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Disaster Movie (2008)

  • Review: * ½ (out of ****)
  • Starring: Matt Lanter, Vanessa Minnillo, G. Thang, Nicole Parker, Crista Flanagan, Ike Barinholtz, Carmen Electra, Tony Cox, Tad Hilgenbrink, Nick Steele, John Di Domenico, Jason Boegh, Valerie Wildman
  • Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
  • Screenplay: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
  • Length: 90 min.
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, drug references and comic violence.

The days of traditional film parody are long gone. Today's parodical exercises generally take a more subversive tone, relying on gross out humor to ridicule its subjects as opposed to simple dialogical and visual humor. Case in point is Disaster Movie, a continuation of a series of film parodies that have largely been successful in spite of bad acting, poor editing and generally dismal production values.

Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg have been at the lowest end of the parodical ladder for the bulk of their careers, finding success in lampooning Wes Craven's own parody of horror films. Based on the popular Scream franchise, Scary Movie set out to not only ridicule the content of Scream, but expanded its scope to include all recent horror films. They managed to hit upon a cultural trend that led to the production of three sequels, none of which written or directed by the pair, and which allowed them to work on other low-budget film genre parodies.

Earlier this year, the pair began a revival of their successful formula by putting out the 300-mocking feature Meet the Spartans which followed the strong central plotline laid out in the popular comic adaptation while injecting political and social commentary and a healthy dose of anti-celebrity material.

It worked much better than expected and turned out to be a welcome return from the abysmal Epic Movie. The truth is, looking at their oeuvre, it's hard to get excited about their films and Meet the Spartans appears to be the exception to the rule. For while the original Scary Movie is the best of their output, the third chapter in the series, directed by legendary parody master David Zucker, was the best of them and they had no part in it whatsoever.

Disaster Movie continues the hodge-podge style of Friedberg and Seltzer, taking one film's overriding story arc (that used in Cloverfield) and flushing it with dozens of loaded political and pop culture references. While it's nice to see some of the celebrities featured in this film meet rather outlandish ends, only so much of the film is truly enjoyable.

The film eschews the Blair Witch Project-style cinematography used in Cloverfield and opts for mainstream techniques. Will (Matt Lanter), Amy (Vanessa Minnillo) and Calvin (Gary 'G Thang' Johnson) are at the center of the film's story, three friends who are forced to embark on a cross-city excursion to save Will's true love Lisa (Kim Kardashian) who is trapped at the natural history museum.

Along the way, they team up with parodies of Juno and Disney's Enchanted Princess, each taking part in long portions of the film. Other films that get a parodical treatment are No Country for Old Men, Beowulf, Batman, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones, Prince Caspian and Alvin and the Chipmunks. And of course, in true Friedberg/Seltzer style, many others, including in-the-spotlight celebrities Jessica Simpson, Dr. Phil and Hannah Montana.

The biggest flaws are the ones that seem to creep into each of their films: over-extension of minimally humorous scenes. Taking five minutes to thoroughly exhaust one joke, when one minute would have been sufficient, makes the film feel more padded, like an abusively long late night comedy sketch. And that's most of what Friedberg/Seltzer have made popular. They aren't interested in classical storytelling techniques or creating significant works of art, they simply want to entertain the audience any way they know how. Which, as expected, leaves a husk of a film with no emotional, philosophical or artistic depth.

There are some who might say Disaster Movie is the worst film ever made. I contend they haven't seen enough bad movies. Epic Movie, for one, is a far more horrid film, but then there are movies like The Minion, Vamps: Deadly Dreamgirls, Mondo Trasho and many others that are so awful they aren't as widely seen and thus can't be easily compared. But anyone who questions whether Disaster Movie is more of a disaster than those films hasn't actually seen them.