"Epic Movie" left me frozen like a piece of petrified wood, simultaneously in disbelief at the level of ineptitude that could possibly fill a screen at any given second and genuinely embarrassed to the point of dismay for all the actors involved. Being a lifelong horror movie fan, keep in mind that I have seen just about every zero-budgeted, direct-to-video piece of schlock imaginable. Because of this, there has rarely ever been a theatrical release bad enough to measure up (or is that down?) to the real
worst of the worst in terms of pure celluloid torture. What was the last studio picture this bad? Maybe 2002's "The Adventures of Pluto Nash
." The point is it's been a while, and "Epic Movie" is downright offensive in its bile-inducing wretchedness and complete and utter lack of respect for an audience who maybe, just maybe, has come to laugh. They won't, as there isn't one funny momentnot one!from beginning to end. There is nothing clever. There is nothing original. There is nothing likable, or amusing, or visually compelling, or well-shot, or tightly edited. Almost by default, there are so many rapid-fire gags and physical comedy bits and double-entendres in any given spoof movie that it would logically seem impossible to not inspire a solitary giggle in the viewer. "Epic Movie" proves this theory wrong.
The plot is nonsense, but then, no one will be attending "Epic Movie" in hopes of a riveting storyline. Whittled together with spare parts from about two dozen box-office hits of the last few years, the basic premise is that four seeming strangersdumb Lucy (Jayma Mays), orphaned Edward (Kal Penn), outcast mutant Peter (Adam Campbell), and sassy black chick Susan (Faune Chambers)are the lucky recipients of Golden Tickets hidden in chocolate bars that promise an "epic adventure." When a visit to Willy's (Crispin Glover) chocolate factory leaves them running for their lives from a murderous psychopath who chops up body parts and places them as central ingredients in his candy, Lucy, Edward, Peter and Susan discover a magical wardrobe that leads them to the mysterious land of Gnarnia. Once there, Edward is promptly kidnapped by the evil White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge) and the other three must seek the help of the wise half-human/half-lion Aslo (Fred Willard) as they prepare to do battle, save Edward, and restore peace to the land. In other words, it's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
" meets "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
." Also on the reference list are "Snakes on a Plane
," "Nacho Libre
," "Superman Returns
," the "Harry Potter
" series, "The Da Vinci Code
," "The Pirates of the Caribbean
," and "Borat
"Epic Movie" has been advertised as being from two of the six writers of "Scary Movie
." They must have been the two that threw in the jokes that fell flat, because any one scene in the original "Scary Movie
" is savvier than the whole of this cinematic abortion. Writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer might be nice guys in real life, but they should never be allowed to helm another motion picture as long as they both shall live. I've seen more talent in my cat's last dump than these two ass-clowns have as filmmakers. Lacking even the most basic and rudimentary understanding of the elements that make up a spoof/parody movie, Friedberg and Seltzer take popular movies of the moment, cast people that passingly resemble the original characters, and then shoot them as they stand around with nothing to say or do.
Take the scene where the heroes pass by a man looking like Daniel Craig's 007 in "Casino Royale
." The audience is asked to bust a gut by the mere acknowledgment that he is supposed to look like the latest James Bond. Similar wastes of parodies come in the form of Borat, who shows his bare backside and does little else, and Nacho Libre, who repeats almost verbatim a dialogue exchange from "Nacho Libre
." Or how about a Samuel L. Jackson lookalike, who insists on continuously saying, "I've had it with these goddamned snakes on this goddamned plane," because the Internet folks have demanded it. All well and good, only that wasn't even the actual line in "Snakes on a Plane
," and has been downgraded to a lesser profanity in order to get the PG-13 rating. Thus, the joke doesn't work. No attempt is made to put a spin on the films being aped outside of the cheapest and laziest of ideas.
The comedic bombs don't end there. When Peter asks out superhero Mystique (Carmen Electra), her reply is, "As if." Soon after, Peter attempts to get revenge on the school bullies by breaking free his large angel wings. Instead, his wings are tiny and useless, and Mystique calls them "chicken wings." Cue five to ten seconds of dead air time while the actors awkwardly stand there without a clue as to what they should say next. This stony silence from both sides of the screen is repeated over and over and over again, ad nauseum
, and is all the more humiliating because it is clear that at least some of these pauses were thrown in to allow for laughter time in big audiences. Flavor of the month references, from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Namibian visit, to Kevin Federline, to the "Lazy Sunday" music video from "Saturday Night Live," to "Cribs" (called "Kribs" here), to the one millionth tired spoof of "Punk'd," are further proof-positive signs that Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have no interest in anything but a paycheck.
The performers (at least the veterans of the bunch) should be ashamed at how far down at the bottom of the barrel they have scraped. Jennifer Coolidge and Fred Willard (both of 2006's "For Your Consideration
") are naturally hilarious and intuitive actors, but they need to be more discriminating with their choices. Coolidge and Willard, playing the White Bitch of Gnarnia and Aslo with strained looks of discomfort on their faces, have never been less amusing. Jayma Mays, such a delight in 2005's "Red Eye
" and most recently on a multi-episode guest spot on TV's "Heroes," is unbearably awful as the poor-man's Anna Faris or Alyson Hannigan. A running joke in which Lucy repeats everything Susan says is unfunny the first time it happens, but maddening the twentieth time when it becomes clear there isn't a reason for her behavior and no payoff is planned. As for the rest of the actors, all of them uniformly horrible, let's just say they should erase this immediately from their résumés if they hope to work again.
"Epic Movie" is so smarmily pleased with itself that it is sickening, going so far as to include a montage at the end (but before the credits crawl starts) of random shots of people dancing and making weird faces. In response, the viewers scrunch their brows, confused as to its point but thankful for a moment to process the monumentally rhythmless, tone-deaf, empty, boring, asinine dreck they have just witnessed and lived to tell the tale about. Two of the granddaddies of lampoonery, 1980's "Airplane!" and 1988's "The Naked Gun," are a couple decades old now and yet their comic sensibilities are still as sharp as a tack and they hold up as well today as they did when they were released. The Zucker/Abrahams team knew how to make the most stupid gag work, and relied not only on the foreground but the background of shots to induce guffaws in the audience. There was an element of surprise and courageousness to their comedy. "Epic Movie" has none of these things, replaced by the rotting stench of a once-potent genre that has been mutilated and desecrated beyond recognition. Sometimes, "hate" is too polite a word. This is one of those times.