references as the joke, so just seeing a group of guys dressed like the NASCAR team in Talladega Nights is supposed to be funny. Epic Movie is spawned by the same team that made Date Movie, but at least that unfunny piece of junk at least had some slight semblance of focus. What qualifies as an “epic” movie exactly? Is Borat an epic movie? Is The Da Vinci Code an epic movie? Is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory an epic movie? Is Click and epic movie? Is “epic” an overused term to begin with? Don’t even get me started on the uselessness of attempting to parody Snakes on a Plane especially with a PG-13 rating.

At least I laughed twice, yes twice, during Date Movie, but I never stopped groaning during every minute of this woeful mess. Most of the jokes fall under uninspired slapstick or the scatological. There’s a running gag where the daffy redhead keeps repeating the sassy black girl. No one makes reference to it and it just keeps happening, so I’m expecting some kind of payoff. Nope. It builds to nothing. This movie makes Date Movie look like Annie Hall. I hope those sadly misguided few that find chuckles from Epic Movie will eventually discover that jokes are funnier when there’s setup, when you play against expectation or convention, and that wit does indeed exist in this universe. I pray that these terrible, cannibalistic, aimless spoofs will fade away, or else we may all be left with the disgusting possibility that the future idea of a comedy will be a movie that simply makes references to Epic Movie.

If comedy is to survive these movies must be stopped. I’m not advocating a violent overthrow but I’m certainly not not advocating it.

Nate’s Grade: F

Scary Movie 4 (2006)

David Zucker was apart of the team that gave the world Airplane!, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Top Secret, the Naked Gun flicks, Ruthless People, and even Ghost. When the Wayans brothers left the Scary Movie franchise for greener pastures (greener meaning richer), it was Zucker and his stable of writers that came in and gave Scary Movie 3 a fresh kick. Now less than three years later we have Scary Movie 4 poking at the same material, and once again this franchise is starting to feel like a bore.

Cindy Campbell (Anna Farris) is in the home health care business looking after a supposedly haunted house. Inside the house resides those pale, wide-eyed, meowing ghosts from The Grudge. Next door resides Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko), a crappy father watching after his two crappy kids for the weekend. Things get a tad hectic when giant Tr-ipod robots rise from the ground and start zapping everyone. A war of some worlds looks to be in progress. Cindy and Tom go their separate ways, each trying to stay alive and return to each other. Cindy meets her old pal Brenda (Regina Hall) and they journey into the heart of a secluded village, one surrounded by monsters. Somehow they’ll find a way to stop the aliens from destroying the planet. Meanwhile, President Harris (Leslie Nielson), briefed that the country is under attack, is very interested to know what happens to a duck in a children’s story. The only thing missing is a Passion of the Christ parody (talk about a horror movie).

This is a franchise of diminished returns. Zucker and company feel like they’re badly grasping for something. Scary Movie 4 relies far too heavily on juvenile scatological behavior (a urine sponge bath is simply gross, not a gross-out) and very repetitious slapstick. Your level of enjoyment with Scary Movie 4 will rest solely on the question of how many times you can laugh at someone getting hit in the junk. Zucker’s gone practically overboard on the physical comedy, making this the filmic equivalent of “Football in the Groin.” The sad thing about this franchise is how safe it all feels now. It seems to have its demo sights set squarely on teen males, less discerning folk who will pee their pants with groin kick #86 and roll in the aisles uncontrollably with groin kick #113. I’m no prude when it comes to slapstick mind you; a well-timed kick to the groin can be downright Shakespearean, but when an entire film is stuffed with people knocking the stuffing out of themselves, then the joke loses its original flavor. No one wants to keep chewing on something once its flavor has long vanished.

I seriously think there should be a one-term limit when it comes to the comedy teams working with the Scary Movie films. Scary Movie 2 felt like a bad Xerox copy of Scary Movie, heavily smudged and lacking definition. Seriously, how many times can you go back to the giant semen geyser well? So too does Scary Movie 4, Zucker’s second in the series, resonate with the same hackneyed feeling. Zucker’s first movie dialed down the raunch and upped the PG-13 slapstick, and now his second film feels like a less executed duplicate. In Scary Movie 3, the joke was that the creepy psychic kid could never foresee his own clobbering. Therefore, there was an extra comedic layer to watching a kid accurately predict when a woman would start her period but not when a car back into him. In Scary Movie 4, it’s simply been reduced to watched a kid get beaten a lot. Jokes rarely connect when you rob them of context or set-up or just repeat them ad nasuem. Scary Movie 4 feels a bit overly content just to be a copy of a copy. That?s simply depressing.

