Meet the Spartans: Unrated Pit of Death Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (6th July 2008).
The Film

Talking about a movie idea the two directors have, one of the participants in the audio commentary says, 'Actual movie not guaranteed.' That pretty much sums up the entire film.

Where do I start with this mess? This review comes in pretty late in the release of the disc, and so there's nothing I can add to what's been said; I can only pile on more words to the heap of negative reviews this movie has received. The movie, to my knowledge, has only had one good review, and even then it wasn't very glowing.

These reviews, however, have not stopped people from going to see this movie, as it has grossed over $80 million worldwide, thereby assuring writers/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer another cinematic catastrophe. With no near end in sight, it is with a heavy heart that I will try to help them try to make a better movie. These are tips they can follow to, let's say, suck less.

Tip 1: when you have to point out the reference ('Ah, the Transformer cube', identifying Dane Cook by name), it's not funny. Not only that, it also underestimates the intelligence of your audience. When you have to explain why the joke is funny, you seem to acknowledge most people don't get it, and try to justify the gag. That just makes the joke seem that much more pathetic and makes everybody wonder why you're even saying anything. You end up looking like an idiot (an unfunny idiot, no less).

Tip 2: merely repeating references (the baby Shrek vomit, the 'Hot Shots' walnut gag) isn't funny. It's just repetition, and repetition is boring, not funny. The Shrek vomit gag happened in 'Shrek 3' exactly as it appears in this movie, so why repeat it? It's also compeltely out of place, which for some gags is funny, but not when it's repeated frame-for-frame. I know copying is the sincerest form of flattery, but if you're going to copy, why not 'copy' ideas from 'Hot Shots' and 'The Naked Gun', like having an actual plot and having the references and gags be incidental. In their commentary, the directors mention a background gag they wanted to put in, which would have been pretty funny. As is, that gag isn't in the movie, and the entire movie has zero background jokes, even in the orgy scene, which would have been the perfect spot for such funny bits.

Tip 3: having 'original' jokes, such as the punching-the-son running joke, and 'Traitoro' being a traitor (and 'Sonio' being the son, for that matter), don't help. If you want to make a funny movie, you have to write a funny movie! Now, considering tips 1 and 2 fall under are somewhat connected to this point, it should follow naturally. However, the writers don't seem to think that funny dialogue and witty gags belong in a spoof.

Tip 4: if you want to make a feature-length movie, make a feature-length movie! This movie is essentially over at the 67-minute mark (!). The last 20 minutes of running time is taken up by silly musical numbers, credits and deleted scenes that were cut from the movie. Padding out the time just cheapens the entire experience, making people wonder why they spent their money on this 'movie', instead of going to see 'Rambo'.

I haven't really mentioned anything about the movie, and that's probably for the best. If it actually matters, the 'plot' follows '300' pretty closely, but without the appeal, talent or meaning. There's nothing in this movie that deserves any special mention. In fact, next to this movie, the previous movie I'd seen, the Larry the Cable Guy-starrer 'Witless Protection' looks like 'Top Secret'. I smiled once in 'Meet the Spartans', and thinking about it now, I don't even remember the gag. (Re-watching the movie, what made me smile was the Tara Reid reference.) Save yourself the trouble and skip this movie, instead seeking a good spoof like 'Airplane' or even 'Scary Movie'.

Video

1.85:1 widescreen, using the MPEG4/AVC codec. The look here is obviously to mirror that of '300' and it does a nice job, though it's not as detailed or as smooth as it probably should look. Granted, the production design of this movie is very flat, threby negating any kind of depth of field, but still. The skin tones are very accurate, though other colours are probably a little bit too subdued. Now, the movie shouldn't look too bright but some of the reds seem to miss a little bit of pop. There also seems to be some very slight edge enhancement in one or two moments, and the level of detail isn't what it probably should be, even with the look the movie is going for. Overall, it's a decent transfer.

Audio

The main track is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, but there are French and Spanish dubs in English Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks for those who want them. The lossless track is very nice, though not as well mixed as the '300' lossless tracks. However, it's still pretty nice. The dialogue is always clear and audible, and all the fake (and not fake) accents come through pretty clearly. The music booms out pretty nicely during the musical sequences, with a pretty nice range. The action sequences also sound pretty nicely, though volume levels between loud and soft sounds are a bit stilted. The track is decent and fans (or, according to reviews, I suppose I should say 'fan') of the movie will be happy.
English and Spanish subtitles are also here.

Extras

Fox was very nice with this movie, filling both the DVD and the Blu-ray disc with a bunch of extras. The first extra is an audio commentary by writers/directors Jason Freidberg and Aaron Seltzer, and actors Nicole Parker, Ike Barinholtz, Kevin Sorbo and Sean Maquire. These guys enjoyed doing the movie more than everybody else enjoyed looking at it, and you can see it here. They do give off a few ideas that would have been pretty funny, but mostly, they joke about what's on screen. Some of the jokes are inside jokes and are more funny to the people there than anybody listening to them, but there are still a lot of things to laugh about. The make fun of just about everybody and everything on screen. To be honest, not many people will probably listen to the commentary after seeing the movie, but it's a nice substitution to the movie's actual audio track.

Next is the Know Your Spartan Pop Culture Trivia Game. This is a pretty easy quiz. It asks a few questions about various people referenced in the movie and pop culture. It's pretty easy, as even I got all the questions correct. After the quiz, you're given a rank.

Meet the Spartans: The Music is next. It's not even a featurettes, it's simple a bunch of clips (0:52, 0:55, 1:06, 0:39, 1:07, 3:44, 0:18, 2:50) each with a different song from the movie. For some reason, I enjoyed a couple of the songs, though I hate to admit it.

Two featurettes are next, Prepare for Thrusting (5:11) being the first. It talks about the training by the cast and from whom they were trained. It's actually the most informative thing on the entire disc and for what it's worth, it's pretty nice. Tour the Set with Ike Barinholtz (6:37) is the other featurette, where he takes you on a tour of the set. He shows you the various places they shot and talks to a few of the cast members. It's nice, but nothing too exciting.

The Gag Reel (4:16) is next and it has a few nice laughs in it. It features what you'd expect it to feature. It's got people flubbing lines and going along with ad libs.

Two Theatrical Trailers (labelled A and B) are the last real extras to be found. The two trailers (1:15 and 1:09) are pretty silly, though I do have to say they did their job getting people into the theatres. A Start-up Trailer is also here, this time for digital copies (1:04).

Fox has gone ahead and added a few High-Definition Exclusive Extras to this disc.

First is a Trivia Track, though this term is used particularly loosely, as the following are actual 'trivia' bits in this track:
'Boobs.'
'The chainsaw was developed as a weapon in 440 BC...'
'Ha! Made you learn something.'
The rest of the trivia bits should be obvious. The track does give out actual bits of trivia, but not that many. The track mostly says things like the dog at the start of the movie worked out for 3 months prior to filming, and things of that nature. The trivia bits also answer some of the characters, being funny when Carmen Electra tells one of the guys to do something. There's really nothing too informative here, only more goofing off. There are a few laughs to be had, but mostly it can probably be skipped without losing too much of the disc's enjoyment.

A couple of silly games are next. Celebrity Kickoff Game and Super Pit of Death Ultimate Tactical Battle Challenge are two silly games. In the first, you get to kick all of the celebrities from the movie in the Pit of Death and then you get a score. I got 5. The second is one of the stupidest games I've ever seen. You kick various celebrities and then get cheers or jeers. It's really stupid.

Overall

The Film: D Video: B- Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: C

 


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