Dir: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
Star: Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra, Ken Davitian, Kevin Sorbo
Having read some of the reviews, I was braced for something on the far side of unwatchable, like the same folks’ atrocity, Epic Movie. But I can only conclude that certain critics need to lighten up. Josh Levin of Slate labels it, “The worst movie I’ve ever seen,” which only makes me seriously question his credentials as a critic. It wasn’t even the worst movie I saw last weekend, having also tried (and failed) to make it through the abysmally self-important and self-indulgent Juno, a film so bad I wanted to take both director Jason Reitman and “writer” [quotes used advisedly – ex-stripper is probably more relevant] Diablo Cody, and punch them. In the face. Repeatedly. Perhaps that influenced my moderately kind viewing of Spartans, a movie which has absolutely no pretensions of being anything other than a comedy of the dumbest kind.
Sure, it’s not actually very good, in a whole host of ways. But I laughed rather more than I would probably want to expect, and if you don’t snigger at the Spartan army singing I Will Survive, as they literally skip off to war, or that Xerxes’ army is two blokes holding a blue screen, you must have been asleep during 300. That’s really the main thrust of the film, but it takes aim at almost every aspect of pop culture from American Idol to YouTube, as well as just about any movie to pass through the multiplex in the previous 12 months. Some of the material is already dated, and the script has a painful tendency to point out, in the most obvious fashion, things we’ve already noticed, laughed at, and stopped laughing at.
It’s also pretty damn short, though I’d rather have a film err that way, rather than being too long. Maguire does all he can with the material, as Leonides, and most of the performances are appropriate enough, though no-one will ever claim the casting is any less obvious than the humour: Sorbo playing a warrior; Electra a slut; Davitian a fat guy. While I am very, very glad not to have paid any actual money to see this, and quite why it was deemed worthy of a theatrical release escapes me entirely, it’s certainly a step in the right direction for Friedberg and Seltzer.