by Mel Valentin
When a movie studio decides not to hold press screenings for an upcoming release, it’s a sure sign that they have zero confidence in that particular. In the case of "Meet the Spartans," an excruciatingly unfunny spoof of "300" and just about every mega-hit released in the last year, 20th-Century Fox, they made the right call. Co-written and co-directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the non-geniuses behind "Epic Movie" and "Date Movie," scattershot spoofs decidedly aimed at a teen and pre-teen demographic, "Meet the Spartans" is just as lame, just as awful, and just as execrable as its predecessors, but that won’t stop Friedberg, Seltzer, or anyone else at 20th-Century Fox from releasing another sub-par effort this time next year. We’ll be all the poorer for it.Structurally, Meet the Spartans “borrows” almost every plot element from 300, opening with a voiceover narration that describes the Spartans selection of warriors. Sickly or otherwise unhealthy infants are discarded in a garbage heap. Cue first “joke,” a Scottish-accented, wisecracking Shrek baby. One gratuitous vomit shot later, which promptly leads to the death of the Shrek baby, a village elder inspects an infant born with six-pack abs, toned muscles and a beard. Hilarious so far, isn’t it? Flash forward to an adult Leonidas (Sean Maguire), participating in several manhood rituals, beginning with a torture scene straight out of Casino Royale and segueing into Leonidas confronting a six-foot tall, talking, dancing, penguin with an urban (read: stereotypically African-American) accent in a lonely forest. A non-hilarious fight scene later and Leonidas returns triumphantly to Sparta, where he’s crowned king and meets his future wife and queen, Margo (Carmen Electra, in slutty mode, as usual).
"Please, Lord, make it (the pain) stop. Please."
Flash forward again, as Leonidas confronts a Persian messenger (Phil Morris) sent by the god-king, Xerxes (Ken Davitian). With his Captain (Kevin Sorbo) on hand, the temperamental Leonidas refuses the messenger’s demands and promptly kicks him into the “Pit of Death.” In short order, Leonidas kicks the messenger’s guards into the Pit of Death, Britney Spears (yes, you read that correctly), the judges and host from American Idol, and last season’s surprise contender, Sanjay. With war on the horizon, Leonidas takes 12 of his best warriors, plus the woefully out-of-shape Dilio (Jareb Dauplaise), to defend the “Hot Gates” from the Persian army. At home, Margo tries to obtain back up for Leonidas, but a Spartan politician, the cleverly named Traitoro (Diedrich Bader), stands in her way.
No joke is too stale, too lame, or too offensive for Friedberg and Seltzer. Friedberg and Seltzer seem to have studied at the Saturday Night Live school of comedy: repeat a joke endlessly until it becomes funny. When that doesn’t work (i.e., often), Friedberg and Seltzer jam in as many illogical pop culture references as possible. When they’re not parodying recognizable hits or semi-hits from the last year or two (e.g., Shrek, Happy Feet, Stomp the Yard, Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider, Rocky Balboa, Transformers), they’re spoofing American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Deal or No Deal. And when that’s not enough (i.e., often), Friedberg and Seltzer take mean-spirited potshots at Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan or namecheck Ain’t It Cool News or YouTube (specifically Chris Crocker’s histrionic video defending Britney Spears).There is a plus side in all this, though (seriously). While the running time is listed as 84 minutes, "Meet the Spartans" barely clocks in at over an hour (minus credits) and as awful as "Meet the Spartans" is, Friedberg and Seltzer manage to squeeze in one or two serviceable jokes or gags, which they then proceed to repeat ad nauseum. Friedberg and Seltzer take the unoriginal “Spartans as closet gays” idea and take it as far as they can. The Spartan greet each other with kisses, prefer each other’s company, skip to their battle scene and, of course, do battle against the Persians in energetic dancing competitions that includes breakdancing. Friedberg and Seltzer aren’t exactly progressive when it comes to gays in "Meet the Spartans," but at least they’re finally parodying an element in "300" that deserves spoofing. And that, unfortunately, is all the good that can be said about "Meet the Spartans."
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originally posted: 01/31/08 03:44:35