Attempting to compensate for its own lack of originality and humor, “Epic Movie” spoofs several dozen films, a few MTV shows and, of course, Paris Hilton.
With the flimsiest of story lines, the film is more spliced-together mimicry.
“Epic Movie” was directed and written by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who were among the “brains” behind the similar “Scary Movie” franchise (in production for a fifth installment) and 2006’s “Date Movie.”
Having spoofed horror films and romantic comedies, Friedberg and Seltzer satirize mostly summer blockbusters — among them “The Da Vinci Code,” “Nacho Libre,” “Snakes on a Plane,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and the “Harry Potter” films.
A foursome of orphans (played by Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays and Faune Chambers) are assembled from spoofs of various films via Wonka-like golden tickets, but once they arrive at the Chocolate Factory, they find that the candy maker (Crispin Glover) is a homicidal maniac. They escape through a wardrobe and into “Gnania.”
The rest of the film is basically framed in a spoof of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” an odd choice. “Narnia” may have been a big hit, but action films and comic book adaptations are far more representative blockbuster fare. “Epic Movie” should have been a “Superman” or “Hulk” parody.
“Epic Movie” isn’t totally bereft of decent jokes. Its best one is its first. Mays, in a version of “The Da Vinci Code,” stumbles upon a scarred body laid out ominously and containing a clue. But the engraving on the body’s stomach reads: “Thug Life.” A fair jab at Tom Hanks’ hair follows.
Fred Willard (the exemplary comic actor known for his work in Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries) adds a momentary jolt of humor for his cameo as Aslo (like the lion hero Aslan of “Narnia”). He explains his lion-human parentage as “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
Soon, though, Willard is brought down to the movie’s standards with an easy sex joke and dispatched by the wand of a witch — the movie’s villain, played by Jennifer Coolidge.
The film never becomes anything of its own, however; it merely jumps from spoof to spoof, often with tenuous transitions. A “Mission: Impossible” scene is used to drag the audience to a skit on Kanye West’s famous comment about President Bush not caring about black people.
One rapidly begins to miss the truly inspired spoofs like “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun” — which make you forget what they spoof by making the material their own.
Today, if it’s parody you want, you’re better off turning to that curly-haired accordionist whose never-ending career continues to astonish: “Weird Al” Yankovic.