After “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie,” and January’s “Meet the Spartans,” writer/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have willingly positioned themselves as artistic pariahs. They abuse the art of parody to craft wickedly loathsome pop culture spoofs, forging actual effort to razz their subjects, only reiterating absurdity. And man oh man, do teenagers ever flock to these vile, willfully unfunny concoctions. But how can you blame them? I’m sure a night ignoring the screen to text-message friends and giggle at fart jokes is far more appealing than Scrabble with mom and dad.
For their latest romp, the doofy duo have been stripped of the 20th Century Fox home, lurching over to Lionsgate, because, let’s be honest here, the studio that gifted the world “Saw” and Tyler Perry isn’t all that concerned with churning out quality product. So, it’s a new beginning for Seltzer and Friedman; a chance to transform their low-budget, throwaway cinema habits and attempt to give birth to something that enriches the human experience, or, at the very least, demonstrates that these guys might have a ounce of artistic aptitude to go with their enormous bank accounts. I mean, come on! It couldn’t get any worse, right?
Heavens, it can get worse. It can get worse.
Shoved through a blitzkrieg production process over the last few months, “Disaster Movie” intends to capitalize on the late-summer moviegoing blues. With audiences up to their eyeballs in overblown blockbusters, Friedberg and Seltzer have arrived to send-up the obvious, taking potshots at popular movies, singers, and actors, arranging the nonsense in a short (75 minutes) burst of idiocy and borderline-illiterate filmmaking. I’m not sure if “Disaster” is the worst movie the boys have churned out, but, at this point, that’s like asking if a bullet hurts more than a knife. At this stage of the game, excellence isn’t a concern for these scoundrels, just continued delivery of contemptible humor.
The targets for “Disaster” hold little surprise: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Sex and the City,” “Juno” (I thought that was already a lampoon), “Step Up 2 the Streets,” “Enchanted,” “Twister” (yeah, take that 1996!), “Beowulf,” “Speed Racer,” “The Love Guru,” “Hellboy II,” “Hancock,” and “Get Smart.” If you’ve seen the other installments of this gratuitous franchise, you already know the delivery process: make a joke, explain the joke to the audience through close-ups and ADR clarification, and then kick a character in the balls. The filmmakers cling to that simplicity for dear life, assembling a horrifically slapdash production that looks as though it was filmed inside a vacated condo and around their neighbor’s backyard.
Actually, the only fascinating element of “Disaster Movie” is watching how much Friedberg and Seltzer avoid paying for production value. The picture looks enormously amateurish, and the ocular offense extends to the cartoon send-ups, where the cracked-out “Alvin and the Chipmunks” are turned into dime-store hand puppets and “Kung Fu Panda” is represented with a Disneyesque costumed character. Huh? There’s also a discernable allergy to special effects, leaving inert takes on “Night at the Museum” and “10,000 B.C.” a little bizarre and conceptually embarrassing.
Complaining about visual gloss is perhaps a wee bit silly on my part. There’s just so much more to loathe here than the evident lack of coin. For example: there’s an extended take on the branding whoredom of Miley Cyrus, a bit where the film paints Jessica Simpson as a moron (zing!), various smutty music numbers brought to the screen through “High School Musical” and “Enchanted” riffs, and a well-stocked buffet of fecal-based humor. Add to the mix a miserable cast made up of complete unknowns, don’t-want-to-knowns (Vanessa Minnillo, Tad Hilgenbrink), and a good chunk of “MADtv” castaways (yes, that show still airs) in multiple roles. Oh, how they mug.
In short: when Carmen Electra and Kim Kardashian are the thespian highlights of your movie, it’s time to start reading a filmmaking manual of some sort.