If Airplane! is the Mad magazine of cinematic lampoons, then Meet the Spartans is its subpar competitor, Crazy. Produced and directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, this feeble spoof of 2007's surprise hit 300 is a year too late and several million brain cells too short. After delivering the appalling Spy Hard, Date Movie, and Epic Movie, the team has tricked yet another studio suit into letting them hurl this excremental example of their sodden, slapdash satire at audiences. No one aside from 14-year-old dweebs who've yet to know the touch of a woman will be laughing, however.
Following the Frank Miller/Zack Snyder spectacle beat for beat (King Leonidas -- Sean Maguire -- takes a dedicated group of Spartans to the Hot Gates to defend his city against the advancing Persian horde and their God King Xerxes -- Ken Davitan), Freidberg and Seltzer bloat their unbelievably bad script with every past-its-shelf-life pop culture reference imaginable -- including Carmen Electra. There are nauseating nods to Shrek, American Idol, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Deal or No Deal, Ugly Betty, Donald Trump, Transformers, Borat, and You Tube whiner Chris Crocker. When not foraging through those whose 15 minutes of fame expired several TMZ stories ago, Meet the Spartans is advancing child abuse, homophobia, and ethnic pigeonholing as part of its "only a joke" kind of insult humor.
Granted, there is some negligible joy to be derived from seeing Maguire pile-drive a preschooler into the ground, WWE style, or watching a semi-dressed Davitan prance around in disturbing body jewelry. But those microscopic pleasures are offset by stretches of mind-numbing idiocy. Meet the Spartans is the kind of film that doesn't even bother to get lookalikes that look alike. The Spears substitute's not bad (she definitely overstays her redneck rube welcome) but the other supposedly famous faces look like rejects from a low rent celebrity impersonator convention. If an omnipresent narrator didn't tell us who we are purportedly looking at, we'd never guess their ersatz identity.
But it's the courting of anti-gay stereotypes that really sinks Spartans. While we don't get limp-wristed lisping or outright mincing, there are sequences where old school disco ("I Will Survive" gets played, twice) and unmanly skipping suggest the soldiers' alternative lifestyle leanings. Even Greek society is given the obvious clichéd goose when Leonidas explains that women in his city are greeted with high fives, while men who meet exchange open mouth tongue kisses. Certainly a film as sloppy and silly as this one has no real malice or bad intentions towards homosexuals directly. But as with other recent examples of unintentional intolerance (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, anyone?), there's no class in going for the cheap laugh.
While not as hateable as the demoralizing sports send-up The Comebacks (which has been known to actually swallow one's soul), Meet the Spartans is comedy for the certifiably unsophisticated. It never gets to the heart of why 300 was such a kitschy cult commodity, nor does it offer any real insight into the targets it's taking down. Even a last act battle sequence that tries to replicate the slo-mo mayhem of Synder's direction looks paltry in comparison. Nothing more than a collection of media talking points pretending to be clever, the lack of imagination and intelligence is more than fatal. But its biggest sin is also the most startling -- Meet the Spartans can't even get its fart jokes right. How incredibly sad is that?
Beauty and the Beastmaster.