Directed by Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer. Starring Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jayma Mays, Faune A. Chambers, Crispin Glover, Carmen Electra, Fred Willard, David Carradine. (2007, PG-13, 92 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Feb. 2, 2007
What would you call a movie that traffics entirely in bathroom humor, low-grade sadism, puerile sexuality, tin-eared parody, and insignificant pop-culture references with a shelf life of approximately three weeks? Well, as of this past Monday, you can call it the No. 1 movie in America. Which is only further proof that morbid depression is the only reasonable response to the current state of the world. Stealing shamelessly from the kitchen-sink approach to comedy pioneered by Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers (Airplane!, Naked Gun) and Mel Brooks, writer/directors Friedberg and Seltzer (Scary Movie, Date Movie) once again put all their emphasis on the “sink,” covering up their movie’s complete lack of humor or originality with a steady, rapid-fire barrage of insipid adventure-movie references and excrement jokes. These two are leading the charge of a new comedy movement in American movies, wherein a deep and abiding malice for their protagonists and a desire to see them tortured, beaten, maimed, and mocked time and again act as a substitute for real comedy writing; why bother writing a joke or choreographing a gag when a swift kick to the crotch will elicit the same number of laughs from a crowd of gawky teenage boys? Friedberg and Seltzer are completely tone-deaf when it comes to the art of film parody, conjuring none of the adolescent brilliance of Airplane! or even the good-natured irony of 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie, and their special form of sadism-as-punch-line leaves their audience in a perpetual cringe, waiting for the next awful thing to come down the pike and befall the hapless characters onscreen. Halfway through this movie, I was shielding my eyes and hoping, hoping that the whole ordeal would be over soon and that it would vanish from my memory immediately and forever. To make matters worse, the talents of quirky comedy masterminds Glover (Bartleby) and Kevin McDonald (The Kids in the Hall) are criminally wasted here. (The talents of almost everyone else in the cast, on the other hand, are wasted in the exact right way.) I’ve rarely seen a movie as hostile as this one, both to its audience and to its protagonists, and I don’t think I realized before just how mean-spirited comedy can get (and I was raised on the Three Stooges). Unfortunately, with the Friedberg/Seltzer school of moviemaking firmly established as a money-printing assembly line (Scary Movie 5 is already in the works), I’m afraid this won’t be the last time we have to suffer through a film as irretrievably awful as this one.