by William Goss
From this day on, there may very well be reports of widespread rumbling and creaking from beneath the ground, from Newark to Denmark and beyond. However, the populace need not panic: it’s merely the construction of a brand new circle of Hell, exclusively for two of the six writers of 'Scary Movie.'Logic refuses to impose itself on writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, as their scattershot-and-then-some spoof, Epic Movie, has even less to do with actual epic films than their Date Movie had to do with romantic comedies. The closest thing to a thru-line would be The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, but since when did anyone mistake the likes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Nacho Libre for being epic? Even if the title had been something along the lines of Blockbuster Movie, to include The Da Vinci Code, X-Men: The Last Stand, Mission: Impossible III, Superman Returns, Snakes on a Plane, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Click, James Bond and Harry Potter, it still couldn’t possibly excuse jabs at Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Kanye West, Flava Flav, “American Idol,” MTV (okay, one semi-inspired “Cribs” gag works), SNL, MySpace, Geico, sudoku, and the current administration. Explain to me how this stuff qualifies, but that out-of-place Lord of the Rings bit from Date Movie wouldn't have.
Alas, the, er, ‘plot’ concerns four orphans – Edward (Kal Penn), Lucy (Jayma Mays, like Anna Faris or Alyson Hannigan without all of that pesky comic timing), Susan (Faune A. Chambers), and Peter (Adam Campbell, apparently looking to sustain an entire career on _______ Movies) – who find themselves lured to the chocolate factory of Willy (Crispin Glover) and then escaping into the realm of Gnaria (the silent G’s “for legal purposes”), which is under the rule of the evil White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge). Eventually, Captain Jack Swallows (Darrell Hammond, in the film’s second feeble attempt to mock the already farcical Johnny Depp) also shows up, and hijinks mostly involving head trauma, flatulence, and pitiful pop culture punchlines ensue.
Believe it or not, there’s a snicker or two that slips through, usually consisting of Penn taking potshots at his own career and never to the credit of the actual comedic prowess of anyone involved, but for the most part, Friedberg and Seltzer seemingly throw darts at a corkboard filled with index cards spanning everything and anything from A Christmas Story to Star Wars to Talladega Nights, with rampant disregard to the basic concept of a parody, let alone its own supposed niche concept. Even worse is the perpetually diminishing returns when the duo recycles gags from their prior parodies and drive them into the ground (maybe the funniest joke in Date Movie, involving a terribly obvious stunt double, goes on for twice as long and is half as amusing), and even worse than that is the sheer fact that all of this alleged satire hasn't the slightest bite. Sure, they can include an inert Borat reference, but when the characters ponder the fate of their villain, why not cut to said ruthless tyrant being hanged while someone posts the videophone recording on YouTube? If you're going to flail about in terms of relevance, is a little edge too much to ask?
The casting of Glover goes from inspired to tired in 24 frames flat, while Coolidge simply struts around in her usual daze, and even after Lil' Jon and Anthony Anderson decides that they have better things to do, Tony Cox, Fred Willard, and Carmen Electra return nonetheless in an effort to cash in on what they can get for their collective scraps of dignity.The closest thing to a purpose one can assign to this affair is a demonstration of what last year’s biggest films might’ve looked like if shot on half the budget, but once again, even such inadvertent reasoning is already giving more thought to 'Epic Movie' than its creators obviously have and much more credit than they're ever due, but as long as there’s a ticket buyer born every minute, the real joke – maybe the only joke – is on us.
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originally posted: 01/27/07 09:00:50