Par­ody is not pretty

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MICHAEL DWYER

MEET THE SPAR­TANS Di­rected by Ja­son Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Star­ring Sean Maguire, Car­men Elec­tra, Kevin Sorbo, Ken Davi­tian, Travis Van Win­kle 15A cert, gen re­lease, 84 min NO PUN is too fee­ble and no gag too puerile for Meet the Spar­tans, an em­bar­rass­ingly laboured at­tempt at com­edy that failed to gen­er­ate a sin­gle laugh at its Dublin me­dia screen­ing last week. I will ad­mit to one smile: of re­lief, when the clos­ing cred­its ap­peared.

Writ­ten and di­rected by the duo be­hind the equally wretched Date Movie and Epic Movie, Meet the Spar­tans is an­other of their ex­tended spoofs on other films, this time draw­ing in­eptly on 300 and its ho­mo­eroti­cism, and ad­her­ing quite slav­ishly to its nar­ra­tive out­line. Sean Maguire, a Grange Hill alum­nus and mi­nor 1990s UK pop singer, plays Leonidas, with Car­men Elec­tra (from Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and Scary Movie 4) as the queen.

As this tacky movie crawls along mirth­lessly, it di­rects crude, nasty jibes at such soft tar­gets as Brit­ney Spears, Lind­say Lo­han and Paris Hil­ton. Not con­tent with hav­ing the Spar­tans camp­ing it up once to I Will Sur­vive, they later of­fer an en­tirely un­war­ranted and un­wel­come reprise. One char­ac­ter gets fe­line ex­cre­ment on his face. There’s a flat­u­lent pen­guin and oo­dles of bla­tant prod­uct place­ment.

The pic­ture drops in pa­thetic send-ups of other films (Trans­form­ers, Ghost Rider) and US TV shows (Amer­i­can Idol, Ugly Betty). As­sum­ing that their au­di­ence will be as stupid as their own movie, the writer-direc­tors con­de­scend­ingly ex­plain ev­ery would-be joke. When a Sylvester Stal­lone “looka­like” ap­pears, Rocky is em­bla­zoned on the waist­band of his box­ing shorts. When Xerxes turns up, a com­ment is made that he looks “a lot like that fat guy from Bo­rat”, to re­mind view­ers where they last saw Ken Davi­tian, who plays Xerxes.

This dispir­it­ingly unin­spired ef­fort hasn’t a trace of the wit or in­ven­tion that went into such en­ter­tain­ing movie par­o­dies as the Air­plane! and Naked Gun fran­chises. There are nine months left in 2008, but Meet the Spar­tans al­ready looks un­beat­able for the ci­ta­tion of the year’s worst movie. The prospect of any­thing even more dire is an ap­palling vista.

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Hey, he looks like that fat guy from ‘Bo­rat’: Ken Davi­tian

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