I knew Meet the Spartans was going to be irredeemable during a scene in the very beginning, when the main character, Leonidas, kicks a Britney Spears parody into the Pit of Death. It would have been just fine, but it's allowed to go on for a bit to long, and it includes everything Spears became famous for during her breakdown a few years ago, just so we don't forget it's her. Obiously she gets kicked into the pit. Maybe the scene could have ended here, but writers/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer drag it out and toss a few more pop culture references into the pit just for good measure.
Honestly, this isn't even fun anymore. I have to restrict my usage of particular words and phrases just to keep this sporting. At certain points, I have to wonder just why I'm obsessed with movies Pauly Shore probably rejected. I like to believe that one day, I'll learn.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: In the ancient Greek city of Sparta, King Leonidas receives a message from the evil warlord Xerxes, who is invading the Greek empire and is looking for Sparta to surrender peacefully. Sparta is mande of manly men, so if the old city goes down, it's gonna go down in glorious battle, dammit! Leonidas's request to use the entire Spartan army is rejected by the elders, so Leonidas leads a small number of troops to delay Xerxes, hopefully to hold off the attack until he can get reinforcements, ideally to wipe out the entirety of it. He meets the army at a small passage and gives them hell.
Yeah. That's the plot of 300, totally word for word. Friedberg and Seltzer didn't even try to create new names. They didn't even try to hide the old ones. They just created a low-budget version of Zack Snyder's ultraviolent slo-mo blood ballet with more pop culture references and gay jokes. How low budget is Meet the Spartans? Well, let me put it this way: The commercials you see periodically are part of the movie. Really! The product placements include parodies of ads for Gatorade, Budweiser, and Denteyne Ice which are so direct, the originals might as well have been copied and pasted in the movie themselves.
True to the regular form of Friedberg and Seltzer, the pop culture and movie references feel like they were all pulled at random from one of those little balls they use to play Bingo. And also true to their form, in case you don't get them in the first three seconds, they're going to drag them out and explain every last one of them to make sure you do eventually get them. They're like that guy who tells awful jokes at parties, and when you don't laugh, thinks you're not laughing because you failed to understand his highly sophisticated sense of humor and goes on to explain them in three different languages.
The jokes, once again, tend to get terribly old very quickly. There are no less than three judgement panels placed in Meet the Spartans from popular TV shows. The American Idol panel is obligatory in good spoofs these days, and America's Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars also show up. The only one Friedberg and Seltzer tried to get clever about is Dancing with the Stars, which is renamed Dancing with the Spartans. If you want to count the Deal or No Deal crew as another panel of judges, well, more power to you. Technically they weren't actually judges, but they were a very large panel of folks standing and looking at the goings-on.
Yes, I get that this was supposed to be ancient Greece, but there's something to be said for the prevalence of gay jokes in Meet the Spartans, and it isn't especially good. With gay marriage as one of the great issues of the day, there's something pretty, well, off about trying to go for laughs on the same stupid and inaccurate stereotypes. Aside from the skipping and the singing of "I Will Survive," a lot of the scenes in Meet the Spartans could pass for homoeroticism, and Friedberg and Seltzer seem to mistake homoeroticism for humor. The jokes are leaned on like a post and in the context of the movie's world, they make no sense whatsoever - which, since this is taking place in ancient Greece, is really saying something. Besides, gay jokes just don't work anymore. Gay people in pop culture are beginning to take on more of a shape than just "gay guy." They're beginning to be seen as three-dimensional characters with real traits and interests other than just being fabulous, so filling up a movie with gay characters just to load it up with tired jokes based in dying stereotypes isn't going to work.
Other jokes don't fare any better. The Friedberg/Seltzer standbys include bathroom and sexual humor, lowest common denominator stuff without even a color commentator to try to crack lines which might have made the sick stuff a sliver of clever. There is a prominence of jokes about disgusting body fluids, and there's spit, puss, and urine all used to go for laughs. Carmen Elektra appears to be the gal who's slept with every guy in the city and to just be as suggestive as possible.
The parodies in Meet the Spartans aren't just random, they're virtually unknown. I didn't get a lot of them outside of Transformers! I'll give Paris Hilton - who appears as herself - credit for being game to mock herself, but other than that, this movie just plain sucks. I'm going to end this review now because I don't want to expend more effort bashing it than Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzr put into getting it onto the screen. Michael Bay's work is better than this! Meet the Spartans? No thanks. I'll catch you in Athens.
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS) 1. This movie is for short attention spans only - rapid-fire spoofs of movies, reality TV, commercials and "People" [magazine] people may cause confusion and anger in viewers who find a plot to be an essential part of a movie. 2. Main movie spoofed = 300 3. Number of other pop culture icons spoofed = 300 [more like 50, but I have an artistic exaggeration license] 4. Number of Spartans who will dine in … more