Review: ‘Meet the Spartans’

What does it say about a film with an hour running time that has twenty minutes of outtakes after the credits to reach theatrical length? Very little that’s positive.

Once upon a time, there was a way-cool movie called 300, where soldiers with six-pack abs died to stop the Persian armies from overrunning Sparta. Sadly, this is an intentional and unapologetic ripoff of that movie. Starring Sean Maguire as Leonidas (who has decreed that men kiss one another passionately while spouses high-five one another), Carmen Electra as Queen Margo (who knew a slice of pizza could be used for a fashion accessory?), and that Fat Guy from Borat as Xerxes. Is it funny yet? Aren’t you having fun?

While filled with entertaining people, movies like Meet the Spartans are shot so cheaply that they can’t help but make money on a theatrical release. But seriously, can’t they find any decent writers for these spoofs anymore? Unlike classic Mel Brooks films like Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, which had their own plots while making fun of film genres, these films are all graduates of the Mike Myers’ School of Gags, where if it was funny once, keep doing it until it’s funny again. Sadly, even Mr. Myers can’t seem to pull this off anymore, and we wind up with films that conjure up one laugh for every three misfires.

From funny names (Traitoro, the guy who betrays everyone) to obviously painted-on six-pack abs, too much time is spent on the look and almost none on the comedy. The film itself is barely an hour long, ending in a dance number (?!) then fills the end credits with twenty minutes of alternative takes left out of the movie to pad the running time. Worse yet, these aren’t the kinds of gags where you wonder why they didn’t put them in; it’s perfectly clear that the best (of a dozen) takes made it into the final cut. Honestly, all the money shots are in the trailer, while the film just milks the lesser attempts to fill the running time.

While the Judd Apatow crew of comedians are re-writing the expectations of adult R-rated comedy, the makers of Meet the Spartans seem more interested in having fun themselves regardless of what translates on screen. These kinds of films lower the value of other comedies the way a crack den full of cultists lowers the property values of an entire neighborhood. Not to point the fingers at anyone but writers (and now directors) Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer just don’t seem to be as interesting without writers Shawn, Marlon, and Keenen Ivory Wayans around. Coincidence?

(a one skull recommendation out of four)

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