Writer/director Aaron Seltzer and co-writer Jason Friedberg made their debut last year with "Date Movie", a mostly unfunny (and occasionally very unfunny) parody of romantic comedies. That film merely repeated bits from romantic comedies instead of actually having anything to say about them or weaving them into the story in a clever manner.
The duo have returned again with "Epic Movie", a parody of...well, epic movies that don't seem particularly "epic" ("X-Men", "Snakes on a Plane"), making the title rather bizarre. Anyways, the film focuses on four orphans - each of which come from a different parody on a popular movie - Susan (Faune Chambers), Lucy (Jayma Mays), Edward (Kal Penn) and Peter (Adam Campbell). Each of them wind up in possession of a golden ticket to visit Willy (Crispin Glover)'s candy factory.
However, Willy has twisted plans in mind and the orphans flee, with Lucy winding up in a wardrobe that takes her to Gnarnia (oy.), where she meets Mr. Tumnus (Hector Jimenez). What follows is a painfully unfunny parody of "MTV Cribs" (and there's also an incredibly bad parody of "Punk'd" later in the film), with Mr. Tumnus talking about how he has flat screen TVs everywhere. Hi-larious. He informs her (via a decent "Mission: Impossible" throwaway gag) that the "Evil White Bitch" (Jennifer Coolidge) is set to destroy the residents of Gnarnia with a WMD. It's up to her and the other orphans (aside from Edward, who's been seduced by the Evil White Bitch) to save Gnarnia.
"Epic Movie" does have a couple of slight moments where it manages a laugh (see an alright "Harry Potter" parody where, for no particular reason, Harry and friends are much older and haven't fared well), as the films parodied seem to give the writers a little more material than the films parodied in "Date Movie" did.
This is a somewhat better effort than "Date Movie", but there's still moments here that are just a disaster: a parody of "SNL"'s "Lazy Sunday" crossed with "Pirates of the Caribbean" ("Lazy Pirate Day") is an utter mess that looks thrown together at the last moment. One can go to the internet and find about 8 other "Lazy Sunday" parodies that range from funny ("Lazy Monday", the West Coast response from actors Mark Feuerstein and Adam Stein) to even better than the original (the fantastic "Lazy Muncie" or the equally funny response from two UK teens: "Lazy Sunday UK: We Drink Tea".)
So, average people wrote parodies of "Lazy Sunday" (all of which are available online) that put the one in this multi-million dollar feature film to shame and, in some cases, are arguably better than the original product. Studios should start pulling talent from online, as I'd rather see a film written by the "Lazy Muncie" guys from Indiana who rap about how their local Elks Lodge "drops fresh beats from Garth Brooks to Lawrence Welk" and who were able to get "Garfield" creator (and Muncie resident) Jim Davis to do a hysterical cameo than something like this again.
The writing also has some sizable stretches of being plain lazy, with the two co-writers once again simply taking moments from popular movies and giving them the slightest alternation. There's even a moment where a character tells the Evil White Bitch that her evil plot is taken from "Superman Returns" (and not long after, another character says essentially the same thing.) It's one of several moments where "Epic Movie" thinks it's hilarious, but it's putting in the least possible effort and still thinking it's a laugh riot. See also the fact that a "Borat"-like character is thrown in randomly to say lines that were essentially said in "Borat". When the writers run out of ideas, they throw in a fart or vomit joke. It's not that I don't like immature humor sometimes as much as anyone else does, but at least put in some effort.
The performances are at least a little better this time around, with Jayma Mays providing a decent effort that appears to be trying to copy the work of Anna Farris in the "Scary Movie" films. Farris can't be beat, but at least Mays is watchable and mildly funny at times. Penn is also decent, although Coolidge and Fred Willard look a little embarassed, as does Crispin Glover. Kevin MacDonald gets a couple of chuckles as an older, burned out Harry Potter.
Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer were the writers of the original "Scary Movie", but the film's they've made since just can't compete with the franchise they started. I'd hope they won't make another, but given that "Epic" made money, I'm sure this is not the last parody we've seen from the duo.
The "Unrated" edition offers some brief nudity, language and other "R"-rated elements.
VIDEO: "Epic Movie" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered reasonably good image quality, with fine sharpness/detail and only a little bit of shimmering and edge enhancement. However, this is still not the final copy and unfortunately, I cannot make any final comments on it, as the final copy may offer differing image quality.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was just about what one would expect from a comedy like this: very little in the way of surround use, largely remaining dialogue-driven. Dialogue remained crisp and clear throughout, as did effects.
EXTRAS: Co-writer/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer offer an audio commentary for the film. Another extra audio track is "Breaking Wind: An Epic Journey Into the Sounds of an Epic Movie", which literally adds fart and belch sounds at many points in the movie. "How Gratuitous" offers extra footage of the film's women at various points in the film.
"Making the Video: Lazy Pirate Day" is a brief look at the making of this musical number in the film. There's also a short promo featurette on the making of the film, "Making a Spoof". We also get a selection of short joke featurettes: "Hot or Not: Character Turn Ons and Turn Offs", "Everyone Loves Beaver: Epic Hook-Ups", "Epic Porn – What Would Your Porno Movie Be Called?" and "What Makes Aslo So Irresistable?" Like the movie, these aren't particularly funny.
There's also some so-so outtakes, a featurette with actor Fred Willard and an alternate ending. Rounding out the platter are "Die Libre: The Winning Short" (a short film that apparently won a contest associated with "Epic Movie" - on second thought, maybe studios shouldn't look for talent on the internet.) and the trailer for "Reno 911: Miami" (which should say "See this instead of the movie presently in your DVD player" next to it in the menu.)
Final Thoughts: It's slightly better than "Date Movie", but while "Epic Movie" manages to get a couple of chuckles, there's quite a few bits throughout that are unfunny or just plain terrible.
The Film D