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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Meet The Spartans - Unrated ''Pit of Death'' Edition
Meet The Spartans - Unrated ''Pit of Death'' Edition
20th Century Fox // PG-13 // June 3, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted April 26, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Parodies, spoofs
Likes: 300
Dislikes: Paris Hilton/Britney Spears jokes
Hates: The Friedberg/Seltzer brand of film

The Movie
In some ways, I understand how tough it is to make these movies, because it's quite difficult to come up with fresh descriptions for how bad they are. For each of the 15 minutes that was spent writing "Meet the Spartans," I probably spend 30 minutes trying to come up with another way to say "this sucks." It's the seeming lack of effort on these films by Friedberg and Seltzer that is their biggest crime (other than a lack of jokes, a sad need to spell out every punchline and a general sense of pointlessness.)

The story follows closely to the plot of the visually gorgeous adaptation of "300", subbing in "jokes" or references to the overwhelming homoeroticism in the source film, when the need or desire arises. It's fascinating to try to figure out what the comedic style is, because so many "jokes" attempted lack anything resembling timing, set-up or punchline, while other moments that scream for a gag go ignored. For example, when Leonidas is pondering his people's fate, he takes three paced-out looks at the citizens around him, and each one is no different than the others in terms of tone. Taking advantage of the rule of three could have resulted in a decent visual gag, but instead it was one of many comedic voids peppered throughout the film.

For the writers' sake, there will hopefully never be harmony and understanding between the races, because making black jokes is their bread and butter; a crutch that fills any free spots in the film. Without it, all they have left in the arsenal are gross-out gags, Pop-culture references (including very tired Paris Hilton mentions), product placement scenes that duplicate well-known commercials and .dance numbers. The biggest issue with the inclusion of this material, aside from an insulting need to actually point out where a reference comes from, is an inability to know when to use them. As a result we get an extended dance-off in the middle of the film, a parody of the 300 pit kick that pathetically brings "American Idol" into the mix and a climactic battle that just keeps going, while incredibly getting stupider. .

What's even more incredible is the actual length of the film is just over 67 minutes. That they couldn't pull it together to make an hour's worth of film interesting speaks volumes. That they can make an hour's worth of film feel like a marathon viewing of Berlin Alexanderplatz is also a sad accomplishment. Once the film ends with a dated, unfunny and utterly pointless celeb reference, you have the option to watch yet another musical scene, some awful deleted moments and the world's slowest credits crawl, all of which serves simply to pad out the feature to a slightly more acceptable 86 minutes.

The only positives to be taken from this movie is the fact that the box office returns dropped for a third consecutive release, and that no one of any real stature has been hurt by appearing in the film. Whether it's because actors have finally wised up or because it's more profitable to make crap without big names, the most notable people to sully their resume here are Ken Davitian (Borat), Kevin Sorbo ("Hercules") and Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") while Carmen Electra has once again whored herself out to the Blank Movie franchise. The choice of Sean Maguire to play the lead Spartan Leonidas is probably the best decision Friedberg and Seltzer have made. He does a nice job of aping Gerard Butler's performance, but can play it silly when needed, which is often if there's to be any smiles (not laughs) generated by this bite-sized shit sandwich.

Note: Regarding the DVD's unrated status, I could hardly find anything that would really make this an R, much less unrated, outside of some disgusting, but over-the-top kills.

The one-disc release is packaged in a standard keepcase, and features an animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to watch the movie, select scenes, set up languages and check out the special features. Audio options include English Dolby digital 5.1 and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are available in English and Spanish, along with closed captioning.

The Quality
The film looks quite clean in this anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a high level of detail that reveals obvious backdrops and bad special effects, while the colors are rich and deep. There's no noticeable dirt or damage, and no obvious issues with digital artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track gets the most play during dance scenes or musical moments, as the side and rear speakers help boost the songs, while audio effects also fill out the mix. Otherwise, it's a very vanilla comedy dialogue track, without much in terms of a dynamic mix.

The Extras
Whatever you said about the Crap Kings' last few films, at least the DVD was pretty packed. This time, any pretense of not being a cash grab is gone. Instead of three audio commentaries, including one with critics who trashed the film, we get one cast and creators commentary, with Friedberg, Seltzer, Maguire, Sorbo, Nicole Parker (Paris Hilton) and Ike Barinholtz (Prophet). The participants obviously had a good time recording the track, but they are a tad too proud about their work. Goof around, have fun, and joke about each other...anything to take our minds off what's on the screen.

Amazingly, it's all downhill from there. The "Know Your Spartans" pop culture trivia game has almost nothing to do with the film, and is hardly the most challenging game ever, with each correct answer rewarded with a clip of a kick into the Pit of Death. It's a touch better than "Meet the Spartans: The Music," which is simply a scene selection menu with only the eight musical scenes included.

The short (four minutes) gag reel is certainly funnier than anything in the film, but that's not saying a lot. The extras conclude with a pair of behind-the-scene featurettes. First is "Prepare for Thrusting," which is a simple making-of piece, with 5:14 of interviews with the cast and footage of the Spartans working out in preparation for the movie, while the other is a 6:39 set tour with Barinholtz ("Mad TV"), who plays three roles in the film. He's quite funny, but there's only so much set to explore.

Three trailers, including one for the new Futurama movie, puts a cap on it all.

The Bottom Line
As the saying goes, You'll never lose money underestimating the American public, and the Blank Movie franchise is proof of it, as they keep churning out poorly-produced garbage and people keep watching it. Thanks to these fly-by-night filmmakers, the art of the parody film is sliding into oblivion, as even fans of the last few collaborations from the writer/directors of Meet the Spartans will be disappointed in this movie. But really, that's like being disappointed in a paraplegic for not being good a double-dutch. You can't have expectations of greatness for movies that wallow in mediocrity. The DVD seems to put as much effort into home entertainment as the filmmakers put into the movie, making it a heaping helping of fail, even in comparison to their previous movies. Avoid this one unless you really want to suffer some unfunny parody comedy.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter

*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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