Based on the bilious reviews Epic Movie earned upon its release nearly two years ago–“only the desperation and cynicism feel authentic,” “lowest pop-cultural denominator,” and “a wake-up call to how low our collective standards have really become“–it looked like the kind of film that’s so bad it’s actually fun to write about. Having caught Epic Movie belatedly on HBO last night, I can now assure you that it’s every bit as terrible as advertised. However, I can take little pleasure in reporting to you about a comedy that relies for laughs principally on bitch slaps, pratfalls, and kicks to the groin. By comparison, The Three Stooges have all the weight of Aeschylus.
A broad satire of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Da Vinci Code, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the X-Men and Pirates of the Caribbean series, Epic Movie sells itself as a send-up of the self-important Hollywood blockbuster. And yet a striking number of its non-slapstick jokes rely on our knowing recognition of Great Moments in B-list Celebrity History (for example, a one-liner about Stifler’s Mom, a role actress Jennifer Coolidge, who here plays the White Bitch, is never going to outlive).
I’m feeling nostalgic for the far superior spoof movies of my youth–for the absurdity, wordplay (“Don’t call me Shirley“) and low-budget, lowbrow gusto of Airplane! (1980), Top Secret! (1984), and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988). These guileless films, all written and directed by the team of Jim Abrahams and David Zucker, are both snapshots and quickie exploitations of their respective fleeting pop-cultural moments. But unlike Epic Movie creators Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (who are also responsible for the Scary Movie franchise), Abrahams and Zucker had a unique sensibility that transcends time. Future generations may wonder why anyone was supposed to find Cialis cracks funny, but no explanation will be required to see the humor in skeet surfing, the brand new sport sweeping the nation.–Benjamin Strong