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Meet the Spartans (2008)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/3/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/4/2008

Everyone probably has their own idea of the definition of insanity, but an accepted one states that someone is insane if they repeat the same action over and over expecting a different result. (Of course, one can debate the difference between insanity and determination.) If we go with that definition, then I must have been insane to watch Meet the Spartans and expect the slightest bit of quality from it, and the movie is from the makers of Date Movie and Epic Movie. These "filmmakers" continue to prove that don't understand comedy or the concept of a spoof.

The main framework of Meet the Spartans is a spoof of 300. Set in ancient Sparta, King Leonidas (Sean Maguire) rules over his people with Queen Margo (Carmen Electra) at his side. When his land is threatened by King Xerxes (Ken Davitan) and his Persian warriors, Leonidas decides to fight. He takes a small group of soldiers to defend Sparta. Meanwhile, the slimy Traitoro (Diedrich Bader) is attempting to foil Leonidas' plans and steal Margo.

To understand Meet the Spartans, one must to comprehend co-writer/co-director's Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer's idea of comedy. Their assumption is that one can take a movie with which the audience is familiar, make the movie feel funny instead of serious, and then simply insert ideas and characters from popular culture, and well as real-life celebrities. Thus, the core of Meet the Spartans spoofs 300, but the movie also references Happy Feet, Spider-Man 3, Shrek, and Stomp the Yard. We also get appearances by celebrities look-alikes of Britney Spears, Donald Trump, the American Idol judges, and others. There's even a nod to a popular video game.

The question is, how does Meet the Spartans differ from other spoof movies, such as the Naked Gun or Scary Movie series? The answer is simple, The Naked Gun and Scary Movie (especially Scary Movie 3) spoof a specific film or genre, but they also contain real jokes. In Meet the Spartans, the joke is simply the pop-culture reference, and that's it. When Queen Margo turns into Spider-Man, that's where the joke stops. Isn't it funny that Spider-Man is in ancient Sparta? Not really. In fairness, the movie does contain a few attempts at humor which aren't directly related to another movie or TV show, but for the most part, pop-culture references are as far as the film reaches.

So technically, calling Meet the Spartans a spoof or parody would be an overstatement. While their film Date Movie wasn't very good, at least there Friedberg and Seltzer were spoofing a genre (although that film contains more than enough nods to other movies). With Meet the Spartans, all that they've done is taken 300 and inserted every movie, TV show, or celebrity which has been well-known in the past year. How is this funny? Better yet, how is this consider "screenwriting". The jokes fall flat, and some of the references, such as Britney Spears parenting abilities, already feel old.

There's nothing wrong with spoofing popular movies, and some of the best skits from Saturday Night Live and MadTV have done so. But, simply referencing another movie isn't making a joke and the humor in Meet the Spartans appears to be aimed squarely at 13 year old boys. Ironically, you could save time and money by simply watching a movie with a 13-year old boy and have them make jokes. I feel certain that they'd be better. The scary part is that these Friedberg and Seltzer movies continue to make money and that they are already at work on Disaster Movie. Please, stop the insanity.

Meet the Spartans makes a bad first impression on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Please keep in mind that I was viewing a special preview disc for this review. The image is sharp, but not all that clear, as the picture is quite grainy, but there are no defects from the source material. The image also shows some pixellation in the battle sequences. On the plus side, the colors are good, most notably the Spartan's burgundy capes. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects during the action scenes are good, and these scenes also provide some nice surround sound effects. The subwoofer comes into play during the fight sequences and whenever bass-heavy in-movie music is used.

The Meet the Spartans DVD has a number of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring co-writer/co-director Jason Friedberg, actress Nicole Parker, actor Ike Barinholtz, actor Kevin Sorbo, actor Sean Maguire, and co-writer/co-director Aaron Seltzer. This group has a great time watching the film and I would recommend watching Meet the Spartans this way, as opposed to with the film's audio. They make fun of the movie and of each other, and apparently Kevin Sorbo was always playing golf instead of working on the movie. The "Know Your Spartans Pop Culture - Trivia Game" is simply that, as it features questions about current celebrities and trends. "Meet the Spartans: The Music" is simply a menu which allows viewers to pick one of the eight scenes from the film which had a song. "Prepare for Thrusting" (5 minutes) is a quasi-serious look at how the actors had to be physically prepared for their roles as the warriors. "Tour the Set with Ike Barinholtz" (7 minutes) is, again, exactly what it sounds like, as the MadTV actor wanders the studio, showing off the sets and getting comments from cast and crew. The "Gag Reel" runs about four minutes and you know that, judging by the level of comedy in the movie, the mistakes have to be hilarious. The extras are rounded out by two THEATRICAL TRAILERS for the film, Trailer A and Trailer C.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has also brought Meet the Spartans to Blu-ray Disc. Given that this is an awful movie, it's a shame that this is a great Blu-ray. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. The image shows some slight grain at times, but otherwise, it is quite sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. The clarity of the image reveals a great amount of detail and the actor's fleshtones look realistic. The colors are very good, as the Spartan's robes contrast with the grey and beige backgrounds. I didn't detect any overt noise or artifacting. The Disc offers a DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the surround sound effects are nearly constant. There are several fine examples of proper speaker placement, as a sound travels from the center channel, through the front, and then to the rear. The music and the marching soldiers provide nice subwoofer support.

The Blu-ray Disc contains the same extras as the DVD, except, for reason, the Blu-ray has TRAILER B instead of Trailer C. On the Blu-ray, the film can be watched with a "Trivial Track", which gives pop-up info during the movie. The Blu-ray also has two additional set-top games, "Celebrity Kickoff Game" and "Super Pit of Death Ultimate Tactical Battle Challenge".

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long