Disaster Movie

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/29/08 15:40:20

"This Generation's "Meet the Spartans"
1 stars (Sucks)

As I was sitting in my fortified bunker last night, August 28, with multiple screens of information coming in, it began to occur to me that that this was one of those rare moments in time when the stars seemed to be aligning in a much more positive and hopeful manner than usual. On one, Barack Obama was accepting his nomination as the Democratic candidate for president with a piece of political oratory that was so uplifting and inspired that even a resolute arch-conservative like Pat Buchannan found himself declaring it to be magnificent and an instant classic of the form. On another, the Chicago Cubs continued their incredible season by overcoming a 4-2 deficit against the Philadelphia Phillies in the eighth inning with a game-winning grand slam from Aramis Ramirez. Hell, even the Chicago Bears, who thus far have been playing with all the grace and finesse of a group of crippled nuns, managed to hold things together long enough in order to eke out a pre-season 16-10 victory against the admittedly woeful Cleveland Browns. Thanks to all of these simultaneous events, I was seized with an unfamiliar sense of cockeyed optimism and as a result, I decided to throw caution to the wind and head out into the might to catch the midnight screening of “Disaster Movie,” the latest parody movie, for lack of a better term, from Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer, the goons behind such affronts to the sensibilities as “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie” and “Meet the Spartans,” on the assumption that perhaps the good mood that I was experiencing might transfer over to the film in such a way that even it might came across as vaguely palatable. Alas, it took the film perhaps nine seconds to strip away all of the goodwill that I had brought into the screening and replace it with the sense that I was witnessing not just one of the worst movies ever made but one of the worst things ever created by human hands--the kind of sexist, racist, homophobic and humor-free craptacular that is so ugly, unpleasant and devoid of laughs that the notion of releasing a film with such a title on the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is actually one of the least offensive things about it.

Of course, as anyone who actually sits through this nightmare will quickly discover, one of the great mysteries surrounding “Disaster Movie” involves the question of why the Friedberg & Seltzer bothered to even call it “Disaster Movie” in the first place. With such a title, you might naturally assume that they would be focusing their comedic aim on, well, disaster movies. Well, apparently there were absolutely no jokes to be mined from that particular species of filmmaking as it turns out, because outside of a framework vaguely inspired by “Cloverfield” (lacking only the monster, the video camera perspective, likable characters or a point) and an exceptionally chintzy-looking goof on “Twister,” none of the jokes on display here have much of anything to do with the genre. Instead, they have chosen instead to offer up jokes inspired by pretty much any film that has invaded the popular consciousness in the last few months--some of the targets here include “10,000 B.C.,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Superbad,” “Wanted,” “Juno,” “High School Musical,” “Sex and the City,” “Jumper,” “Prince Caspian,” “Enchanted,” “Hancock.” “Step Up 2,” “Iron Man,” “Hellboy,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Get Smart,” “Alvin & The Chipmunks,” “A Night at the Museum” and “Kung-Fu Panda”--that amount to little more than recreating key moments in an almost note-for-note fashion with lookalike actors (assuming that you have severe vision problems) without any twist on the material to speak of other than having them perform gross bodily functions, having gross bodily functions performed upon them or crushing them with some kind of random heavy object like an asteroid or a flying cow. The question is not so much how all these disparate elements tie together because they don’t--they hang together with all the grace, precision and coherence of an exceptionally sad middle-school pageant. No the real question is how the film could possibly satirize films that were themselves only released a couple of months ago themselves at the same time that “Disaster Movie” was presumably still in some form of production. Well, it would appear that instead of actually sitting through the films in question in order to ferret out the moments worth spoofing weakly, Friedberg & Seltzer merely watched the coming attractions previews for what they assumed would be the big summer movies and simply borrowed the moments from them. Of course, while this particular method of research is obviously a time-saver--why waste precious moments watching 120-minute movies in order to ineptly parody them when you can get the same effect from a two-minute trailer--it isn’t exactly foolproof, as the extended goofs on such long-forgotten bombs as “Speed Racer” and “The Love Guru” makes painfully clear.

Then again, it doesn’t really make a difference if they see the entire film or a preview because regardless of which, their attempts at parody offer up absolutely nothing in the way of comedic insight as to the popularity of the titles in question or their easily mockable qualities. For example, let us take a look at the long “10,000 B.C.” spoof that opens the film. Now if you saw that ridiculous caveman epic from Roland Emmerich, the genius behind “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” you know for a fact that there was hardly a moment in that boneheaded extravaganza that wasn’t ripe for the comedic picking--you and I could take ten minutes out of our busy days right now and most likely come up with at least five solid jokes without breaking a sweat. However, outside of putting characters in loincloths and questionable facial hair, there is virtually nothing in the scene that has much of anything to do with that film. Instead, it starts off with a caveman type falling face-first into a giant bit of smeary mastodon excrement (see, poop is funny), continues on as he becomes involved in an “American Gladiator”-style battle with some guy talking about registering his signature catchphrase online (see, they are cavemen so the idea of them talking about the Internet is funny) and concludes with him running into a bad Amy Winehouse impersonator who brags about being out of rehab while drinking gasoline (see, exploiting someone’s serious personal problems is funny), talks about being on Facebook (see, having cavemen talking about something that didn’t exist during their time is funny) and offering up a crystal skull (see, mentioning a film that was recently popular is funny).

