Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the writer-director-producer team behind Date Movie, Epic Movie, and now Meet The Spartans, have a nice racket going. At the beginning of the year, during the pre-Oscar doldrums when studios quickly and quietly dump failed projects into theaters to die ignoble deaths, Friedberg and Seltzer release another half-assed, quickie spoof flick. They've done it for three years in a row, and the strategy so far has led to big opening weekends followed by precipitous drop-offs once word gets around that, shockingly, their movies are fucking terrible. Meet The Spartans is willfully disposable, leaning heavily on references to timeless cultural touchstones like Stomp The Yard and the "Leave Britney Alone!" guy. But it's undeniably canny hucksterism. In another life, Friedberg and Seltzer might have been successful bumper-sticker salesmen, always in search of new objects of scorn for Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes to piss on. Instead, they get by with bad movies that are more marketable than the bad movies they're competing against.
While previous entries in the Friedberg/Seltzer canon poked fun—using the word "fun" very loosely—at whole genres of movies, like romantic comedies and summer blockbusters, Meet The Spartans focuses mainly on one film, 300. While there's enough comedic material there for as many as three somewhat tolerable minutes of MADtv, Meet The Spartans gamely alternates between unfunny gay jokes and violent pratfalls for a good 80 minutes, finding time for not one, but two musical dance numbers set to "I Will Survive."
Meet The Spartans feels thin even given its mercifully brief running time, but that isn't for lack of pop-culture references. Everything from American Idol to Shrek to Ugly Betty—yep, that overexposed America Ferrera finally gets brought down a peg—is skewered. And by skewered, Friedberg and Seltzer mean "introduced in the most obvious fashion possible, then kicked and/or puked on." The only laughs in Meet The Spartans come, unintentionally, from the most ridiculously on-the-nose references. (Borat star Ken Davitian is introduced as "the fat guy from Borat.") Do Friedberg and Seltzer not trust the audience to get a simple Borat reference without blatant explanations? Do they worry that stupidity is contagious? If it is, they have millions of dead brain cells on their hands.