The latest pop culture regurgitation from the team who made Date Movie finds the world coming to an end, and the audience asking for their hour-and-a-half back. If there’s one thing you can say about the movies cranked out by the writing-directing team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer is that they are what they are: stream-of-consciousness parodies held together by the slimmest of storylines.
Hitting theaters at the end of an intense summer movie season, Disaster Movie is supposed to be a cleansing of the cinematic palate, but leaves a bitter aftertaste instead. The pomposity of big-budget B-movies can certainly be taken down a notch, but Friedberg and Seltzer rely too much on trailer moments for their broad comedy. Those attention-grabbing nuggets (like a bullet mussing Angelina Jolie’s hair in Wanted) are their comic fodder, and they look for laughs by giving them a (usually violent) tweak.
The problem is that their humorous twists just aren’t fresh. Questioning the sexuality of naked warrior Beowulf, adding racy lyrics to a chirpy High School Musical number, and making Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw a drag queen doesn’t make for cutting-edge comedy. Neither does the appearance of the flying cow from 1996’s Twister. But Disaster Movie falls completely flat when lashing at summer flops like Speed Racer, Prince Caspian and The Love Guru.
Deflating these images only works when they’ve overstayed their welcome in the cultural landscape (as did Juno, one of their primary targets), and making fun of the rejects doesn’t have the same punch. Jabs at the self-absorbed cast of Cloverfield works well, and turning Alvin and the Chipmunks into death metal cannibals has a macabre humor to it, but these moments are few.
The actors here are merely joke facilitators, and they’re game. After gaining attention through reality shows and pageants, Matt Lanter and Vanessa Minnillo throw themselves headlong into the slapstick, as does stand-up Gary "G-Thang" Johnson. But it’s MadTV vets Crista Flanagan (the sullen Juney), Nicole Parker (a cranked Enchanted Princess) and Ike Barinholtz (dead-on as hero and villain alike) who really understand the skewed logic of spoofery.
Friedberg and Seltzer are speedy and prolific filmmakers (their Meet the Spartans came out in January), but this lame mishmash proves that you actually can see too many movies for your own good.
Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].