DIR/WRI: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer • PROD: Jason Friedberg, Peter Safran, Aaron Seltzer • DOP: Shawn Maurer • ED: Peck Prior • DES: William A. Elliott • CAST: Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra, Ken Davitian, Nicole Parker, Kevin Sorbo
Strange things are happening to me. For instance, this morning: without any warning whilst loitering in the lobby of the Savoy cinema, the shrill house alarm system was triggered, and for no good reason. Not especially uncommon I hear you say. It got stranger. Immediately after the final credits, whilst beating my hasty retreat down the steps to the foyer, suddenly the projectionist loomed up, stammering ‘It’s n-n-not over yet, I’m after skipping the second last reel.’ We were duly paraded back into the auditorium to view the missing ten-minute segment. Never before in my short and somewhat grubby career have I experienced such a strangely disjunctive movie experience. Now you need to bear with me here, because reflecting on this morning’s events, they have morphed – ahem – into extraordinary missives from ‘beyond the grave’. I now believe these manifestations were extra sensory perceptions, transcended from the realm of the cinematic gods – those vexatious, undead directors, scriptwriters and actors who protect our sensibilities from beyond the celluloid, behind the silver screen and from within the very folds of the rich, ruby velvet.
It has been three days now and I still believe that those restless souls fully intended to scupper the press screening. But what could it have been that enraged them so? Are Altman, Hitchock and Kubrick communicating to their progeny by manipulating the natural order here in the mortal realm? Have filmmakers, Jason Freidburg and Aaron Seltzer (Scary Movie, Spy Hard, Date Movie, Epic Movie), insulted their memory by stepping over an invisible line? Or is it just another frat movie? Let’s dig in…
In structure, Meet the Spartans is basically a cheap rip-off of 300, loosely following the plot of the original film. Expect lots of juvenile gags, bodily fluids, crummy slapstick and questionable ‘funnies’ and ‘lookelikees’ performing over-the-top parodies of their more famous counterparts. Notably K-fed, Britney, Paris and Lindsey come in for major schtick. The overall effect is a confused and corny mishmash. A homoerotic ‘subtext’ is evident throughout; the standard greeting for the men is a french-kiss. All women are untrustworthy and promiscuous, and therefore obliged to wear chastity belts. Meanwhile ‘ripped’ pretty boys smothered in baby oil and sporting black leather jockstraps prance into battle. By contrast, their rivals the Persians are theoretically represented as ‘the other’, with dark cloaks and hideous masks with long hooked noses. Ha-bloody-ha.
God knows I tried, I really wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t even muster a solitary snigger. I must confess that neither did I detect a snort, chuckle nor mild titter from the assembled audience. However, the most irritating thing about this flick is the product-placement pandemic – sweet jehova, save us from corporate bean counters – I counted over thirty different US multinational companies. One (of many) especially stomach-churning scene brought the entire assembled cast together for a song and dance number about a beer brand, which shall remain nameless, whilst clutching replica red and white cans. All of which I felt was about as well-conceived as a chocolate teapot.
Unfortunately, Meet The Spartans is not even a scintilla as good as benchmark anarchic slapstick classics (Think Airplane, Kingpin, Ace Ventura) and this is important. If major US studios think they can churn out substandard films, using product-placement to cover the cost of scatter-shot television advertising as a route to box office success, then they, like the Spartans themselves, are doomed.