Meet the Spartans



NEW YORK -- The latest misbegotten parody from the creators of "Date Movie" and "Epic Movie" brings to mind the joke about two elderly women exiting a restaurant. "Terrible food," one comments. "And such small portions, too," the other says.

Yes, it's an old joke, but no older than the plethora of lame ones in this mercifully brief (but not brief enough) spoof of the swords-and-sandals epic "300" that, minus the elongated end credits, has a running time of a little more than 70 minutes. It also wouldn't be fair to judge "Meet the Spartans" on a gag-to-laughs ratio because there virtually are no laughs. At an early Friday showing at the AMC Empire on 42nd Street in New York (naturally, there were no advance press screenings) the audience silence was deafening.

Writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer basically reprise the tired formula from their earlier efforts, which is to throw in as many pop culture references as possible to cover up the lack of any real wit. Thus, this scene-by-scene parody of Zack Snyder's surprise smash hit features would-be comic riffs on, among other things: the films "Casino Royale," "Happy Feet," "Spider-Man 3," "Ghost Rider," "Transformers," "Stomp the Yard" and "Rocky": such TV shows as "Dancing With the Stars," "Ugly Betty" and "American Idol"; and numerous tabloid celebrities, including Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

The chief target of this parody -- which features Sean Maguire in the Gerard Butler role and such B-list performers as Carmen Electra, Kevin Sorbo, Method Man and Ken Davitian ("Borat") in the supporting cast -- is the homoerotic subtext of its inspiration. But the idea, which could have led to genuine hilarity, is wasted via all-too-literal sight gags. When one character refers to "painted-on abs," it's naturally followed by a shot of them being painted on. When another declares, "He's got a huge package," cut to a hunky warrior carrying, you guessed it, a huge package. And so on. And having the barely clad Spartans sing "I Will Survive" not once but twice is serious overkill.

To relieve the deadening tedium, viewers can amuse themselves by counting the product placements, which include Subway, Krispy Kreme, Dentyne Ice and Gatorade. If there were any justice in the world, consumer boycotts would ensue.

A Regency Enterprises presentation
A New Regency/3 in the Box production
Director-screenwriters: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Producers: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer, Peter Safran
Executive producer: Arnon Milchan
Director of photography: Shawn Maurer
Production designer: William Elliott
Music: Christopher Lennertz
Co-producer: Mark McNair
Costume designer: Frank Helmer
Editor: Peck Prior
Leonidas: Sean Maguire
Queen Margo: Carmen Electra
Xerxes: Ken Davitian
Captain: Kevin Sorbo
Traitoro: Diedrich Bader
Persian Emissary: Method Man
Dilio: Jareb Dauplaise
Sonio: Travis Van Winkle
Running time -- 84 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13