Friedberg and Seltzer at the Movies Part 4: Meet the Spartans (2008)

300 was a film adaptation of a graphic novel adaptation of a historical battle. One that beat the odds to become an iconic success recognised all over. The battle cry of “This is Sparta” alone forever archived among the forums of the internet. Instantly Friedberg and Seltzer had 300 good reasons to pick that film for their next target. In 2008, The wide sprawling genre antics were temporarily ceased to a much more straightforward parody, while still offering their style of comedy for a demanding audience in Meet the Spartans.

Online reviewing culture was being lampooned a decade before I started my blog.

We meet Leonidas, surviving adoption, and death-by-volcano, enduring cold climates, starving, forced to fight the penguin from Happy Feet. Yet, overcoming these obstacles to become king of the Spartans. Although King Leonidas is now married, the future does not look bright, and prophecies of doom await him. Still, he attempts to lead an army to fight the god-king Xerxcise, determined to annex Sparta to the great Persian empire. Along the way, Leonidas and co. will encounter strange sights, modern wonders, and celebrities. Spirits will be tested, and gags will be cracked. In this clash of empires, nothing will be spared.

The then-timely references make me nostalgic for a time when Ugly Betty was on Channel Four and American Idol was picking up steam.

The broad sweeping genre parodies have been side-lined, and instead Meet The Spartans mainly focuses on the pseudo-retelling of 300. I can say, however, that the shocking humour that has become part and parcel of the Friedberg and Seltzer recipe is still here. Especially a lot of actors excelling at looking silly for our entertainment. As a mainstay of British telly, it is bizarre seeing Sean Maguire in these circumstances, though it is a fast route for hilarity. He does bear some resemblance to Gerard Butler in the role and meets the most dreadful situations with enthusiasm. His Leonidas is surprisingly pop-culture savvy, even more so than previous Friedberg and Seltzer protagonists. Allowing them to return to their winning formula whenever it needs to.

Sean Maguire went from television star to pop star to King Leonidas.

An increasing focus is on technology, with Grand Theft Auto and the like rearing their heads, with the film being almost aware of the changing landscape that plies its trades in. The current celebrity culture is yet again dissected with depictions of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears during her infamous personal struggles, along with Brangelina and the adoption of their child and the increasing presence of Simon Cowell and American Idol. It gets to a point where you can pinpoint almost exactly where you were when the film was released even so many years later, offering a bizarre sense of DeJa Vue. Even throwing jabs at internet reviewers, in-jokes that feels more prophetic almost 13 years on.

Then topical stars are spoofed including Paris Hilton and Brittany. (Though 10 years later, society has certainly re-evaluated its reaction to these stars).

Meet the Spartans feels surprisingly more focused than the prior Friedberg and Seltzer films, even when expanding its scope evermore. There is a lot to laugh at, depending on what you like. In the ever-changing world of the public conscious. If you liked what Friedberg and Seltzer did before you will certainly find more to love here. Even with its extended pit scene/American Idol send-up, perfectly summing up the referential ethos of the duo. For those longing for a pop-culture look back at the late 2000s, I might suggest that you go forth and meet the Spartans.

Friedberg and Seltzer references become a lot more tech-focused than in their last films.

If you want more positive reviews delivered to the e-mail box of your choice, you can click on that little text bubble at the bottom of the screen. Do you agree or disagree? or have a suggestion for another pop-culture artefact that needs a positive light shone on it? Leave a comment in the comment box below! But remember to keep it positive!

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