Okay, when you go to see a flick like “Epic Movie,” you expect it to be bad. Rest assured that this one easily exceeds your lowest expectations. It’s one of those throw-everything-at-the-screen-and-see-if-anything-sticks movies. (When that sort of picture works—as in the original “Airplane”—the result can be hilarious.) But in this case nothing does.
Like its awful predecessor, “Date Movie,” the picture is just a string of references to big releases of the last year or so, loosely tied together by an inane excuse for a plot—pallid sketches marked by coarseness and sophomoric foolishness of the sort that might be thought up by randy eleven-year olds. So we get an orgy of slapstick violence, fart gags, sexual sniggering and cheesy special effects, all part of a ramshackle script that starts with nods to “The Da Vinci Code,” “Nacho Libre,” “Snakes on a Plane” and “X-Men” and then veers through “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Superman Returns,” and the “Harry Potter” franchise into “The Chronicles of Narnia”—by far its major inspiration.
It’s all terrible—puerile, vulgar and unfunny—but perhaps it reaches its nadir with a “Dead Man’s Chest” takeoff featuring not only a surprisingly irritating imitation of Johnny Depp by Darrell Hammond (one of the few really talented people in the cast, though you couldn’t tell it from his work here) but also a “music video” insert of such dreadfulness that it may make you wan t to retch (something else that occurs regularly on the screen). But once you select this as the movie’s low point, you may regret not choosing Fred Willard’s embarrassing turn as “lion man” Aslo in the “Narnia” bit, or the obligatory but still revolting reference to “Borat” that shows up at the close, or the song performed to accompany scenes of human body parts being hacked off in the “Chocolate Factory” sequence (in which Crispin Glover actually out-creeps Johnny Depp’s original—and that’s not a compliment). The excruciatingly extended appearance of Jennifer Coolidge in the “Narnia” sequences is revolting, too, as are the turns by Hector Jimenez as the faun Mr. Tumnus, Groovy as Wolverine, David Carradine as the “victim” in the “Da Vinci” prologue, and Danny Jacobs as Borat. And then there are the gruesome appearances of the CGI “Harry Beaver” in the “Narnia” stuff. The whole thing is one instance of wretchedness after another.
All the performers give this insipid material what it deserves: contempt. It’s as though they’ve reverted to high school amateur-night level, mugging and flopping about as if they were trying to break up their buddies in the school auditorium’s front row. Of the four “stars,” things are bad enough for Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays and Faune Chambers, but at least nobody is likely to recognize them save relatives. It’s worse for Kal Penn, though, since he’s a known quantity and will have to bear the brunt of the catcalls.
“Epic Movie” looks as though it was actually pretty well designed: the sets are pretty elaborate, and the camerawork by Shawn Maurer not at all bad. But all the effort behind the scenes is ultimately futile when the writing is so juvenile and the so-called direction so lax and dilatory. The same thing is true of this stinker as was the case with “Date Movie”: it’s not enough to let the audience know you’ve seen the same movies they have, you have to add something funny to the references. That’s something the makers of this “Epic” have signally failed to do.