While I've been amused by the "Scary Movie" films thanks to the terrific performances by lead Anna Farris (and "Airplane" director David Zucker taking over hasn't hurt), the "Scary" films have spawned something truly scary: co-writers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. The two were co-writers on the first "Scary" film and then apparently they decided to go off on their own. The results have turned the two into the Uwe Boll of comedies, although apparently no one has started a petition to get Friedberg and Seltzer to stop like the petition to stop Boll. Seltzer and Friedberg have (somehow) made a career out of parody films that are in no way clever, instead just largely copying the scenes from other films.
I had absolutely no expectations going into "Meet the Spartans" and really, found a movie just as awful as the duo's previous parody films ("Epic Movie" and "Date Movie".) Making matters worse is the fact that this film reportedly cost $30M. Where did that $30M go? It certainly couldn't have been the cheap, plastic-looking sets or D-list cast...or the horrible, Z-grade effects (although a blue screen joke both manages to poke fun at the film's cheapness and the original film - it's the one decent laugh I found in the movie.)
The picture essentially follows "300", with King Leonidas (Sean Maguire) and his army of about a dozen warriors as they set off for battle with the Persians, lead by Xerxes (Ken Davitian). Along the way, the film tries to throw out constant pop culture references, but never manages to do much beyond just parading them in front of the audience.
We get references to "Heroes", "American Idol" (including a reference to former constant Sanjaya, who no one probably even remembers at this point), "America's Next Top Model", "Ugly Betty", "Spider-Man 3", "Shrek" and many others. Many of the bits are random and don't remotely fit in with the context of the story - the filmmakers just figure they need another pop culture reference every few minutes, no matter what it is or if it fits. Actors who are supposed to look like Paris Hilton, Ryan Seacrest, Lindsay Lohan and others don't look remotely like who they're supposed to be representing. The whole movie runs only around 70 minutes before the end credits start rolling.
The performances actually are rather energetic and somewhat better than what the directing duo have managed to pull out of their actors in their prior parody films. Still, you could load this film with Oscar winners and they still couldn't elevate material this low or this lowbrow.
This is an unrated edition, but I honestly couldn't tell what was much beyond PG-13 worthy.
VIDEO: A screening copy of the film on DVD arrived, so I can't compare the final product DVD to the Blu-Ray, but the Blu-Ray presentation (1.85:1/AVC/1080p) looked surprisingly good. While the film is not exactly a visual stunner, the presentation - at least technically - was above-average. Sharpness and detail are terrific throughout much of the show, and small object detail actually didn't look half bad, either. The presentation also boasted very nice depth to the image, as well.
Aside from a touch of noise, there really wasn't much to complain about. Colors looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Black level remained solid and flesh tones looked spot-on. Overall, I still think this is a terrible looking film (the sets look awful even for a parody and the effects are lousy, among other things - seriously, where did the $30M budget go?), but one can see every last detail of the terribleness with precise and impressive clarity.
SOUND: The film is presented in Blu-Ray in DTS-HD 5.1. The film's sound design does go a bit further than most comedies in using the surrounds to provide occasional effects. However, despite the more action-oriented comedy, this is still a rather basic sound mix. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and effects. The DTS-HD presentation on the Blu-Ray edition offered a bit richer music and a little bit better clarity, but the differences between it and the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 option were very slight.
EXTRAS: Friedberg and Seltzer are joined by cast members for a commentary. I didn't listen for very long, as what's going on the world is depressing enough, I don't need to hear how these people got paid a lot of money to do this film. There's also a so-so gag reel, interactive quiz, set tour and "Prepare for Thrusting" featurette.
Final Thoughts: "Meet the Spartans" isn't quite as bad as "Date Movie" or "Epic Movie", but that only means it's only terrible instead of completely awful. Skip it.
The Film D