Monday, November 11, 2013

With So Little To Parody, The Starving Games Swings Wide And Misses.

The Good: One or two jokes
The Bad: Poor use of source material (after the first five minutes), No superlative acting, No real character development, Most of the humor falls painfully flat.
The Basics: The Starving Games is a dismal parody of The Hunger Games and other blockbusters released in the last year.

There are few films that let the viewer know exactly what they are in for from the movie poster itself. And yet, with The Starving Games, the latest parody film by the once-audacious, now tragically tired duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer whose last film Vampires Suck (reviewed here!) certainly lived up to its name, gives it away with the movie poster: the film is a turkey. The movie poster to The Starving Games makes a parody of the Mockingjay symbol from The Hunger Games with a turkey skewered on the arrow and it is utterly unsurprising that the film did not break into the Top Ten in its debut weekend.

Largely overlooked at the box office last weekend, The Starving Games is a parody of current cinema and pop culture, focusing primarily on The Hunger Games (reviewed here!) for its main plot. But, unlike Weird Al Yankovic, who seemed to realize that when pop music was largely usurped by hip-hop and rap that there was less that his talents were able to parody (whatwith his obsession largely being to parody the pretense and absurdity of pop-rock music) and he slowed producing new material, Seltzer and Friedberg once again churn out a work that seems to cram as many elements together as possible without nailing the real humor of a sophisticated parody. For sure, the pair hits the nail on the head with the initial monologue from President Snowballs about how the Starving Games themselves make little sense as an element of cultural control, but beyond that, The Starving Games is an amalgamation of irrelevant and often lame jokes – like Siri jokes and blowing up LMFAO.

Set in a similar world to The Hunger Games, where youth are pitted against one another in an annual bloodsport, Kantmiss Evershot is thrilled not to be selected for the 75th Annual Starving Games. However, when her younger sister, Petunia, is called and gives her the puppydog eyes, Kantmiss volunteers and leaves Dale behind. Peter Malarky volunteers, though Kantmiss does not remember who he is and he claims during the pre-show to have a crush on Marko, the Tribute from District 1. After an interminable wait on the discs in the arena waiting to be set loose, the Starving Games begin with exaggerated killing (like a girl being stabbed in the back, neck, and having her legs and torso cut off with a chainsaw clinging to Kantmiss for the backpack she snatches) and ridiculously over-the-top groin injuries.

The focus remains on Kantmiss as she flees the carnage from the other players and encounters VR trees, app-based obstacles and the obvious romantic references. As Kantmiss moves toward her inevitable victory, The Starving Games degenerates into a familiar barrage of body humor and gay jokes that are anything but funny, clever, or insightful.

The Starving Games once again proves the old adage that there’s a sucker born every minute. I refer not to the audience – who, by this time, has to know what they are getting with a Friedberg/Seltzer production – but rather to the financers. A number of people and corporations shelled out millions of dollars to produce The Starving Games, apparently ignorant of how un-funny the last several works from this duo have been. The fact that Apple, which usually tries to be associated with what is fresh and hip, allows so many of its products to be used on screen, makes it seem like the company has either entirely lost its edge or it was bamboozled by the producers of The Starving Games. In a similar fashion, the Angry Birds reference is momentarily cute, but the follow-up with the fruit-slicing just seems like a cheap chance to make a Kardashian joke.

Like most parody movies, The Starving Games is not about developing characters well, it is focused on satirizing an existing film (in this case with more nods at general pop culture because The Hunger Games has more conceptual flaws with the set-up, as opposed to inherent humor in the execution of the film). As a result, Kantmiss is not a character the viewer empathizes with or becomes invested in. We do not care if she lives or dies and she is frequently an accessory, a stage piece to make non-sequitor jokes, like one with a princess piƱata that comes out of nowhere.

Actor Cody Christian is made up to appear as a thinly-veiled reference to Justin Bieber, but the joke – like his performance – does not land to adequately sell the character of Peter as a parody of Peeta from The Hunger Games. Actress Lauren Bowles illustrates that she was willing to do virtually anything considering how little her character was used in the sixth season of True Blood (reviewed here!) as she appears as Effoff. To her credit; the role of Effoff might have as much or more screentime as Elizabeth Banks’ Effie did in The Hunger Games. The absurd role is more humor than she has been allowed to show on True Blood, so the appeal to the actress to do The Starving Games is evident.

Unfortunately, the lead, Maiara Walsh, who plays Kantmiss, fails to land. There is no obvious acting flaw for her to pick on, unlike satirizing Kristen Stewart’s performance in Twilight, so she flails around never quite making Kantmiss interesting. As she belabors parodies of Avatar and Sherlock Holmes (the film, not the books), the viewer ends up feeling sorry for the actress and what she is forced to say and do for the paycheck more than we ever care about Kantmiss.

Ultimately, The Starving Games is what one has come to expect of an Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg production; an idea with limited potential, executed in the most mundane fashion possible, with a shotgun approach to humor. The Starving Games may safely be ignored by one and all.

For other parody movies, please check out my reviews of:
Date Movie
Dance Flick
Not Another Teen Movie


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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