Epic Movie (2007) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and some comic violence
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast: Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Faune A. Chambers, Jennifer Coolidge, Hector Jimenez, Crispin Glover, Tony Cox, Darrell Hammond, Carmen Electra, Fred Willard, David Carradine
Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Screenplay: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
If there's anything worse than suffering through a film written by the screenwriting team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, it's one that they've also chosen to direct. Epic Movie is a colossal bore of epic proportions, and the sole reason that it should probably exist is so that future filmmakers can see a prime example of a comedy that doesn't work due to poor set-up, a lack of comic timing, gags that not even someone giddy from binge drinking would snicker at, and parodies that even the most ardent of each spoofed film's fans will feel are a complete waste of their time.
As you might imagine, there isn't much plot one can follow in Epic Movie, as it is mostly just a reason to poke fun at well-known films with rabid fan bases for easy mass consumption. The gist of it is that four teenage orphans (if you can call actors approaching 30 as teenagers) each find a "Golden Ticket" (a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) that takes them to the vaunted Willy chocolate factory, where they are treated in a not-too-kind fashion, only finding their means of escape through a large wardrobe (see Chronicles of Narnia) that, upon entering, takes them to the land of Gnarnia. While there, they find themselves in the middle of an oppressive fantasy state, where the evil White Bitch (Coolidge, American Dreamz) is stamping out all who tread in her path to total dominion over the subservient horde of magical creatures.
Perhaps the kindest compliment I could make about Epic Movie is that it isn't nearly as offensive as the last Friedberg/Seltzer "comedy", Date Movie. Unfortunately, that's not much of a saving grace, as the film is just as worthless, and delivers about as many laughs (none in my case). It's little more than a non-stop array of wasted opportunities, as entire scenes play out that lack anything clever or fresh -- the kind of things that someone could easily improv, before realizing that the bit they are doing sucks and they scrap it altogether to try a different approach. If this is the best they have to offer, I'd hate to see the scenes that didn't make the final cut.
If you'd like to know the essence of the comedic approach employed in Epic Movie, it's that they've hired a bunch of comedic actors who look or act similar to those found in the big-budget movies, give them funny names similar to the characters found in those movies, then proceed to find a way for them to get hit in the face, stomach, or in most cases, their testicles.
In many cases, the satire isn't even satire. "Funny" scenes of popular movies consist of just referring to them. For instance, Snakes on a Plane is spoofed by having a character attacked by a snake on a plane, proceeded by a Samuel L. Jackson look-alike spouting the PG-13 version of his most famous line in the film ("I'm tired of these god-damned snakes on this god-damned plane!") several times. Nearly any one of the myriad of Snakes on a Plane spoofs on YouTube have infinitely more humor value than this, and infinitely more intelligence. Superman Returns is "ridiculed" through a ham-handed flashback where one of the characters is dressed like Superman, gets shot in the eye, and unlike the normally impervious Supes, rails about bitterly about having been shot in the eye. Is this an actual gag? If I asked ten random people in the street to satirize that scene, I bet every single one of the ten would come up with a punch line funnier than that. It's even more asinine when you realize that Epic's top-billed star, Kal Penn (Van Wilder 2, Bachelor Party Vegas), actually had a big supporting role in Superman Returns and the makers of this film couldn't find a way to capitalize. Did Seltzer and Freidberg even watch the movies they mock?
Furthermore, some movies spoofed aren't even "epic" at all. They must have scoured through the celebrity look-alike directory and constructed scenes from those celebrities' recent movies just to be able to utilize them. Jareb Dauplaise does a solid Jack Black imitation for the Nacho Libre send-up, but other than overact like Black, the scene lacks a reason to exist. If I search this scene hard enough, the funniest thing about it is that Kal Penn, an American actor of Indian descent, is in it -- probably because Friedberg and Seltzer think he has a dark enough complexion to look Mexican. Never mind the fact that Nacho Libre isn't remotely worthy of mocking -- it not only isn't an epic, it isn't even particularly popular. If you're going to have a Jack Black imitation, why not spoof him for his appearance in the infinitely more popular King Kong, which actually happens to be an epic movie?
Normally, for such a broad satire, I would state that you should see the films satirized in order to understand the gags. I won't do that here. Friedberg and Seltzer barely delve into material any deeper than those you'd find in the TV spots for any particular movie. In fact, the only way I can see anyone thinking that Epic Movie is really funny is if they are completely unfamiliar with every one of these movies. Only the sheer randomness factor could actually merit a chuckle; it kills the joke to know that they could only muster half-assed attempts at humor for each scene. Think of how funny it would be to see an drunken pirate running around on a wayward water wheel, trampling people in its path. Perhaps it wouldn't be laugh-out-loud funny, or even worthy of a smile, but the knowledge that this feeble sight gag is the best joke that they could muster for that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 makes it abysmally painful to endure.
I try not to make it a habit of attacking the audience for enjoying a bad movie, but in the case of Epic Movie, it's really hard not to be deliberately insulting. In Mike Judge's Idiocracy, he depicts a future where the people of Earth are so stupid that they will watch TV shows that solely consist of people getting whacked in the balls and movies that show nothing but close-ups of bare asses farting. The only thing I don't understand is why Judge set this 500 years in the future; Epic Movie's success shows that the future is now.
©2007 Vince Leo