Even the jokes feel out of touch, smacking of a minimal effort. The Scary Movie franchise was never a place for biting satire, but everything seems so curiously outdated. Viagra jokes in 2006? I guess so. When the film does reference modern items (Myspace, Yahoo maps, Michael Jackson) it still feels awkward. The Brokeback Mountain parody, while shocking in how comparatively restrained it is, comes across dead in the water because our market is over-saturated with gay cowboy jokes. It’s like in 1999 when even your invalid grandmother was doing a Blair Witch Project parody (turns out the witch was just the nurse trying to get her to take her pills). I do realize that the plot parodies are mostly a jumble, bits blended together to house the film’s rapid-fire gags. The Million Dollar Baby parody is probably the best sequence in the film and even that spoofs a cultural event 10 years old. If Scary Movie 4 is targeting teens, to the detriment of the film’s funny, then why even bother referencing pop-culture outside their cognizance? I wonder if the inevitable Scary Movie 5 will have a pointed satire on the Iran-Contra scandal.

Zucker just feels too pleased with himself. His movie parodies are spot-on when it comes to technical execution, replicating even the camera angles from his source material. It’s a pity he has little to add with his tweaking. Any form of comedy gets old with repetition, but slapstick especially. I would think a man like Zucker would know this.

Farris is the best thing that Scary Movie could have ever hoped for. She’s one of the most gifted comedic actresses working today. She’s at home whether it’s the physical, whether it’s delivering a silly line with pitch-perfect dumb blonde finesse, or whether it’s just making exaggerated facial contortions. There’s a music montage of Farris making funny faces that works so well because of how much Farris throws herself entirely into the joke. Too bad the movie lets her down.

Nate’s Grade: C-

Scary Movie (2000)

If you can’t stomach crude humor perhaps Scary Movie is not the ideal picture for you. If you’re unsure of things like a geyser of semen that could rival any of the inclement weather in A Perfect Storm, some pubic bush-whacking, or the big screen’s first aural sex scene — then turn away now as fast as you can. But for those hungry for the gross-out laughs of There’s Something About Mary though, Scary Movie delivers in spades.

The story of Scary Movie revolves around a cross-section of the Scream trilogy and the J. Love Hewitt ‘Summer’ escapades. The plot is still kept together with ease but always gives sizable room and advantage for the film’s numerous parodies and slapstick. All of the typical high school clichés are present (naturally played by actors in their 20s and 30s). There’s the loudmouth jock who’s short where it counts (Lochlyn Monro), the busty and ditsy beauty queen (Shannon Elizabeth), the virginal Neve-like innocent (fresh-faced newcomer Anna Faris), as well as countless stoner buddies following the antics of Shorty (Marlon Wayans) among others. Together along with roaming newscaster Gale Hailstorm (SNL‘s Cheri Oteri) and “special” police officer Doofy everyone tries staying one step ahead of our black-hooded fiend’s list.

Scary Movie ruthlessly skewers not only the works of horror author Kevin Williamson but along the road are ‘American Pie’ like teen sex farces and just about anything else you can think of. The lampooning establishes parodies of The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project with a hilarious close-up of Oteri, Amistad, the Budweiser “Wassup” commercials, and one movie I won’t even mention as to not give away one of the film’s best spoofs for a great ending. Scary Movie is a movie rich in laughter of all sorts as well as pure guaranteed shock value. The cast even parodies their own source actors perfectly with Shawn Wayans doing a perfect drooling of Matthew Liliard and officer Doofy as a perfect representation of David Arquette.

Director Keenen Ivory Wayans’ Scary Movie doesn’t just wrestle with bad taste; it gleefully rolls around in it. But that’s exactly how it leaves its audience – rolling with laughter. Scary Movie is easily the funniest movie of the year and will likely stay that way. It’s also the first movie in years that I have actually walked out of with my face aching from so much laughter. Scary Movie will be this year’s word-of-mouth sensational smash as it smashes taboos and taste full-ahead, trust me on this one.

Nate’s Grade: B+

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