Review: The Starving Games
As you know, I can be fairly lenient when it comes to spoofs. I consider Scary Movie V delightfully mediocre, and I’ve actually enjoyed some of the Friedberg/Seltzer joints. By concentrating on one movie, Meet the Spartans was more focused than their usual hodgepodge, and even some of the bits in Disaster Movie made me laugh (the High School Musical dancers rhymed “city” with “shitty!”).
That’s not to say I give everything a pass. A Haunted House offended me on a structural basis, not for any of its content, which is offensive if you care, but more importantly just not funny. Then there are fiascos like the straight to video Stan Helsing. The Epic/Disaster Movies are not The Naked Gun, Hot Shots or even Scary Movie 1 which they cowrote, but they have enough good will from me to give them a chance. But don’t worry, even I didn’t like anything in Vampire’s Suck.
With Hunger Games mania back in anticipation of Catching Fire, I was more than willing to play The Starving Games. Unfortunately, The Starving Games doesn’t live up to the high standards of Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie. Even I know that is faint praise for the latter, harsh criticism for the former.
It’s more of the same, only worse. It’s only a minute into the Hunger Games spoof that we see a character from a completely different movie. A lot of the characters fall over and/or get hit with things, only poorly. How can you make the universal “man gets hit in crotch” not work? The names of Hunger Games characters are changed to only slightly more ridiculous versions like Peter Malarkey and President Snowballs. Kantmiss Evershot really isn’t any stranger than the real version, except for the pun. The sign of the revolution is no longer three fingers. I’ll stop right there.
Basically, whatever happened in The Hunger Games, the characters of The Starving Games do the opposite. So Kantmiss (Maiara Walsh) cheers when her sister gets picked instead of her, yet still ends up volunteering because the plot requires it. When her dress catches fire, Kantmiss isn’t graceful, she panics. Peter (Cody Christian) forms a gay alliance instead of romancing Kantmiss, which would concern me about homophobia if any of this mattered at all.
They left out the Haymitch character completely, though they gave the spoof of Cinna some of Haymitch’s activities in the plot. In addition to characters from other movies and random celebrities, there are also spoofs of Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Words with Friends. So Friedberg and Seltzer do apps now too. There is only one absurd Peter disguise. That should have been a running gag. His thing in the real movie is camouflage, so you should spoof him by having a series of ridiculous costumes. That would at least get half of the structure of running gag right. I don’t expect they’d get the gag part either way.
The non-spoof jokes show a complete lack of comic structure. Pedestrian portrayals of hunger give way to the old pornographic pun names bit, but Bart Simpson has used up all the good ones so we get Hugh Janus and Phil Mahooters. Kantmiss literally sticks her foot in Peter’s ass. I actually wrote that one down. You’re welcome.
The funniest jokes in the movie are the bad jokes the Annoying Orange lookalike tells. The bad jokes have more understanding of comedic reversal than the actual jokes. Oh, the Expendables bit about Jason Statham not having a catch phrase is observant and their Chuck Norris joke is better than the actual Chuck Norris joke in Expendables 2. A Carl’s Jr. spoof actually approaches genuine satire by exaggerating the real commercial without overtly calling it out. See, there are hints of something, but it’s not worth fighting for anymore.
The effects are worse than ever. They’re not even trying. We’re talking Birdemic level CGI here. I’m happy for unknowns to get a break (Walsh was on some TV and the “Zombieland” pilot, I know) but the lack of any established actors save for Diedrich Bader suggests a lack of pedigree. Date Movie had Alyson Hannigan and Eddie Griffin. Epic Movie had Kal Penn and Jayma Mays. Spartans had Kevin Sorbo and Carmen Electra. Even Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Minnillo are notable enough public figures in the entertainment world to warrant starring in Disaster Movie. But with Vampire’s Suck they had foregone stars of any level and just gone with lookalikes in even the lead roles. Ken Jeong doesn’t count. He’ll do anything.
A few nice things I can say about The Starving Games: Walsh does a dead on Jennifer Lawrence impression, and totally commits, even to pooping. The spoof gets to the competition in only 20 minutes whereas the real movie takes over an hour. Even the shakycam is steadier than Gary Ross’s and it’s all shot in daylight, so no underlit night scenes. There are more on screen kills in the spoof and Kantmiss is responsible for most of them, so she actually gets her hands dirty whereas the real Katniss somehow gets out of killing in cold blood. That doesn’t make The Starving Games good. That just makes it ironic.
The Starving Games is one half point above A Haunted House just because we don’t have to suffer through extended takes of found footage improv. We can breeze through the embarrassment at regular movie speed, and only 70 actual minutes before the requisite blooper reel and credits. I can’t go on like this any more though. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m sorry it took me six Friedberg/Seltzer joints to get to this point, sorry more for your sake than mine because you’ve had to listen to me. I promise, when they do their Gravity spoof shot on a soundstage with appearances from Walter White and Daenerys Targaryen, I won’t give it my attention.