20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD Review

Epic Movie: Unrated DVD Review

Epic Movie (2007) movie poster Epic Movie

Theatrical Release: January 26, 2007 / Running Time: 93 Minutes (Theatrical Cut: 85 Minutes) / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut: PG-13)

Directors: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer

Cast: Kal Penn (Edward), Adam Campbell (Peter), Jennifer Coolidge (White Bitch), Jayma Mays (Lucy), Faune Chambers (Susan), Crispin Glover (Willy), Tony Cox (Bink), Hector Jimenez (Mr. Tumnus), Darrell Hammond (Captain Jack Swallows), Carmen Electra (Mystique), Jim Piddock (Magneto), Fred Willard (Aslo), David Carradine (Museum Curator), Kevin McDonald (Harry Potter), Katt M. Williams (Harry Beaver), George Alvarez (Ron), Roscoe Lee Browne (Narrator)

Buy Epic Movie from Amazon.com: Unrated DVD PG-13 Rated Theatrical Cut DVD


The parody film was revived early this decade by the unexpectedly robust box office performance of Scary Movie. That 2000 blockbuster, a collaboration of three Wayans brothers, has since blossomed into a lucrative franchise and been handed off to parody pros David Zucker and Jim Abrahams. (Scary Movie 5 is due in theaters next year.) Meanwhile, two of the six writers of Scary Movie -- Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer -- have blazed a trail together on their own in the genre that put them in demand. Date Movie, their co-written/co-directed spoof of romantic comedies, grossed more than twice its budget in its winter 2006 theatrical engagement. Thus, the pair (who wet their feet on 1996's Spy Hard) was back this year, with Epic Movie, another parody flick positioned to open during Hollywood's off-season. Like most of its kin, its admissions fizzled fast, but not before an attention-grabbing, chart-topping first weekend in late January.

In spite of its grandiosity-summoning title, Epic Movie takes a cue from the more recent Scary Movie sequels and allows itself to parody not only recent high profile films of any kind but also anything that's registered on pop culture's radars in the past few years.
The entity it borrows most from is The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Disney/Walden's 2005 adaptation of C.S. Lewis's treasured fantasy. As in that film, there are four protagonists who, as on any good epic, embark on a series of adventures.

The supposedly youthful leads are all orphans who hail from separate universes that are instantly recognizable. Ditzy, phrase-repeating Lucy (Jayma Mays, a dead ringer for the Scary Movie series' Anna Faris) apparently lives in a museum with a curator who's close to cracking The Da Vinci Code when he is murdered. Edward (Kal Penn, Kumar of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and upcoming sequel) is unhappy in a tiny Mexican monastery's orphanage (out of Nacho Libre). The British Peter (Adam Campbell, Date Movie) is an uncool student at an academy for superheroes, whose mutation -- the ability to sprout tiny chicken wings (a mere fraction of those belonging to X-Men: The Last Stand's Angel) -- evokes ridicule rather than fear. Finally, tough foreigner Susan (Faune Chambers) is about to be adopted by juicy Hollywood couple Brangelina when she narrowly escapes some Snakes on a Plane.

The four orphans of "Epic Movie" (who later learn they're siblings) prepare to enter Willy's chocolate factory with their golden tickets in hand. Peter (Adam Campbell), Susan (Faune Chambers), and Lucy (Jayma Mays) listen to Gnarnia's Mr. Tumnus (Hector Jimenez).

Each of the four orphans ends up with a Golden Ticket, which grants them access to a chocolate factory run by creepy recluse Willy (Back to the Future's Crispin Glover). Tim Burton's overcooked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the second most targeted feature, but its treatment subsides soon enough to let Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edward (I don't know why they went with that rather than Edmund) pass through the enchanted wardrobe
and end up in Gnarnia during its perennial snowy winter. Things actually play out rather closely to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as Lucy meets half-goat, half-man Mr. Tumnus (Nacho Libre's Hector Jimenez), and Edward encounters The White Witch Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge), who claims to be Gnarnia's queen.

