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Unwatchable #72: “Meet the Spartans”

Posted by Scott Von Doviak

Our fearless – and quite possibly senseless – movie janitor is watching every movie on the IMDb Bottom 100 list. Join us now for another installment of Unwatchable.

Here’s a serendipitous turn of events – not for me, of course, but maybe for somebody out there. On the very day that Disaster Movie, the latest parody from the writing-directing team of Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, is released in theaters, our Unwatchable selection of the day just happens to be the humor-challenged team’s previous effort, Meet the Spartans. (And when I say effort, I don’t really mean it in any traditional sense of the word.) This is purely coincidental, but if I can do anything to dissuade even one person from spending money on Disaster Movie this weekend, I’ll consider this post a success.

I doubt that’s going to be possible, though, since it seems highly unlikely that any regular Screengrab readers would be seeing Disaster Movie in the first place. For my part, Meet the Spartans was my first experience with the Seltzer-Friedberg team, but I can’t say I was completely unaware of what to expect – basically, that these bozos are Zucker-Abrams-Zucker for people who were often dropped on their heads as children. Spartans is ostensibly a parody of 300, but really just a string of pop culture references linked by scenes of shiny-chested men in leather loinwear. Notice I say pop culture references, not pop culture jokes; Seltzer and Friedberg proved to me that they watch Entertainment Tonight and TMZ, but not that they have any ability to synthesize their crapulent media saturation into something that would make me laugh.

For example: A group of Persians arrive in Sparta to inform King Leonidas (Sean Maguire) that he must submit to the rule of Xerxes. Leonidas proceeds to kick them into the pit of death. He is about to leave when he notices Britney Spears sitting in front of the pit, shaving her head and flashing her pixilized coochie. He then kicks her in the pit of death. Really, it’s not like I’m looking for some explanation for Britney Spears being in ancient Sparta. I realize it’s all part of the free-wheeling zaniness. But you can’t just have her shaving her head and flashing her girl parts. We’ve already seen that. Likewise, when Ryan Seacrest and the American Idol judges appear in front of the pit, it’s not enough that Simon is mean, Paula is loopy and Randy says “dawg” a lot. Maybe that was enough when MAD TV did their very first American Idol send-up 147 years ago, but if you don’t want people to think you’re stupid, untalented assholes, Messrs. Selzer and Friedberg, you really need to step up your game.

Alas, I do think they’re stupid, untalented assholes and I’m just sorry anyone encouraged them as children or even told them they were the “funny guys” in high school. They weren’t, I am almost certain. Here are some things they think are funny: 1) Balls. Now, here they happen to be correct. Balls are funny, particularly when they’re getting punched and they aren’t mine. It’s somewhat less funny when a Happy Feet penguin teabags Leonidas, but again, it’s because there’s no real context. Ball jokes with context – now that’s humor. 2) Homo jokes. Yes, I imagine there is some humor to be mined from the homoeroticism of 300, but the gags here are about as subtle as prison sex. 3) Celebrities and reality TV. In addition to Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan also make appearances to reference their tabloid troubles and flash their digitally obscured vaginas. (All celebrities are impersonated, of course, except for Carmen Electra who seems to be under the impression that she’s acting in the role of Queen Margo.) We not only get the American Idol panel, but the judges from America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars. There’s even a Deal or No Deal reference, which really shows Selzer and Friedberg are invested in crafting timeless comedies for the ages.

The worst thing about these non-jokes is that Selzer and Friedberg feel the need to explain them as they’re happening. So when the fat guy from Borat shows up as Xerxes, the narrator tells us he looks like the fat guy from Borat. And when a symbiotic black Spider-Man costume slithers over Carmen Electra, the narrator tells us it’s much like what happened to Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man. An appearance by Rocky Balboa is highlighted by the lingering close-up of the ROCKY stitched on his shorts. It goes on and on. Actually, it just seems like it goes on and on, because, as we learned from this Phil Nugent post and as I can confirm, Meet the Spartans runs for a little over an hour before the end credits begin. After a while, the credits stop and some deleted scenes from the movie are played. I’d really love to know how these particular scenes became the outtakes. The only thing in the whole movie that remotely caused my mouth to twitch in the direction of a smile was Leonidas howling “Tonight! We Dine! AT HOOTERS!” Yet somewhere along the line, a decision was made to remove that scene and show it at the end to pad out the running time. I take back what I said earlier. I think it was Selzer and Friedberg who were repeatedly dropped on their heads as children.

Previously on Unwatchable:
73. Fascination
74. You Got Served
75. The Last Sign
76. Kickboxer 3: The Art of War
77. BloodRayne 2: Deliverance



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