If I could retroactively participate in our second annual (Sh)it List, I would, because Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (a pseudonym) belong on it. This debauched pair of fuck-knuckles have somehow taken the laziest genre of comedy and become the Beavis and Butthead of it, having co-directed, co-produced, and co-written a host of films that aren’t worth their weight in liquid feces: Date Movie, Epic Movie, and now Meet the Spartans. Needless to say, I hope both of them die from some form of nutsack-cancer.
Listen up, guys: the spoof-film is a dead concept in the Information Age. Technology and the internet have reduced pop-consciousness by marginal degrees; the first parodies of 300 appeared before the film was even in wide release, and what wasn’t mocked in that time was mocked later by skit comedy or YouTube jesters. By now, we’ve all had enough. But even if that wasn’t the problem, Meet the Spartans is not a surfeit of jokes, just one 80-minute gay joke threaded together by references to movies no one remembers and even fewer care about. But even these references have no inherent purpose; Friedberg and Seltzer just think they’re funny because they exist. Anyone remember that “new” Rocky movie? Yeah, see? That’s intrinsically funny.
At no point in Meet the Spartans did I laugh. I didn’t even smile. Plenty of my friends and several whiny commenters have informed me that I’m more pretentious than I should be, but I can assure you I’ll still laugh at a fart or burp if it’s proffered. The fact that Seltzer and Friedberg can’t even exploit an immature sense of humor should speak volumes to their abilities. Yes, I think some poop-jokes can be funny. Yes, I am aware that Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton inhabit the known universe. Yes, I think the movie 300, the glut of American reality-shows like “America’s Next Top Model” et al., and many video games are silly. But somehow combining these things is not a joke; it barely qualifies as a fucking thought.
Parody films are meant to call attention to the inherent ridiculousness of many genre tropes, to make light of conventions we’ve somehow come to accept as normal facets of the film-going experience. Or, failing that, they’re supposed to make us laugh. Meet the Spartans does neither. Imagine the way you feel when the office maladroit recites his favorite racist joke to you in the bathroom and you can get a comparative idea of what it was like watching Seltzer and Friedberg try to make a coherent comedy. It isn’t funny, instead filling you with pity and disgust, and everyone involved is somehow diminished by the experience.
Phillip Stephens is the lead critic and book editor for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR, and hopes to forget this film with a gallon of Early Times.
Meet the Spartans / Phillip Stephens
Film | January 25, 2008 | Comments ()