Epic Movie (2007) (part 1 of 11)
Ah, comedy. It’s so very… funny.
One rainy night in 1980, a small, independent production company named Paramount Pictures released an obscure movie called Airplane!, and a new comedy genre was born: the absurdist, freewheeling, throw-every-joke-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks movie spoof.
Of course, spoofs were nothing new. But Airplane! played more fast and loose with the rules of cinema than any movie that had come before it. For the first time, a comedy didn’t have to make a lick of sense. Characters could change intelligence in an instant. The plot didn’t have to be consistent or satisfying. And reality was a more elastic concept than is usually considered polite.
There have been similar reality-bending spoofs over the decades, but it wasn’t until the success of Scary Movie that the studios realized a film of this nature could make money without actually being good. This is because there exists a contingent of Americans who watch movies based solely on the commercials. People who wait until they’re actually in line at the theater before deciding what to see. This contingent is generally known as “teenage boys”, and as long as the trailer promises them exactly what they want—hot women and fart jokes—a movie can easily make a profit before anyone realizes it’s horrible.
These days, “spoofs” generally consist of an arbitrary collection of scenes copied verbatim from other movies, only on a lesser budget, and with lesser talents involved. All studios really need are filmmakers who can come up with enough references to other, better films to fill up a two-minute trailer. As long as these filmmakers are on time, under budget, and don’t raise too much of a fuss about their “art”, the suits don’t really care what else they do. (And likewise, it seems these filmmakers themselves don’t really care what else they do, either.)
Studios found the perfect candidates in college friends and former shoe store owners Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg. Their first effort, Date Movie, cost Fox $20 million and grossed $85 million worldwide. It also scored 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, but, in general, if you more than quadruple your studio’s money, they let you make another film.
On January 26, 2007, they released Epic Movie. It cost about the same, and grossed $87 million. Most critics agreed with Jason Anderson of the Globe and Mail who said, “[T]his filmmaking team has created a series of spoof movies so feeble, shoddy and unfunny that they may be part of a diabolical, Manchurian Candidate-like plot.”
The problem with Friedberg and Seltzer isn’t that they’re not funny. It’s that they’re aggressively not funny. They write lazily, they steal with impunity, and they take money brazenly. They don’t seem to care if they entertain anybody, so long as they get paid.