Stop me if you’ve seen this one before (alyson hannigan mention)
samedi 10 février 2007, par Webmaster
Critics may have panned film spoof Epic Movie. But that hasn’t stopped it sitting pretty at the top of the US box office, John Patterson despairs
In my line of business, it must be accepted that certain movies are simply critic-proof. It doesn’t matter what we say. We can rain down the critical equivalent of the wrath of God or a carpet-bombing campaign, we can consign the film’s backers, makers and stars to the ickiest, innermost circle of Hell ; we can demand the public incineration of all the movie’s negatives and prints, and the razing of the offices of all executives involved in greenlighting said exercise, and still - STILL ! - the sumbitch boots us out of its path and skyrockets to the top of the weekend box-office charts.
Article continues Such a piece of work is Epic Movie, which arrived in cinemas under a sky blackened by the reviewers’ flying brickbats but which none the less emerged on the third Monday in January as the undisputed ass-kicking champ of the opening weekend wars.
Now, hear the critics applaud !
Jeremy Fox of Pajiba raved : "It’s generally considered bad form for a critic to advocate the kidnap and torture of specific film-makers, but I’ll tell you this : If you did it, and you confessed to me, no way would I turn you in."
"A laugh-deprived misadventure," averred John Wirt of the Baton Rouge Advocate. "Epic Movie strays so far from the solid fundamentals of film-making that it calls the very foundation of humour into question," said the reviewer for The Onion, which knows whereof it speaks in matters humorous. "The cinematic equivalent of a tapeworm," said the Chicago Reader - and they didn’t mean it in a nice way, either. And the capper comes from Film Journal International : "What makes Epic Movie such an unpleasant endurance test isn’t its rampant stupidity or slavish reliance on crude humor- it’s the sheer laziness on display throughout."
And these are just the better-written examples of a quite staggeringly unanimous chorus of withering contempt and disdain. I could myself assure you that Epic Movie is an epic catastrophe, or an artistic failure of epic proportions, or even an Emetic Piece of Insufferable Crap, but it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference.
Epic Movie is the scrag end of a very honourable and very funny tradition in recent American humour. The tradition was inaugurated by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker’s Airplane ! back in 1980, which was just about the funniest movie I’d ever seen at that point. It was deeply plugged into the second-rate pop culture of the mid-20th century : lousy, melodramatic B-pictures with wooden stars, ripely creaky dialogue and rickety sets. And it played its humour absolutely straight-faced. Peter Graves and Lloyd Bridges simply had to act in their normal way within the increasingly ridiculous unfolding disaster scenario and the laughter was guaranteed and unstoppable.
Zucker and Abrahams, who started out by writing The Ur-text of the tradition, The Kentucky Fried Movie, have returned to this well many times since Airplane !, with The Naked Gun series, Top Secret !, Hot Shots ! (parts un et deux), High School High and even BASEketball. The latest manifestation has been the Scary Movie satires inspired by the Scream movies - which makes them, essentially, spoofs of a spoof.
Which is where our Epic Movie problem can be said to have germinated. Scary Movie Five is currently in production, and Four just came out on DVD, but alongside the Scary Movie series is a much broader, weaker offshoot that has included Date Movie and now Epic Movie. As the poster winkingly tells us, Date Movie comes "From (two of the six) writers of Scary Movie !" That would be the writer-director team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Selzer, who have parlayed that single screenwriting credit into a crappy, albeit thriving little empire of lazy satire and gross-out humour (modern American gross-out humour, incidentally, derives from Porky’s, and all its offshoots, including the sublimely scatological Screwballs, with the American Pie movies as sort of grandchildren to the original.)
Date Movie, Friedberg and Seltzer’s last emetic piece of insufferable crap, was released, like Epic Movie, with no advance screenings for critics. This is sometimes the sign of a film masterpiece misunderstood by its backers and dumped, but more often it’s the sign of a conceptual and artistic catastrophe, and such is the case with Date Movie just as with Epic Movie.
Somehow, the film-makers forgot that satire consists of more than imitating scenes from recent hit movies and praying that the simple shock of recognition will prompt gail-force laughter in the auditorium (sadly, they’re not altogether wrong in this regard). Date Movie opens with Alyson Hannigan in a fat-suit approaching a kid dressed up as Napoleon Dynamite. The joke is this : the dude can do an okay impersonation of John Heder’s "Guh !" line. And laugh-wise, that’s your lot, mate. Move along now. Later a marriage therapist wearing a gigantic prosthetic bubble butt in gold lamé hot pants takes the piss out of J-Lo, something that spirited young lady is quite capable of doing to herself. A thunderous silence in my living room at this piss-poor comic gambit. And it goes on like this : empty lampooning of Kill Bill, Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls and whatever cultural detritus might have lingered in the ADD-afflicted minds of the writer and director. I will grant them one hosannah, however, for allowing two of the critics’ fiercest critics, Scott Foundas of LA Weekly and Bob Strauss of the LA Daily News, their own separate commentary track describing in long and painful detail Date Movie’s many dropped clangers, laughless longueurs and witless humour. Epic Movie is more of the same. The principle, apparently, is to release one of these abortions every six months or so - often in a slow box-office environment like mid-January. This gives enough time to accumulate more material and, in gathering said comic ordure, the writers are like men with shovels following the Hollywood Parade, and sweeping up the horseshit left in its wake as the basis for their own grim efforts. Thus Epic Movie offers us Captain Jack Sparrow doing a boring, unfunny little hip-hop dance ; a man impersonating Borat for no discernible purpose ; a few dead ringers for Jack Black, Paris Hilton and other people you’d really love to slap senseless, along with nods to Narnia, Harry Potter and all that infantile guff. I laughed not once. The auditorium was like a library on the night before final exams.
That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t diamonds to be disinterred from all this dross. The Scary Movie franchise always knocks a gratifying number of skits out of the park (I cite the Saw spoof that opens SM4, with seven-foot-tall basketball genius Shaquille O’Neal and TV therapist Dr Phil forced to chop off their own feet), and they also gave us the imperishably ditzy and maniacally wide-eyed Anna Faris, possibly the funniest woman in America (Don’t believe me ? Rent Just Friends).
And lastly, we come upon the superficially similar Not Another Teen Movie, made by the folks who do the MTV Movie Awards Show, which for my money is a minor masterpiece of broad, dirty, wised-up American satire, the jokes coming at you like machine-gunfire. The satiric jabs hit home every time, and the cast is salted with embryonic comic geniuses like Jaime Pressley (who has since struck gold with My Name Is Earl) and Chris Evans (of Fantastic Four fame, not the drinking pal of Danny Baker). It also features the funniest, most nauseating, exploding-toilet-and-torrential-shower-of-excrement sequence you’ll ever see, and quite possibly the only one you’ll ever need.
And it has the reviews to prove it. No less august a journal than the New York Times called it "a happy, nasty and frequently hilarious assault on 20 years of youth pictures." Which proves that another kind of movie can also be critic-proof. A GOOD movie.
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