February 4, 2008

Hate the Spartans

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When it feels impossible to review a movie, there are only two explanations: either it’s a masterpiece, or it’s a piece of crap. So, you must be wondering, which of these is Meet the Spartans?

Let’s run down the masterpiece checklist: visionary genius, evocative delivery, enduring power.

Hmm. Meet the Spartans wasn’t the most stirring film I’ve seen this (month-old) year. But what exactly was wrong with it?

First, the premise: a spoof of 300 — which, by the way, was not the most profound movie ever made. When your mission is to satirize a film already self-consciously absurd, the results may not be great. So, no surprise, then, that Spartans blows; it’s defining features are inane comedy, half-baked plot, and subpar acting. It almost seems superfluous to write about a film that makes no aspirations towards relevance, but I’ll give it a shot.

Spartans isn’t the first movie designed to bash other crappy films. We’ve had Not Another Teen Movie, Date Movie and Epic Movie (the last two of which were made by the same criminals responsible for this monstrosity). What a sorry bunch of cultural artifacts these are. Social scientists watching them in the 23rd century might be justified in taking us for a bunch of adolescent, sex-crazed half-brains. How many times can a guy getting hit in the balls be funny? How many gay jokes can you pack into 84 minutes? With Hollywood blockbuster trash having already sunk so low, these idiots (Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, to be specific — may they pay dearly for what they have done) come along and prove that we’re willing to buy anything — Meet the Spartans was the top-grossing film when it opened last week, narrowly edging out another paragon of greatness, the new Rambo.

But maybe you want some specifics. Remember 300? Strip away everything that was cool in that movie and introduce a fourth-grader’s sense of humor, and you’ve basically got the picture. There’s Britney Spears and the American Idol judges getting kicked into the pit of death; there’s Leonidas trying to hide his homosexuality; there’s Paris Hilton as the deformed hunchback. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton — you might say “what gives?” Oh yeah, there’s also Lindsay Lohan coming out of rehab, and Carmen Electra being a slut. Hilarious stuff.

Don’t worry, though, it gets worse. The writers only came up with a few (terrible) ideas, and so each one gets far too much running time. The Spartans and the Persians have a dance-off for what seems like hours. The fat guy from Borat¸ playing Xerxes, doesn’t stop talking. And too many penis and vagina jokes. It’s like MadTV run wild.

The thing I’m most worried about after seeing the film is that my aesthetic sensibilities are permanently damaged. I’m scared to death of watching 300 again and not being able to get the awful lines out of my head (like Leonidas saying “You got served”). What’s worse, the showing of the spoof I went to had subtitles on the screen, so the only comedic element that the script had going for it — surprise — was ruined. 84 minutes of my life down the drain, and I didn’t even get to see the previews.

Meet the Spartans does accomplish two important things, however. First, in virtue of its utter awfulness, the film has made 300 seem, at least to me, a classic. It’s kind of like how Mike Huckabee makes others Republicans look intelligent — merit by contrast. Frank Miller should be grateful. Second, Spartans gives me great hope as a screenwriter (as it should you, and anyone else who is literate). Miss South Carolina could have written a better script. I know Hollywood’s all about connections, but if Jason and Aaron’s social skills remotely resemble the humor and intelligence evidenced in this movie, they must not be all that hard to come by. Hey, producers — don’t give up on this writer’s strike fight, because if this is the kind of crap they’re giving you, they don’t deserve a cent.

Bottom line — Meet the Spartans will never, ever be even remotely fun to watch. It’s a full-on assault on your brain cells that makes you wish satire had never been invented. And the title — what? According to the Internet Movie Database, the film is called Spartatouille in France, and the working title was Not Another Scary Epic Teen Date Movie. Enough evidence for me that everyone involved in the making of Meet the Spartans should be stripped naked, branded with a huge ‘S’ for “Sucks at making movies,” and dumped into the Pacific Ocean. Sadly, this includes Carmen Electra.