It almost goes without saying that along the way, there are a number of parodies of highly-attended mainstream American films. Superman Returns is repeatedly referenced. There's a brief, disjointed segment at Hogwarts where Harry Potter (Kevin McDonald, "The Kids in the Hall") and his cronies have gotten old and let themselves go. Captain Jack Swallows (Darrell Hammond, "Saturday Night Live"'s longest-running cast member) shows up to be odd. The Pirates of the Caribbean actually serve less as satire of the Disney swashbucklers than as part of a feeble take on the much-downloaded "SNL" rap short "Lazy Sunday." Other TV properties lampooned are MTV's "Cribs" and "Punk'd." Modest nods are given to Borat, Mission: Impossible III, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Casino Royale, and Click. Impressive look-alikes are used to poke fun at Paris Hilton and thickly-bearded, intoxicated Mel Gibson. Some semi-severe jabs are even lobbied at President Bush and the missteps of his two terms.

By this point, you may be wondering if I plan on saying anything about the quality of the film instead of just listing the various properties it satirizes. I haven't forgotten the primary purpose of a review. It's just that Epic Movie lends itself to little more than watching and compiling a mental checklist of all the recently popular films it laughs at. By the time the central four meet Aslo (Fred Willard), the half-lion, half-man playboy who's supposedly their last hope, you will have long given up taking the plot seriously, if you ever did. Now, your knee-jerk reaction might be that Epic Movie's plot isn't supposed to be taken seriously. It's merely an excuse to have fun skewing the different cultural texts that generate excitement and revenue for studios able to sink more than a hundred million dollars into a single production.

I can appreciate that and still, I had plenty of hope for Epic Movie based on the fact that all of the targets are things that I've actually seen (well, with the exception of The Da Vinci Code, whose self-flagellating albino monk Silas features throughout). Unfortunately, without some kind of pre-planned tone and winning sense of humor, a movie like Epic is bound to fall flat. And it does, outside of the very mild aforementioned thrill of being able to recognize broad caricatures of elements and personas from other sources.

The hip crowd at Mutant Academy includes Wolverine (Groovy Vince Vieluf) and blue Mystique (Carmen Electra). Harry Potter (Kevin McDonald) is old, Ron Weasley (George Alvarez) is mustachioed, and Hermoine (sic, Crista Flanagan) is pregnant in this version of Hogwarts.

Epic's biggest problem isn't poor design, inconsistency, or anything heady like that. It's merely the film's type of comedy that lets the viewer down. Scatology abounds, as urine and vomit flow unlike ever before. People getting hit in the face is apparently hilarious; how else to explain such occurrences every few minutes? People getting severely injured and disembodied must also be a hoot, for these too are ubiquitous. Wit and wordplay? They're largely a no-show. The movie even misses the opportunity to have fun with the fact that three of its leading cast members (Kal Penn, Hector Jimenez, Jennifer Coolidge) featured somewhat considerably in three of the "epic movies" being parodied.

Even if I must confess a lower tolerance to the obscene than some present-day adult viewers, I can appreciate good low-brow humor with the best of folks. Sadly, Epic Movie serves up very little humor that can be classified as good. It's much more interested in grossing out and embarrassing audiences. I'm sure this is amplified in the unrated cut of the film, the only one sent to reviewers. Still, even if those 8 minutes add some things that don't fly in PG-13land (like brief flashes of nudity and extensive uses of Samuel L. Jackson's blogger-inspired "SOAP" exclamation), more offensive elements probably existed in the theatrical cut, which presumably still comprises 91% of the extended cut.

There's a very small demographic which Epic Movie seems to play to. I would imagine it's those in their mid-teens to whom the idea of having "a 40" and getting drunk (two images regularly sprinkled throughout) sounds just immature enough to be deemed fun. Many of these people probably consider themselves too cool for movies like Narnia, Harry Potter, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and maybe, at best, had to settle to tag along with a younger sibling or family member. Will they appreciate Epic Movie? Probably not very much, but still more than most viewers. Those who willingly attended these mainstream hits being spoofed are likely to be with the majority, more apt to cringe than laugh.

