Meet the Spartans (2008)

(On DVD, December 2011) Watching Friedberg/Seltzer “parody movies” is an exercise in curious masochism, such has their entire body of work been so embarrassing to date.  Meet the Spartans has an unchallenged reputation as one of the worst box-office-number-one movie in recent memory (Fact: It won over Rambo as the top-selling movie in the US upon release in January 2008) and viewing it merely confirms its standing.  Even critics wary of superlatives won’t have a hard time saying that this is the worst so-called spoof comedy on record so far.  A witless recreation of key scenes from 300 with added bodily fluids, celebrity references and cartoon violence, Meet the Spartans struggles ineptly to even deliver smiles.  Relentlessly stupid, irrevocably dated to 2007 and never too sure when it has ground a concept into the ground (the “Pit-of-Death” sequence goes on for five minutes), this film isn’t amusing even to those who thought 300 was an overrated piece of pap aimed at teenagers.  Almost painful in its ineptness, Meet the Spartans doesn’t really understand what humor is, and seems happy to substitute the same tired elements (grossness, celebrities and violence, usually mixed together).  There’s no cleverness to the commentary on 300 (forget about discussing the fascistic elements when even the jokes at the original film’s unintentional homoeroticism seem like mean-spirited homophobia) and no conceptual humor at throwing together pop-star abuse in an antique context.  Meet the Spartans doesn’t work as a parody; it doesn’t work as absurdity and it doesn’t even work as caricature.  It just doesn’t work, and its aggressiveness in repulsing its audience seems a key piece of why it doesn’t.  I have seen several low-budget straight-to-video comedies that were funnier than this.  Struggling to find nice things to say about this film, it’s true that Sean Maguire makes a convincing replacement for Gerard Butler and that the production design is often instructive in showing how to cheaply re-create 300’s distinctive aesthetics.  Otherwise, the unrated DVD edition has a few bonus features that are better than the movie itself: The “Tour the set” featurette is sporadically amusing, whereas the commentary track is arguably funnier than the main feature as actors and filmmakers have a good time.  Tellingly, though, everyone seems repulsed by the film’s grosser moments… leaving open the question as to who thought those moments were a good idea.  No wonder Friedberg/Seltzer have earned such widespread hatred in the movie-fans community.

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