There’s no question that with all the major sci-fi and fantasy franchise films floating around there’s also bound to be a solid spoof film worth of material out there to rib them. Such a movie would be full of witty jabs, playful parody and laugh-out-loud mockery. Unfortunately that movie hasn’t been made yet. The only effort made so far is Epic Movie, but it’s less a comedy and more the cinematic equivalent of peeing and missing the toilet by a good three feet.
Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer demonstrated a minimum aptitude for spoof comedy as two members of the six man committee that wrote Scary Movie. For some reason that compelled them to strike out on their own and the result was the appalling, embarrassing Date Movie. Lucky for them, America seems to like stupid and so the movie turned a profit. Likewise, Friedberg and Seltzer have turned their attention back to parody yet again and this latest attempt may be the worst yet.
Four “young” orphans find themselves desperate to escape their tragic lives. Peter (Adam Campell) is a misfit at the Mutant Academy of Arts and Sciences. Edward (Kal Penn) dares to dream of a world beyond his orphanage life where Nacho Libre serves up roadkill and snotty Doritos for lunch. Susan (Faune Chambers) gets thrown out of a plane full of snakes for complaining that Samuel L. Jackson is repetitive. Lucy (Jayme Mays) is the ward of a museum curator who leaves clues behind to lead her to safety after he is slain by a black albino.
Each of the orphans finds their way out through a golden ticket in a Willy chocolate bar. Arriving at Willy’s (Cripsin Glover) factory for what they hope will be a wonderful new life, they quickly discover that all he wants are their bodies. Human flesh is the secret ingredient to his magnificent candies and he’s fresh out of stock. On the run yet again, the four orphans hide in a wardrobe they discover in Willy’s house. The wardrobe turns out to be a gateway to the magical world of Gnarnia.
Up to that point most of the story is piece-mealed together from other movies and the cameo moments from those films had me grinning from time to time. For example, I actually laughed out loud as Lucy was trying to escape from the museum. She shines her black light on the painting of the Mona Lisa revealing the cryptic message “So lame the hair of Tom”. She checks the next painting to find a perfect rendering of that bizarre hair-do that Hanks sported in The DaVinci Code. If the whole movie had been at least that clever there may have been some hope for it, but once the children arrive in Gnarnia it becomes one long chain of tired, boring and mostly vulgar gags.
Gnarnia is ruled by the cold-hearted White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge). Friedberg and Seltzer must have been laughing to the point of wetting themselves when they thought up that one because it gets tossed around so many trite ways. She lives in a White Castle (cue the inevitable Kal Penn / Kumar joke) and drives around in a sleigh-like snow mobile terrorizing the peoples of Gnarnia. The four children, guided by Mr. Tumnus (Héctor Jiménez) and his life partner Harry Beaver (a relationship that gives rise to one too many creepy make out scenes between Héctor and an animatronic puppet), must find the half man, half lion Aslo (Fred Willard) and join forces with him to save Gnarnia.
Somewhere along the way they get a battle training montage from middle-aged Harry Potter and friends (an overplayed gag on actors being too old to play child roles). Oh, did I forget to mention the overused Jack Sparrow spoof? Despite the fact that those characters have little or no reason to be in Gnarnia in the first place, they pop up anyway for comedic bits that drag far too long to stay fresh and funny.
The real losers here are the actors. I’m mortified in particular for Jennifer Coolidge and Fred Willard who deserve far better than to be caught up in this sort of pseudo-comic tripe. And then there’s poor Crispin Glover reduced to prancing around as Willy. I wanted to weep. The only truly bright spot was the movie’s score. Ed Shearmur brilliantly mimics and sends-up the music from every single movie spoofed, from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe right down to Harry Potter, X-Men and Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s nice to know someone involved with the project was able to interject something that wasn’t completely embarrassing.
When the humor isn’t painfully predictable, it’s annoying and juvenile. For every hundred fart gags and sex jokes there might be one genuinely funny bit. As useless and un-entertaining as the movie might be, I have no doubt that Seltzer and Friedberg have nothing to worry about. Like I said before, there’s a significant portion of America that seems to love stupid. That part of America has inexplicably kept the Scary Movie franchise alive for four films now and I’m sure they’ll hand over the cash for this one too.