If a parody movie’s quality could be measured by the accuracy of its production in replicating the films it’s poking at, then Epic Movie is a pretty good movie. However, if one is looking for actual comedy in a movie that mocks other movies, than Epic Movie is woefully inadequate, an 86 minute borefest that doesn’t contain an original idea or laugh.
As with recent parody films like Date Movie (2006) and the Scary Movie franchise – which writer/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer wrote for – Epic Movie tries to mash together the plotlines of a few targets. Four adult orphans (Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Faune A. Chambers) win Golden Tickets to a once in a lifetime visit to the magical chocolate factory of Willy (Crispin Glover), who locks the doors and won’t let them out. While looking for a way to escape, they stumble through a wardrobe to the enchanted land of Gnarnia where they find themselves caught up in a battle between the evil sorceress the White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge) and the half-man half-lion Aslo (Fred Willard).
Frustratingly, Epic Movie features some great comic actors like Coolidge, Willard and former Kid In The Hall Kevin McDonald being saddled with such bad material that even they can’t make it funny. The thought process behind the scripting of the film seems to indicate that scenes need only the basest of premises that remain unexplored for any real comic potential. Also, the script doesn’t realize that no matter how many times it wants to break into a musical number, it will remain unfunny.
The parody movie genre can trace its roots back to 1980’s Airplane! which not only sent up the recent Airport disaster film franchise, but the whole stiff Hollywood “ensemble cast in peril” genre. The writer/director trio responsible, Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker, would go onto create the cult favorite Police Squad television series which would migrate to the silver screen for a trio of movies under the name The Naked Gun. However, these movies were more general parodies of their respective genres than pokes at specific movies.
Conversely, the second generation of parody films – from the Scary Movie franchise to Epic Movie – mine their laughs in parodying specific films within their stated genres. As such, they generally come off as a random hodgepodge of Mad Magazine style vignettes that only vaguely form some semblance of a plot. While some of these individual scenes may provide chuckles, the overall result never seems to jell into a coherent movie. Rather than improving on this formula, this second generation of parody films have become increasingly more self-indulgent, shoehorning more parodies of recent films until the whole structure collapses in under its own weight.
Such is what has happened to Epic Movie. In the filmmakers zeal to cram in as many different movie references that the whole thing looses all coherency. Sure, blockbusters like Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe are ripe for satirizing. However, when you are stretching your definition of what an “epic” movie is to include such films as Nacho Libre and Click, you aren’t just scraping the bottom of the barrel, you’re rummaging around underneath the barrel.