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Epic Movie

In many ways, Epic Movie is beneath notice. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have given us a skit that sends up what seems like several dozen recent films - with a few oldies like Star Wars thrown in - popular among the young. It's like an end-of-term school play, replaying the highlights of the year's folly. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean appear to be the principal sources, but James Bond, Silas, Nacho, and the X-Men are all on hand, if not as their original actors. Viewed as an extended trailer, Epic Movie is goofily amusing. Oh, I forgot. Snakes on a Plane.

I hope that all of the actors have wonderful careers, but only three members of the cast will be familiar to you, and maybe not even. There's Kal Penn, from Harold and Kumar..., an actor constitutionally incapable of reverence or awe. He manages to play his part - one of the story's four heroes - as if he were parodying it, even though the role is already a parody. Fred Willard does his Fred Willard thing as Aslo (Aslan), a raunchy mane with weird chest hair (weird chest hair is something of a running gag) who morphs into a very fit Asian martial-arts virtuoso when engaged in combat with Ninja Silas.

What got me to go, aside from extraneous factors such as the weather and the want of more engaging films, was Jennifer Coolidge. I'm tempted to say that Jennifer Coolidge is funny in the same way that Margaret Dumont was funny, but Ms Coolidge knows what she's doing, and nobody is sure about Dumont. Her specialty is playing women with well-stoked libidos whose brains have all or in part liquefied and dribbled down into their DDD-cups, and she brings a completely unexpected variety to this corner of the thespian universe. In three of the four Christopher Guest-Eugene Levy mockumentaries, she has played a former beautician who has married a millionaire, a perky (if dumb) Martha Steward knock-off, and profoundly stupid producer. I love all three.*

In Epic Movie, she plays the evil White Bitch, and I think that I shall have to break down and see Narnia, where the corresponding role of the White Witch is played by Tilda Swinton, basically your diametric opposite of Ms Coolidge. The White Bitch is a supremely awful demoness, hauled from the dregs of Fifties horror flicks. She seems perpetually on the verge of melting into Mae West - but deciding that that would involve too much talking. Her seduction of Mr Penn's character is worthy of Ed Wood.

The movie's best impersonation - and there are many very good ones - is Darrell Hammond, of Johnny Depp's Pirate. (February 2007)

* Although her best line occurs in A Mighty Wind: "If they didn't have the model trains they wouldn't have gotten the idea for the big trains."

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