Buy Epic Movie: Unrated DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English),
Dolby Surround (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish;
Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 22, 2007
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $9.98 (Reduced from $29.99)
Also available in Rated DVD ($29.99/strike> $9.98 SRP)
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VIDEO and AUDIO

I only received a screener disc, which definitely differs from the final product in its presentation of the film. That's a good thing since the video here broke down into severe artifacting at certain points -- probably the result of a dual-layered disc being compressed to a single layer. I'm sure the final product will be fine, but I can't comment on that with any kind of authority based on the test subject. The soundtrack here was without issue; the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack made decent use of the soundfield, albeit less sporadically than the films Epic Movie lampoons.

"How Gratuitous" serves up more bouncy, scantily-clad women. This lady appears naked in the unrated cut for about three seconds, yet is seen (in pink bikini) for close to three minutes here. Harry Beaver discusses who knows what in "Everyone Loves Beaver." Saturday Night Live veteran Darrell Hammond (playing Captain Jack Swallows) and an assortment of Playboy Playmates (playing smelly pirate hookers?) are seen working together in "Making the Video: Lazy Pirate Day."

BONUS FEATURES and MENUS

The first three bonus features call for repeat viewings of the film. First, writers/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer team up for an audio commentary. Their track is dry and informative, albeit it's filled with information that's not remotely real. What begins harmlessly (faux talk of miniatures and stop-motion animation) quickly gets vulgar and completely unrelated to the film. Having recently listened to a joke commentary that was rather entertaining, it's interesting how the same concept can go so wrong in this profane, terribly unfunny discussion that unsuccessfully lampoons other commentaries. I guess it should be no surprise that filmmakers who flounder in making a funny movie do the same in attempting something like this.

"Breaking Wind: An Epic Journey into the Sounds of an Epic Movie" provides a two-channel stereo soundtrack in which fart and belch noises have been added at the times when characters onscreen are most likely to emit them. I'm amazed that someone took the time to render the entire movie into one big gas joke and
would be surprised if anyone is enough of a fan of such humor to endure the whole film in this way.

With "How Gratuitous", a beaver icon appears onscreen at three points of the film. Pressing "enter" treats the viewer to "additional juicy shots from filming." Slow-motioned outtakes of scantily-clad women might excite some, but they don't amount to much, featuring the naked woman in the wardrobe (2:45 - she wears a bathing suit presumably as in the PG-13 version), Mr. Tumnus' faun "honeys" (2:45), and the pirate girls (0:50). It's not a feature few are likely to enjoy watching the whole movie for, even though that's how it's designed.

"Everyone Loves Beaver: Epic Hook-Ups" (4:15), the first and perhaps most inane featurette, has leading cast members sounding off on romantic relationships among the cast/characters. Filled with a number of attempts to amuse, it makes no sense.

The closest thing to a genuine look at production, "Making the Video: Lazy Pirate Day" (9:30) mixes interview comments from crew and cast with on-boat footage of the Pirates "Lazy Sunday" segment, wrapping up with the musical scene as it appears in the movie.

Paris Hilton Look-Alike (Alla Petrou) laughs in the Outtakes reel. Willy Wonka (Crispin Glover) returns in this alternate ending. Fred Willard sits against a green backdrop for not one but two diverting Fox Movie Channel programs.

A reel of Outtakes (3:35) expand upon the lengthy bloopers that feature in the 13-minute end credits. These, of course, provide more botched lines and unstifled laughter.

An Alternate Ending (1:30) brings back Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas for some more sincere closure outside the wardrobe.

Three short, lame featurettes follow. "Epic Porn - What Would You Porno Movie Be Called?" (2:25) begins as a strange sex hotline ad from Mr. Tumnus before having a few of the actors ponder what type of X-rated films their character might be in. "What Makes Aslo So Irresistible?" (2:05) finds the cast commenting on the appeal of Fred Willard's maned lion man. "Hot or Not: Character Turn On's and Turn Off's" (1:40) is in the same vein as the two earlier pieces, as the lead actors (again somewhat in character) try to be both funny-strange and funny-ha-ha, addressing likes and dislikes.

