A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that plenty of teens will want to see this raunchy parody from the folks behind Date Movie. It frequently relies on sexual references and body functions for punchlines (though the old standby of good, clean, bopped-on-the-head slapstick gets a workout, too). Lots of crotch and breast gags; plenty of innuendo and big, cartoon-style violence. Some language (mostly "s--t" and "Goddamn"). While the main movie being spoofed is The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there aren't any jokes based on the religious allegory underlying C.S. Lewis' plot. References to R-rated films like Snakes on a Plane and Borat may pique young viewers' curiosity to see them.
What's the story?
The story, such that it is, follows four adult "orphans" from a variety of races (the joke is that they're all brothers and sisters, despite their ethnic mix) whose origins rest in plotlines of movies as diverse as Nacho Libre and The Da Vinci Code. The four come into possession of Golden Tickets that allow them tour Willy Wonka's (Crispin Glover) fabulous candy factory. When Wonka tries to make candy out of the overgrown-kid heroes (it's strongly hinted that he has sex-pervert motivations), they hide from him in a wardrobe that turns out to be the portal to the magic land of Gnarnia. There the evil sorceress known as the "White Bitch" (Jennifer Coolidge) tries to catch them to stop the fulfillment of a prophecy that would end her reign. Part of her plans include the woozy pirate Jack Swallows (Darrell Hammond), who, of course, is a takeoff based on a certain Disney pirate-film series. Oh, and there's a homicidal albino monk after them, too.
Is it any good?
This film is inane, and not very likable. With a title like EPIC MOVIE, you'd think this feature-length spoof would be taking aim at, well, epic movies, and the clichés of spectacles like Troy or Gladiator. But Epic Movie -- which was made by some of the people involved in Date Movie and the Scary Movie series -- just goofs on a laundry-list of 2005-2006 theatrical releases and TV shows, both epic and non-epic, all pinned to a framework of Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The whole thing is like a MADtv sketch that escaped the small screen to the big one. What's the point? Basically, just a state-of-the-art ridicule of the most current film fads and crazes -- kind of like the way the New York stage community has fresh editions of a parody called Forbidden Broadway every season or so. But there's not much insight beneath the crass, rapid-fire gags and celebrity (or celebrity impersonator) cameos.
Kids are an easy-to-please crowd for this style of broad send-up, and some bits might make parents laugh too -- when they're not squirming at the prospect of having to explain a sleazy pun like "Jack Swallows." But much of Epic Movie's humor relies on the tiresome fallbacks of sex and drinking, with a few incongruous hip-hop dance numbers thrown in for good measure. Even more of the humor relies on having viewing tastes identical to writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who do takeoffs on everything from the Saturday Night Live digital short "Lazy Sunday" (which itself was partially a Narnia riff) to MySpace.com. Good luck if you're not hip to the last two or three years of popular culture.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's crazy, all-out style of parody. Does any of it work, and do you think anyone will find any of it funny decades from now, when half of the references will have been forgotten? Compare this film to other spoofs -- like Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein and Woody Allen's Shadows and Fog -- in which the comedians seem to have great understanding and affection for what they're spoofing. Is there any of that here?
- In theaters: January 26, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: May 22, 2007
- Cast: Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Kal Penn
- Directors: Aaron Seltzer, Jason Friedberg
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual humor, language and some comic violence.
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