I volunteered for this.
I have to keep telling myself that. Have I seen Cloverfield? No. Have I seen I Am Legend? No. And yet, when we made our requests for which movie we wanted to review for Revolution Sci Fi, I picked Meet the Spartans.
I thought I I knew what I was getting into. I saw the trailer. Oh, I saw the trailer! I knew this was supposed to be the thematic sequel to Epic Movie. I knew it was parody. I knew it was stupid.
I can handle stupid. I love stupid. I own both Jackass movies. I’ve been know on occasion to compare Johnny Knoxville and company to the early-century French Situationistes. I even own Dodgeball.
I still didn’t know what I was signing up for.
Meet the Spartans is unabashedly a parody. What makes parody work? For one, the best parodies are fairly subtle. Spartans is not. It pounds you over the head with heavy handed pop culture references.
The best parodies make you think. Spartans does not. It beats your intellect to a bloody pulp and dares you to try to pair any two coherent thoughts together. It is an affront to anyone who has to think for a living.
The best parodies are topical. They take the most current events and deconstruct them to reveal their inherent absurdity. This does not. The title is the first clue. Meet the Fockers, one of the funniest movies in recent memory, is at least two years old. My parents own Meet the Fockers. It may very well be the only DVD they own that isn’t targeted to their grandchildren or isn’t a historical documentary.
I suppose we should blame it on ourselves. We are the viewing public who keep Britney Spears in the spotlight. So it’s hard to film something a year or even six months in advance that can keep up with her endless shenanigans. But to subject us to stale Britney-shaving-her-head-with-K-Fed-in-tow jokes just is so 2005. Only Michael Jackson dangling a baby off a balcony would be more tired.
The Sanjaya reference is unforgivable. And Borat? Oh, please! Maybe if Leonidas engaged in some naked baby oil wrestling with an Immortal, the film would have been funnier. And when was Spider-Man 3 released? It’s out on DVD, right? Stomp the Yard? Who saw that? And are they going to see this movie? On second thought, nix that. They probably are.
And what about Kevin Sorbo? Why was he in this movie? Maybe he was the most affordable actor with the abs for the part. Kevin, for the record, please don’t kick my ass the next time you come to DragonCon. I’m trying to say you deserve better than this second rate schlock. And what explains your five o’clock shadow and copious body hair in a Nair-inspired flesh fest?
So, where does this movie get it right? Surprisingly, some of the film’s parody does rise above. The narrator’s references to the inherent homoeroticism of 300’s scantily clad Spartan warriors going off to live, fight, and die together, no women in sight, strikes a surprisingly giggly comic chord. They set up the gay overtones, not so much subtly but surprisingly. They time the jokes well.
The payoff of the narrator’s direct reference to Leonidas’s “latent homosexuality” fourth wall double-takes and all, made me giggle like a little school girl, especially in light of the historical Spartans’ institutionalized pederasty. Crap! That came across as an overly academic analysis, didn’t it?
The product placement jokes work well, although I think the real message of the unwelcome intrusion of corporate America into our leisure time distractions will likely be lost on most of this movie's viewers. Shoot! That sounded more-ivory-tower-than-thou, too.
The musical numbers provide a much needed guilty pleasure. Not meaning to spoil, but wait for I Will Survive at the closing credits. (Is it really a spoiler if it has nothing to do with the actual movie?)
I'm not sorry I went to see Meet the Spartans. I wish I didn’t feel so guilty laughing out loud when I did.