The stigma of "I've seen it all before" pervades Epic Movie in unexpected ways. Writers/directors Jason Friedberg
and Aaron Seltzer
's previous credits, Scary Movie
(as two of six writers) and Date Movie
, tell you what you're in for: the skewering of some currently popular cinematic genre. Famous scenes will be re-shot, famous people lampooned, and there will be plenty of naughty bits. Experience might also alert you to the film's questionable quality. However, in a movie whose lifeblood is appropriation, borrowing, copying, and sullying (parody seems too sophisticated a description), it is surprising that Epic Movie feels tired not because it reminds us so often of the epics it sends up, but because it suffers from the faults of its "Something" Movie predecessors.
As with Scary, Date, and Not Another Teen, Epic Movie takes for its plot a cobbled together version of the events of the films it lampoons. Thus, we first meet four orphans before they win a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory that leads to an epic adventure in Gnarnia (with a silent G, "for legal purposes"). First orphan Lucy (Jayma Mays
) is the daughter of a Louvre curator who finds her golden ticket when clues around her father's dead body lead to, gasp, Da Vinci. Edward (Kal Penn
) leaves his Mexican orphanage after a wrestler/monk tries to feed him a dead cat (apparently, Nacho Libre
was an epic). Peter (Adam Campbell
) is an X-Man with chicken wings, picked on in high school by Mystique (Carmen Electra
) and LC (from the TV's Laguna Beach). The final orphan, Susan (Faune A. Chambers
), represents the point at which the filmmakers just couldn't be bothered anymore. She was on a plane once, and so were some snakes. Article continues below
In as ambiguously defined and incredibly inclusive a category as "epic" there are ample opportunities for satirical sparks. And there are moments, fleeting as they are, such as Peter's exploration of the sexual shape-shifting possibilities of Mystique, when those opportunities are taken. More frequently, though, the order of the day is mere repetition. The Nacho Libre scenes and Snakes on a Plane
sequence do nothing with the original material other than cast it with inferior actors. Later, aboard a more touristy "Black Pearl," SNL's Darrell Hammond
is very good at impersonating Johnny Depp
impersonating Keith Richards
, but is given too little to do besides this. In all, the film lacks the perspective needed for effective satire. As with Date Movie, the filmmakers don't have much to say about the films they are dealing with. They simply present them to us in a burlesque fashion with a fart joke here and a rude word there.
Worse still, the filmmakers have turned their attention too heavily to their back catalogue. There are the staple gratuitous slow motion bikini dancers, Carmen Electra is back, MTV references fill in where jokes cannot be found, and Jayma Mays seems with her dazed and confused performance to be channelling Scary Movie star Anna Faris
. Rather than looking for things to say about the latest in epic films, they seek to appropriate a successful formula onto the latest box office successes. The movie is also entirely toothless. Discussing the film, Penn brags of how Friedman and Seltzer "ridicule" Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, in which he starred in 2004. Here, ridicule translates to a shot of a White Castle restaurant on the screen and Penn saying, "I have a feeling I have been here before." Perhaps this was my problem. I want some savageness in my satire, and Epic Movie is decidedly tame. As one who sat through The Da Vinci Code
, X-Men 3
and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I was expecting a suitably cruel counter attack. Instead, I got what I should have expected knowing the pedigree. In this latest and tiredest Friedman/Seltzer puff piece the law of diminishing returns persists.