In a recent IMDB poll, director Uwe Boll ('BloodRayne,' 'Alone in the Dark') was voted as current cinema's worst filmmaker. I take exception to that verdict, if only because of the writing-directing duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Make no mistake -- Boll makes terrible movies, but at least they're original. Friedberg and Seltzer's films are just as bad, but -- by design -- their sole reason for being is to rip-off other films. Their "spoof" flicks like 'Date Movie,' 'Epic Movie' and now 'Meet the Spartans' are true cinematic atrocities, and the fact that they continue to make money at the box office astounds me.
A lame attempt to parody such big-budget sword 'n' sandal flicks as '300,' 'Meet the Spartans' is 'Scary Movie'-aspiring satire at its worst. Like the lamest examples of the mock-u-genre, 'Spartans' only marginally spoofs its target, using gladiator movies merely as a launching pad for a cavalcade of pop culture references and dopey slapstick that has nothing to do with anything. There's no real target here -- just a bunch of D-list actors (look for Carmen Electra, 'Borat's Ken Davitian and even Kevin Sorbo in the cast) wearing funny Roman costumes and making crude sexual jokes. It's not subtle or perceptive, it doesn't offer any interesting comment on movies like 'Gladiator,' or even our culture's appetite for them. It's just a series of corny gags strung along in no apparent order, with cheap-looking Roman sets as a backdrop. Christopher Guest or 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' this ain't.
Friedberg and Seltzer also seem to be hung up on gay and race-baiting jokes. The homoeroticism of a movie like '300' is certainly a ripe target, but there is nothing in 'Meet the Spartans' beyond frat-house stupidity. The amount of open-mouth male kissing on display may be uncomfortable for some at first, but the film goes nowhere with it -- it just keeps trotting out the tongue shots until they no longer have any effect. (One has to wonder if the filmmakers stillthink today's audiences are shocked to learn that gay people actually exist?) Same with the racial stereotyping, which makes even the simplistic humor of Mel Brooks' 'History of the World Part I' or 'Blazing Saddles' seem advanced by comparison.
If I have anything kind to say about 'Meet the Spartans,' it is that the film is only 87 minutes long, so at least the misery is short. I suppose it is fair to say no one ever went broke underestimating the American public, so I plead with you -- don't buy, rent or even borrow this movie from a friend. The "(Insert Title Here) Movie Satire" genre must be stopped, and consuming 'Meet the Spartans' in any form will only prolong its death throws.
Fox presents 'Meet the Spartans' on a BD-25 single-layer disc in 1.85:1 widescreen and 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video, and despite my issues with the film itself, I have to admit that it looks very nice.
'Meet the Spartans' really amps up the color, giving the film an almost candy-coated look. Reds, blues and greens are quite deep, at times veering on oversaturation. Blacks are deep and contrast bright, making depth quite strong. The print is spotless, although there is some slight grain, and at times the transfer can appear a bit indistinct and fuzzy due to the intense colors. Shadow delineation also suffers a bit due to a dark cast, but it's hardly enough to warrant a major gripe. Overall, 'Meet the Spartans' is bold, three-dimensional and pleasing.
Audio comes in DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit), with the added flavors of French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (192kbps) for our non-English-speaking friends. Though not at all noteworthy, overall the audio is fine for a comedy.
Specs are simply serviceable across the board. The track sounds healthy and punchy, with nice low bass that supports the lame jokes well, and a clean and polished feel to the rest of the spectrum. Surrounds are moderately engaged, with a few pronounced discrete effects and decent atmosphere. The music is well-balanced in the mix along with dialogue, so I had no volume level issues. The source is also predictably clean of any defects. A perfectly adequate presentation.
'Meet the Spartans' hits Blu-ray and standard DVD with a matching set of extras that look fairly impressive when listed on the back of the box. Make no mistake, however -- these wafer-thin supplements are about as nourishing as the flick they support. (Note that all of the video-based supplements are presented in standard 480p/i/MPEG-2 video, with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.)
'Meet the Spartans' is a truly awful parody -- one that stretches out the same two homophobic and racist jokes for 87 minutes, peppering it along the way with every tired Paris Hilton reference you can imagine. Even from the dopey minds of inspiration-deprived mavens Friedberg/Seltzer, this is atrocious. As a Blu-ray release it is a-OK, however, with solid video and audio and a few supplements. But why anyone in their right mind would want to watch 'Meet the Spartans' remains a mystery to me.