United States, 2007
U.S. Release Date:
PG-13 (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio:
Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jayma Mays, Faune A. Chambers, Tony Cox, Fred Willard
Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
20th Century Fox
When did this sort of movie stop being funny? Parodies with so-called "saturation humor" used to be reliable - rarely memorable but typically good for 90 minutes of enjoyable, disposable cinema. At some point, however, the jokes lost their zing, and the writing team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer were right in the middle. These two scripted Scary Movie (along with Shawn and Marlon Wayans), which was amusing, and Date Movie, which was anything but that. Epic Movie (with which these two make their directorial debut) is the third entry in the "trilogy" and it fails to reverse the downward spiral. If you thought it was impossible for a film to contain less effective comedy than Date Movie, here's evidence to the contrary.
Epic Movie is an exercise in regurgitating parts of popular movies with look-alike actors engaged in pratfalls and other embarrassing acts. There are four main characters (to the extent that one can use that word in association with this production). Lucy (Jayma Mays) is introduced during a mirthless spoof of The Da Vinci Code. Edward (Kal Penn) comes via Nacho Libre. Susan (Faune A. Chambers) is menaced by Snakes on a Plane. (The Samuel L. Jackson representative can't even quote the movie's famous line because Epic Movie is PG-13. So "motherfucker" is replaced by "goddamned" so the teenagers of this world can be protected from extreme profanity.) Finally, Peter (Adam Campell) spends time at the X-Men's mutant school. The four eventually end up in the Land of Gnarnia ("The 'G' is silent, like in 'gnarly'"), but only after a stopover to meet Willy Wonka (Crispin Glover). The bulk of the "story" loosely follows The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Jennifer Coolidge as The White Bitch and Fred Willard as Aslo. There are tangents to allow appearances by Harry Potter, James Bond, Superman, and Captain Jack. Notably absent, however, are references to The Lord of the Rings.
Bad taste and worse jokes abound. Epic Movie's humor isn't tired; it's comatose. After a while, the effect of so much failed humor is numbing. Is it funny when Lucy gets her tongue stuck to a cold pole (only to have that tongue separated from her body when she is pulled free)? Or when Mr. Tumnus French-kisses a beaver? Or when Magneto gets hit in the head with a pot? When all else fails, Friedberg and Seltzer resort to the old stand-bys: consumption of raw sewage, urination, farts, spit and drool, and projectile vomiting. To be fair, there are a couple of brief but genuinely clever moments to be found - the proverbial needles in a haystack. When he meets The White Bitch, Kal Penn murmurs, "It's Stifler's mother." (The role played by Jennifer Coolidge in American Pie.) Shortly thereafter, when she commands him to gaze upon her "White Castle," guess what he sees? (He is later referred to as "Kumar" by Tony Cox.) I'm tempted to add to this short list a scene in which Fred Willard's stunt double is obviously not Fred Willard, but that was done to better effect in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.
The complete and utter failures of both Date Movie and Epic Movie makes one question what happened to Friedberg and Seltzer. Scary Movie used the same formula but was at times side-splittingly funny. One must assume all the good stuff came from the Wayans Brothers, who have not been involved in the subsequent Friedberg/Seltzer projects. (They are no longer involved in the Scary Movie franchise, either.) Epic Movie is a primer in how not to make a spoof. I attended this film with a "real" audience (not critics) and, during most of the movie, the dearth of laughter was eerie.
There's no way to soften the truth: Epic Movie is a waste of time. It's like a bad issue of Cracked Magazine come to life. It's not so much painful as it is sleep inducing. Bad imitations of beloved movie characters can be funny but not the way they are presented here. The movie is so poorly assembled that it feels like a direct-to-DVD product that ended up with a theatrical release because the January schedule is so threadbare. Even if you love every movie that Epic Movie references, this film will not please, divert, or amuse you.
So if you find yourself stuck in a theater seat watching Peter play Sudoku in the snow with his urine or seeing Edward slurping from the "chocolate river," don't say you weren't warned…