Sometimes I want to curse the Wayans Brothers. Not that I have anything against their two “Scary Movie” films. The first is really good and the second is at least decent. Even the subsequent installments by Airplane! veteran David Zucker have their charm. But with their scattershot style of comedy, they set the bar for feature films sort of low, allowing guys like the makers of Date Movie to go even lower. And yet that film still did well enough to warrant a follow-up. Thankfully not “Date Movie 2″, but Epic Movie is hardly an improvement.
The backbone of the film is a parody of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, with the principal characters named after the leads from that film, Edward (Kal Penn), Peter (Adam Campbell), Lucy (Jayma Mays) and Susan (Faune Chambers). Along the way, they make pitstops into Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (with Cripsin Glover as Willy), The Pirates of the Caribbean (with Darrell Hammond as Captain Jack Swallows), the Harry Potter films (Kevin McDonald as a far-too-old Harry), the X-Men films, and even Nacho Libre and Borat. Yes, Borat. Nacho I can kind of buy, it has an epic feel to it. But Borat? Never mind the question of whether its valid to parody broad comedy, how the heck does he fit into this picture? Cheap capitalization on his sudden popularity, that’s how.
And that’s all this film is, an endless stream of references to other (usually better) films. There’s no rhyme or reason to their inclusion, no attempt to make them all work together as a cohesive whole. Basically, it’s just like Date Movie. What made the Scary Movie films work is that they took a specific film (Scream) and then carefully layered in other elements that *fit*. There are no references to, say, The Matrix in Scary Movie (despite its popularity at the time) because it wouldn’t have fit. No, that was saved for Scary Movie 3, where it fit the plot of that movie.
And this is definitely not a case of a film that is redeemed by the performances. Kal Penn shows that he desperately needs good material to be entertaining, Adam Campbell is the most forgettable leading man of any stripe I have ever seen, Faune Chambers is practically invisible and the parade of cameos and minor characters reads like a “who’s who” but plays like a “why are they here”? It is particularly painful to see really talented people like Glover and McDonald wasted on rotten material, but there’s even legends like Fred Willard (who plays Aslo, the “lion”) and David Carradine on hand to embarass themselves. There’s not a single performance in the film really worth mentioning. Except maybe one.
You see, there’s this Jayma Mays woman, playing Lucy. At first I thought she was just another nameless cute chick signed on because she could look perky in front of the camera. But as I watched the film, I found I was kind of enjoying what she was doing. She was actually making the material kind of work. As the film progressed, however, I started to get a feeling of deja vu. And then it hit me. She was doing an impersonation of Anna Faris. It’s as if the director took Mays aside and said “Have you seen Anna Faris in Scary Movie? Do that.” It’s the most blatant rip-off in a film filled with blatant rip-offs.
To be honest, I never really expected Epic Movie to be any better than it turned out to be. These are clearly not talented people and even the skilled performers somehow roped into this puppet show are given nothing of worth to do. I try to find something good to say about almost every film, but here there’s nothing. Really. Nothing. Stay away. Avoid. Ignore. Move on. Rent a children’s safety video if you have to see something new, but for the sake of all that is good and pure in the world, do not find yourself having to one day admit, as I do, that you’ve seen Epic Movie.