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Case Number 13636: Small Claims Court

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Meet The Spartans: Pit Of Death Edition

Fox // 2008 // 86 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // May 15th, 2008

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker wishes the parents of these Spartans had used Trojans.

The Charge

"I'm assembling an army of 300 to go to war with Persia. I'm going to take them in the rear, then I'm going to reach around, and I'm going to take them again from the front."—Example of edgy, sophisticated humor to be found in Meet the Spartans

The Case

Meet the Spartans has its own, special place in the category of, "Geez, Louise, why'd they make this?" Ostensibly an Airplane!-style skewering of 300, this extended sketch is one of the clumsiest, least funny comedies ever to befoul the screen.

The plot? The Spartans, led by Leonidas (Sean Maguire) and his right-hand man (Kevin Sorbo, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), go off to battle…somebody or another for some reason or another. It really doesn't matter. This isn't a genre parody like Young Frankenstein. It isn't a genre parody like Scary Movie. It isn't a genre parody like the Boy Meets World salute-to-Hitchcock episode.

The film approaches its material with two tacks: humor that's topical in the way an anti-fungal cream is topical (are we still laughing about Britney's head shave?) and elementary-school style gay jokes featuring guys running around in leather shorts. The former is just quaint; you might want to have an annotated copy of People magazine's year-end round up on-hand in case you'd forgotten about world-changing things like Sanjaya's appearance on American Idol or which starlets walk around without underwear.

The latter is even more tedious, with muscular bit players singing disco songs on their way to battle and jokes like: "Move your sword, it's poking me in the back." (beat. beat.) "That's not my sword."

Ba Dum Bump!

The retro-homophobic humor seems to be this film's reason for existence, since it's everywhere. Everywhere. You have to wonder if Aaron Seltzer and Jeff Friedberg, who co-wrote and directed this (and who, according to IMDb, co-wrote a biopic about Liberace), might not have some, um, issues with this topic. An early scene that's a take-off on the scrotum-beating interrogation from Casino Royale features dog food being slathered on a guy's privates (tee-hee), and an overlong Happy Feet riff gives us a penguin tea-bagging a man. The extra features are all about gay jokes, including a *hilarious* behind-the-scenes featurette about how the actors "got in shape" to play the half-naked Spartans and a "gag reel" with jokes about anal sex and testicle tickling.

Which brings us back to the question, why did they make this? For what audience was this intended? Do teenage boys laugh themselves silly over jokes about Deal or No Deal and scenes of muscle guys step dancing? Are soccer moms spewing over gags about Dentyne Ice (or Subway or Budweiser or the other dozen or so product placements) and the movie Ellen DeGeneres made in 1996? Are elderly couples out for a good time chuckling at Brangelina jokes and the sight of Kevin Sorbo kissing a guy? I can think of no demographic to which this film would appeal.

One group this will definitely not appeal to are those looking for a comedy. This thing isn't funny. It's not gross funny, it's not silly funny, it's not stupid funny, it's not clever funny. Like that sad drunk who slurs embarrassingly when he's being ejected from a bar, it just stumbles along while you wait for the door to hit it on its way out.

I believe Meet the Spartans was originally rated PG-13, and this (should the subject ever come up) is the "Pit of Death Unrated Edition," but I'm not sure what (if anything) went in to unrate it from PG-13. Is Sean Maguire licking a penguin's testicles enough to scotch the original rating?

On the tech side, we get a lovely transfer—you can clearly see how everyone's ab muscles were painted on—and good audio. There are a bunch of extras and all of them are crap, including a godawful commentary with half a dozen people (actors, writers, whoever) talking at the same time and laughing at things that aren't funny, a (surprise!) gay-joke-themed tour of the set by one of the actors, and a series of isolated scenes featuring music. I'm guessing the deceptively high number of extras is an effort to disguise the fact that the film runs just over an hour but has a 20-minute credit sequence that includes footage that didn't make it into the feature (not that's it any worse than what's there).

Terrible in every way, Meet the Spartans makes Good Luck Chuck seem like a newly discovered Molière farce. It's that bad.

Guilty. The accused are sentenced to watch the "French Mistake" sequence from Blazing Saddles. Over and over and over and over.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 7

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
• Bad
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Cast and crew commentary
• Trivia quiz
• The Music
• "Prepare for Thrusting"
• Tour the Set with Ike Barinholtz
• Gag reel


• IMDb
• Official Site

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