Dirs: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer. US. 2008. 87mins.
Spoof film-makers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer hit rock bottom in the creatively bankrupt Disaster Movie, a poorly staged, entirely laugh-free big screen exercise that, despite its name, is not really a genre spoof at all, but rather merely an excuse to poke fun at Hollywood movies from this calendar year. Even by the most forgiving standards of clamorous adolescent distraction, this film fails hugely. Not screened for critics prior to its release, Disaster Movie opened in seventh place this past weekend, grossing an estimated $6.2 million.
The three other films in which the aforementioned co-writers have also served behind the camera (Date Movie, Epic Movie and Meet The Spartans) have been the utter definition of commercial consistency, each opening to over $18 million domestically, performing strongly overseas and grossing in the $85 million range.
Disaster Movie apparently missed the marketing punch of 20th Century Fox, distributor on all three previous films; it will be lucky to gross $20 million domestically. Still, despite the lack of stars, and the fact that it's dreadful, there seems little to indicate young international audiences won't flock to the movie, translating to a potential $45-55 million cumulative theatrical gross, and tidy all-around profit.
After a dream sequence in which the movie's release date is established as the end of the world, a birthday party brings Will (Lanter), who is fresh from a break-up with girlfriend Amy (Minnillo), together with his best friend Calvin (Johnson) and Calvin's girlfriend Lisa (Kardashian), among others. When disaster strikes, a group sets out to rescue Amy, who is trapped across town. Along the way, they encounter all sorts of weird characters.
The original writers on 2000's Scary Movie, Friedberg and Seltzer aren't parodists, they're juvenile recyclers. This would be fine if they were slick packagers of such needling, but their touch with structure is so inartful as to leave one constantly imagining better, more amusing interactions and juxtapositions. Date Movie at least had a story that made some nominal sense. Here characters exist and move from scene to scene solely to engage in another sketch-comedy bit.
One accepts the litany of 'spoof' characters with the conceit of the movie, but it's problematic for the undertaking that two of them (Juno, portrayed by Crista Flanagan, and a demented princess straight from Enchanted, played by Nicole Parker) are afforded such prominent roles, alongside the 'regular' characters. This undercuts any sense of intended identification, when one outlandish character is confronted by another outlandish character.
Similarly, battle sequences with animals (Kung Fu Panda, Alvin And The Chipmunks) are staged with no nod or wink of acknowledgement regarding the characters' animated or CGI roots, and there's no comedic pay-off or explanation of the disaster element.
Disaster Movie is lazy writing, through and through. The two moments approximating any sort of energetic punch are musical numbers that send up High School Musical and the sequel to Step Up. The early inclusion of a joke seemingly at the expense of Heath Ledger's fatal overdose, meanwhile, is both tasteless and tonally jarring, as it's the sole moment of true edginess present in the entire film.
Of the actors, only Parker acquits herself, bringing a pinch of chirpy insanity to her Princess, and also offering up impressions of singers Amy Winehouse and Jessica Simpson. Ike Barinholtz is the production's jack-of-all-trades, playing no fewer than seven characters.
Production values are noticeably meagre, in costumes, special effects and background detail. The latter shortcoming is particularly instrumental in the movie coming across as flat and uninspired.
3 In A Box