Two better Fox Movie Channel programs, hosted by Fred Willard, are next. "Making a Spoof" (7:15) allows Willard to talk about the movie in a stream of tongue-in-cheek observations that remarkably aren't as promotional as they're designed to be. "In Character with Fred Willard" (9:05) lets Willard get off-topic as he self-deprecatingly reflects upon his storied career in show business. Among the memories tackled are his suggestions to Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind and his near-casting in Die Hard; as long as you don't expect a shred of truth, you may enjoy Willard's first-person profile in a bizarre kind of way.

John McClane kicks Nacho Libre in the MySpace contest-winning short film "Die Libre." The animated Main Menu seems somewhat modeled after the real Chronicles of Narnia DVD's Disc 1 selection screens. In an Easter Egg, Kevin Hart talks about being The Angriest Black Albino for his "Da Vinci Code"-inspired role of self-flagellating monk Silas.

Die Libre (3:00) is the short film that won MySpace's "Make Your Own Epic Movie" contest. A duel between trigger-happy John McClane (of Die Hard) and flatulent Nacho Libre, it's as low on taste as the feature itself,
only its budget is much tighter, as evidenced by its cheap effects and low-quality windowboxed presentation.

Finally, there is a trailer (2:24) for the soon-on-DVD Reno 911!: Miami. In other cross-promotion, the disc opens with a spot that highlights the comedies My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Date Movie, and Reno 911!: Miami.

Epic Movie's own trailer is missing. The Unrated DVD also loses four of the rated DVD's supplements: storyboards, Adam Campbell's tour of the Willy Wonka factory, casting tapes, and a featurette called "Family Affair." With only the Unrated DVD being made available for review, I can't comment on these standard-sounding bonuses. Nevertheless, a more restrained cut of the film -- presented in both fullscreen and widescreen on the same disc -- does sound like the more attractive package, though the Rated disc lacks all of the Unrated DVD's extras aside from the commentary (which itself must differ, probably for the better). So there's a trade-off either way, and no customer gets the complete set without buying Epic Movie twice (a ghastly thought).

The DVD menus themselves seem somewhat modeled after The Chronicles of Narnia's, with the Main Menu taking a panoramic tour of Aslan's Aslo's camp as the Beaver calls for action and insults upon a lack thereof. There's even an Easter Egg in a similar spot to Narnia's. This is a brief interview with actor Kevin Hart (2:20), "The Angriest Black Albino", on his role in the film.

Worlds from two live-action Disney blockbusters come together as the White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge) appears with diminutive henchman Bink (Tony Cox) on Captain Jack's pirate ship. Mel Gibson's beard, this review has gone on long enough already!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Some may say that Epic Movie was doomed from conception, with nothing more than a bunch of unrelated but popular recent films as its satirical target. I actually think a decent parody comedy could be made from this very premise and in a few rare moments, Epic Movie seems capable of pulling it off. For the most part, however, the film is far too content with bodily fluids, violent slapstick, and general raunch (especially in this unrated edition) to please anyone but the most immature, forgiving viewers. With laughs being few, light, and scattered, Epic Movie realizes little of its potential. Rather than providing a free-spirited farce, it offends with a paucity of cleverness and an overload of gross-out material that clearly crosses lines of good taste. If you decide it still merits a rental, you'll likely find the only pleasure it yields, aside from a few chuckles, is the ability to effortlessly recognize its broad topics.

Though containing a fair quantity of bonus features, this Unrated Edition DVD does not score well in the quality department. A horrendously unfunny commentary, a fart soundtrack, some brief and inane featurettes, and a tasteless contest-winning short probably detract from the value of the package more than add, leaving only a small handful of more traditional supplements (outtakes, deleted scenes, Fox Movie Channel's Fred Willard programs) worth your time. Of course, watching them would require you to have this DVD in your possession at some point, which in itself, is an inferior use of your resources.

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Related Reviews:
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - 2-Disc Collector's Edition 4-Disc Extended Edition
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Night at the Museum The Lion King 1 Dinosaurs: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons
Sky High The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Taking Over the Tipton Chicken Little Lady and the Tramp

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Reviewed May 19, 2007.



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