February 1, 2007

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Epic Movie (PG-13)
A crowd too low-rent to have appeared in the Scary Movie series takes pieces of the The Chronicles of Narnia, X-Men, Superman Returns, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Pirates of the Caribbean and the Harry Potter movies and bludgeon us with them while shrieking “do you get it? do you get it?” in Epic Movie, a painful exercise in movie cannibalism.

Let’s be perfectly clear — Epic Movie is not a comedy. It is a collection of recreated scenes from other, better movies with minor changes (usually of injecting some crude, sub-simian-intelligence-level bit of pratfall — sexual or fecal in nature or featuring a guy kicked in the nuts). That’s it. Some time there’s a “punch line,” sometimes it’s just a rough approximation of the Narnia set with a guy getting kicked in the nuts. It’s not comedy. It’s not humor. After multiple nut-kickings, I think a guy not getting kicked in the nuts might have been the most surprising and therefore might have elicited actual laughter. And by the way, I saw this movie in a regular theater full of regular people (well, not full by any means, but you know, it wasn’t just me in the screening room) and I don’t recall hearing any laughter. Not once, ever. It’s like we were watching autopsy footage or a news report about genocide.

To the extent that these strange mini-skits are gathered into a plot, the plot features four “orphans” (all of whom are well into their 20s) — Edward (Kal Penn), Peter (Adam Campbell), Lucy (Jayma Mays) and Susan (Faune A. Chambers) — who are unrelated but who, in movie “parodying” ways (it’s not parody but I’m at a loss for what else to call it) each find a golden ticket to get a tour of a chocolate factory. While there, the eccentric owner, Willy (Crispin Glover — who actually, I’ll give the movie this, does perfectly parody the creepy Michael-Jackson-ness of Depp’s portrayal of Willy Wonka) threatens to get a little too friendly with the “children” and so they hide in a wardrobe. The wardrobe leads them to a wintery world governed by the White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge, who officially has no shame) wherein they must parody a bunch of movies in an attempt to defeat her and end the suffering that is this movie.

Not a moment of funny. Occasionally, I would frown and think “huh” but that was the closest to a reaction that the movie ever got from me. In retrospect, the first Scary Movie is starting to look pretty clever. This 10th generation copy of that copy has gotten frayed and blurry. The Austin Powers movies were a good parody of the Bond movies — they used some Bond-ian conventions and commented on absurdities of the series (e.g. the unnecessarily slow dipping mechanism) but they also created characters that were funny independent of the parody, offered some some smart dialogue and had stories that, however light, gave the movies some momentum.

Epic Movie is like a collection of still photographs wherein the movie wants you to point to the thing that is familiar and then point to the part that is different. I’m not sure what kind of experience is called, but I certainly wouldn’t call it comedy. F

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and some comic violence. Written and directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, Epic Movie is an hour and 26 unrefundable minutes of your life and is distributed in wide release by 20th Century Fox.