Nicole Parker (left), Matt Lanter, Gary Johnson and Crista Flanagan try to survive Disaster Movie.
DISASTER MOVIE (Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer). 85 minutes. Opens Friday (August 29). Rating: NN
Disaster Movie plays like one of those Mad Magazine spoofs that crams a million obvious jokes into a small space and hopes some of them will stick. It's funny if you're 10. If you're any older, expect a few mild chuckles at most. Still, it's worlds above previous efforts by writing/directing team Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the minds behind Epic Movie and the deeply vile Date Movie.
The plot, right out of Cloverfield, is a great gag generator. In the midst of an unspecified disaster, four 20-somethings make their way through the city to rescue a trapped friend. All you need is an offscreen rumble and some camera shake to move our heroes along to the next encounter with a famous movie character. This works fine if, like me, you've been yearning to see most of the summer's superheroes smacked by falling cows. It's leaden if, again like me, you don't care about Amy Winehouse or Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus.
Friedberg and Seltzer don't bother to build their gags. They just let them play out until they run out of steam. Sometimes even the comic songs ? there are plenty ? can't save things. F&S also go in for lots of isolated head-and-shoulders shots. It's easy to imagine them catching all the footage they can, then slotting it in wherever, but it destroys any cumulative sense of fun. The movie keeps going flat.
This technique also gives us far more than we need of Christa Flana gan milking the same Ellen Page-as-Juno gesture. Too bad, because outside of the attack of the death metal chipmunks, the Juno riffs are the movie's funniest moments, especially her wispy indie folk ballad and its rousing finale. The rest of the principals ? Matt Lanter and Vanessa Minnillo as the young lovers and G. Thang as their buddy ? grimace and smirk like animatronic puppets.
This isn't really worth the price of admission, but catch the DVD, where there will doubtless be additional dirty bits and you can subtitle up the song lyrics.