2007Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Cast: Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Kal Penn
he overall experience of watching Epic Movie, while not recommended, is one that I can in good conscience deem extremely unlikely to cause you any physical pain. I point that out because I find a tendency among critics of this film to lean on adjectives like “excruciating” or “spontaneous-aneurism-inducing.” I really don’t agree since I felt completely fine after my screening, with only a little bit of leg stiffness (to be expected after any film viewing). Overall, though, I found Epic Movie left me with no appreciable increase in physical discomfort. I liked that about it.
Of course, that was the only thing I liked about it because, and I don’t want to mince words here, Epic Movie is bad. It is really, spectacularly and even epically bad. It starts with a Da Vinci Code parody in which the code is break-danced to actress Jayma Mays (whose short, but credible stint on TV’s “Heroes” filled me with a strong conviction that she was being ill-used), and from there it doesn’t get any better. There are three other main characters, played respectively by Fauna A. Chambers (who comes from a Snakes on a Plane gag), Adam Campbell (who comes from an almost funny X-Men high school) and Kal Penn (who comes from a decidedly unfunny Nacho Libre spoof).
These four characters converge in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, where their body parts are harvested for candy goodness. Then, Mays discovers the magical world of Gnarnia and from there it’s a straightforward parody of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with a short detour to Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean.
It would be customary at this point to suggest that the plot elements are clumsily strung together, but I won’t bother on behalf of space constraints. Let’s say instead that the problems with Epic Movie range from being unfocused (poking fun at everything from Paris Hilton and the Pussycat Dolls to the Adam Sandler comedy Click), being almost insultingly nonsensical, to being, frankly, a little too selective in its targets—Snakes on a Plane and Nacho Libre get the full treatment, but there’s virtually no mention of Lord of the Rings or Spiderman. And I have no idea what philistine found Apocalypto unripe for parody.
Still, the worst problem is a little more basic: the movie isn’t funny. Like watching a tanking comedian pile desperate jokes one on top of another in relentless futility, Epic Movie makes you feel a little sad and very uncomfortable. It comes as palpable relief when there’s a gag funny enough to make a laugh plausible. Those moments are as follows: Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” plays while Carmen Electra dances as Mystique (the blue mutant) in a high school hallway, a game of Sudoku is peed in the snow, and Superman gets shot in the eye and falls off a roof. That last one was in the trailer. And that’s it. That’s the problem with the movie—it’s unsalvageable writing. As a film critic and a person of more than eleven years of age, I’d love to nuance it for you. I just can’t.
The performances are quite good, certainly par for this particular brand of spoof. Chambers, Campbell, and Mays all exploit whatever comedic potential they’re offered, and Campbell’s uncanny resemblance to Topher Grace can be entertaining in a pinch. As for Kal Penn (not a Kal Penn, mind you, the Kal Penn), I have no idea why an actor who actually gets a joke built in for him (the White Bitch of Gnarnia offers to take him to her White Castle, at which Penn mutters bemusedly that he might have been there before), and whose too-brief screen time in an actual epic movie (Superman Returns) was cause for confusion among moviegoers, would take a leading role in Epic Movie.
I’m also not sure why anyone sees these movies. The Scary Movies haven’t been funny for years, and nobody even considered liking Date Movie. But the films keep making money, and they make lots of it, so I suppose it’s worth guessing. I think their appeal taps into the innocuous joy of being in on the joke by referencing the movies we love and mocking them the way we probably would. Maybe we love Harry Potter, but think the actors are getting too old (witness a wrinkled, bearded boy wizard and pregnant, chain-smoking Hermione). Maybe we love Superman, but after the first dozen times watching a slow motion extreme-close-up of a bullet flying towards his eye, we can’t help but think of him yelping “You shot me in the eye! That really hurt, why would you do that?!” The kids sitting in front of me were quick to identify the skewered films and ew’d and gross’d excitedly with the rest of us. But it’s funny, because as verbally engaged as they were, I just can’t remember any laughs from the theater.
Epic Movie is currently playing in wide release.
By: Amanda Andrade
Published on: 2007-02-15