And yet, the sins of “Disaster Movie” run much deeper than the fact that it provides more conclusive evidence that the filmmakers have absolutely no idea what parody is supposed to entail. What really sinks the project is the shabby and shoddy craftsmanship that is on constant and painful display throughout. The film was clearly shot quickly and on the cheap and the results are so off-putting that you can’t believe that the people at Lionsgate actually had the stones to foist it upon the public as a fully finished piece of work. Visually, it combines all the worst elements of an uninspired YouTube video and an uninspired snuff film, already excruciating scenes are allowed to go on forever before they finally and mercifully come to an end (mostly in an effort to stretch what is maybe an hour’s worth of material into a feature-length running time) and the whole thing has been put together in such an obviously slipshod manner that you can practically seen the greasy Scotch tape being used to barely hold the scenes together. What is even more disturbing is that the film seems to be perversely going out of its way not to provide viewers with anything vaguely resembling entertainment. There is one moment during one of the incessant “Juno” parodies in which the faux-Michael Cera character is singing some hideous song about how Juno should get an abortion that is tasteless to be sure but which gingerly begins to approach actual parody but just when it threatens to get interesting, the character gets slammed on the head with something or other and the film moves on to some other crap. In fact, Friedberg & Seltzer are so incapable of providing their audience with even the slightest trace of actual entertainment that they go so far as to bring in reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian for a supporting role and then refuse to provide viewers with practically the only thing that most of them could possibly want from such an appearance--a decent shot of her backside, a piece of work that is far more structurally sound and visually interesting than anything else on display here.

And speaking of Kardashian, the fact that she is actually one of the better-known people in the cast of “Disaster Movie” suggests that while the previous Friedberg/Seltzer joints have made a few bucks in the past (although it should be noted that Fox, the studio behind those earlier efforts, bowed out on this on and left Lionsgate with the proud task of releasing it under their banner), whatever trace amounts of respect they may have once inspired in the creative community has long since disappeared. Consider the fact that their first film, “Date Movie,” managed to attract the reasonably well-known likes of Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Griffin, Jennifer Coolidge and the comedic genius that is Fred Willard. For “Epic Movie,” they managed to convince the latter two to return to the fold and managed to throw in Kal Penn, David Carradine and Crispin Glover for good measure. Hell, even “Meet the Spartans” managed to snag the likes of Kevin Sorbo, Method Man and Diedrich Bader. This time around, outside of a couple of moonlighting “MAD TV” performers (who no doubt signed up because it allowed them to appear in something so puerile that it made their work on that generally lambasted sketch show look almost like “SCTV” at its peak by comparison), the only performer of any note seen here is the redoubtable Carmen Electra, who has appeared in every one of their films to date, not to mention virtually every other “Movie” parody to come along in the last few years. In the past, I have jokingly suggested that her presence in these films meant only one thing--the producers refused to meet Pamela Anderson’s quote--but at this point, I am almost convinced that she is actually trapped in some kind of sick and twisted relationship with one or more of these guys (I’m guessing that punk Seltzer) that is forcing here to appear in these things lest something horrible happen to her loved ones. This time around, her brief and pointless appearance consists of her jumping into a wrestling ring to do battle with Kardashian (and yes, Friedberg & Seltzer figure out a way to make even that come across as unappealing) and taking part in an insipid goof on “Wanted” that finds her as the Angelina Jolie character advising someone about curving the bullet (see, doing the exact same thing you saw in a better movie with hardly any difference to speak of is funny). I won’t give away the punchline of the scene (mostly because it creates the erroneous assumption that there is a punchline worth speaking of) but my guess is that if Electra has managed to retain even the slightest shreds of dignity or self-esteem after appearing in these films, she mostly likely had it written into her contract that the gun would be filled with live ammunition.

“Disaster Movie” is a piece of complete junk from start to finish--a work of social, intellectual and comedic retardation that is so foul to behold that it comes very close to making the likes of “Meet the Spartans” and “Postal” seem almost palatable by comparison--and the closest thing to a funny idea in it is the fact that Friedberg & Seltzer actually have the cojones to criticize the writing style of Diablo Cody within the context of a screenplay that considers people eating glass and smearing filth on their faces to be the epitome of humor. Of course, there is always the possibility that such moments might somehow seem amusing to you. All I can say is that if this is the case, you should rush out right now and see “Disaster Movie” because it is chock-full of such moments. . If that is the case, however, I would like to humbly request that you never read another one of my reviews again.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.