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Review: 'The Starving Games' Is As Terrible As You Think It Is

Reviews
by Gabe Toro
November 8, 2013 10:00 AM
6 Comments
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It’s the gesture that matters this late in the game, not the art: “The Starving Games” is the sixth directorial effort from Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, and they are nothing if not consistent. Their interests in parody have always ranged from whatever’s generally zeitgeist-y at the time, though they’ve begun specifying their targets with “Vampires Suck” and their latest, both of which deflate the trends of recent young adult novel adaptations. It was pointless when the duo was satirizing everything under the sun, but at least in “The Twilight Saga” and “The Hunger Games,” they’ve selected targets that aren’t postmodern or self-critical in any imaginable way. When Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones get in those ridiculous “Hunger Games” wigs, is it any more respectable than working actors making some chump change in a major 2013 release that bothers to parody the Na’vi in “Avatar”?

The story is basically “The Hunger Games,” with only the names changed in Cracked Magazine style. Maiara Walsh is Kantmiss Evershot, District 12’s best hope for salvation in volunteering for the Hunger Games, or the Starving Games—there seems to be some in-movie confusion over what the competition is called. Here, the prize is some combination of half-eaten food, and Kantmiss’ archery skills are the only thing separating her from the herd of young, hungry competitors, including lovelorn lad Peter (Cody Christian). Admittedly, there’s something funny about fans worldwide signing off on a white kid named Peeta, only for a parody to turn around and simply call him Peter. Later, the “tracker jacker” bees from the source material are referred to as “tracker bees” instead. Some things are un-mockable.

The material mostly hinges on the absolutely game Walsh, who throws herself into a number of sub-“Mad TV”-level gags with aplomb, reminding one of the early work of Anna Faris. She’s an attractive personality forced to play the joke instead of the character, and she gets a few tasty reaction shots to sell the sort of gags that wouldn’t even make a ten year old smile. These films used to get a few established comedy names involved, but this time the only recognizable face is Diedrich Bader, having a merry time as President Snowballs. With everyone desperately mugging for the camera, his studied deadpan is the closest relationship this production has to professionalism.

Many of the gags are as basic as you can imagine, pop culture riffs done by people who don’t even know what they’re mocking: a man in a balloon exclaims, “I am Oz, the great and powe-“ before being killed by an errant arrow, though what that has to do with “Oz The Great And Powerful” is unclear. Other jokes simply involve characters from one film walking into this one, as Kantmiss confronts Harry Potter, the Avengers and even the crew from “The Expendables.” That last group is a reference that eats itself, considering these are actors playing actors who are playing characters in a movie that represent thinly-veiled versions of said actors. It must be said, the fellow playing Chuck Norris looks and acts nothing remotely like Norris, tossing off a quip that sounds like a dimwit ad-libbed it in the moment, even though it was clearly scripted and shot by industry veterans. Once again: this is the sixth film from the Friedberg/Seltzer directing team. 

Most of the other jokes are variations on brutal comic violence, involving people getting hit in the head, shot, or blown up. The picture’s philosophy seems to be that if a dead-spot is approaching, CGI a poorly-rendered explosion onscreen and say that someone just stepped on a mine. There’s also a couple of those old fashioned record-scratch double-takes that used to be so big in commercials, not to mention gags that involve entire groups of people groaning, “Huh?” in unison. Better are the jokes filling in the blanks in the “Hunger Games” concept, illustrating society’s downfall being caused by the failure of democracy, the election of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj as President and Vice President and the overwhelming corruption of corporations. It says something that Friedberg and Seltzer thought that last part was a joke. There’s humor in truth, and these two think that explicitly mentioning “The Running Man” and “Battle Royale” is as honest as shit gets. They also think that a Celebrity Hunger Games would end in Oprah Winfrey eating the other participants, a joke that only works if you know something about Oprah and cannibalism that the rest of us don’t.

But who cares at this point? Friedberg and Seltzer are six movies into their directorial career, with two more projects on the way. They’ve filled a peculiar niche, purveyors of a joke-based empire hosting gags that would be ignored on YouTube, but play to more than they deserve. To denigrate their dubious accomplishments is to repeat what everyone said seven years ago, when “Date Movie” debuted to massive grosses, proving that it doesn’t need to be a movie, it just needs to be loud, obnoxious, familiar, and vaguely feature-length (this one clocks in close to seventy minutes before the bloopers take us over the top). The world’s got more than enough space for loads of bad pornography, where there is minimal pleasure to be gained from the bare essentials of what people want to see. Surely there’s enough space for Friedberg and Seltzer as well. [F]


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6 Comments

  • taylor k. | May 22, 2014 8:14 PMReply

    don't watch this it is the stupidest movie ever who ever. who ever made this movie is an idiot theirs no point to it. this is VERY inp. movie for childeren even older than 13

  • Norman G. | March 17, 2014 3:52 AMReply

    Hey, lighten up on the anger a bit. The movie is a spoof and does the job. Sometimes people want to just watch something that's not that heavy duty, something to make them laugh.

    It's not like we need to be laughing because of the intellectual content behind the punch line or the gag.

    I thought aspects of it were hilarious and well thought out, like the totally overdone Blue Hair and eyebrows on the game host. Also the fruit bowl hat that falls off the woman's head with real fruit in front of all those starving people.

    Then there were some fairly right-on critiques about our society in general. For instance
    when the starving populace gets riled up because of conditions and is just about ready to revolt, they see a commercial ad for a new, typical, sloppy-junk-food-sandwich our fast food chains inundate us with and Presto.. the revolt is quickly forgotten.

    Also the name of the sandwich, the triple by-pass or something like that. Come on, you gotta laugh at stuff like that, especially given the reality of that stuff out there in society.
    That alone is a statement on an important aspect of our eating habits.

    Another great line was when the audience, in their over-the-top costumes were watching Cantmiss Evershot and Peter fall in love. A woman comments to her male friend on how wonderful and touching it is that they love each other and the dude fires back " Yeah, but I still want to see them die." That was so right on, an observation of people; admit it.

    I'd recommend the movie as a way to relax and have some light fun.

    I'm not talking gut splitting, rolling in the aisle type laughter, just something light and funny. I think most people are able to let the corny parts and some of the sophomoric humor slip by.

    Man! What's all the anger about with people disliking these guys? They did a fab job on Scary Movie.

    Meanwhile; Somebody should hire me to review movies. I'd just tell the truth, no bias or bs.

  • Anux Nux | February 8, 2014 5:52 AMReply

    This looks funny, I need to watch it soon!

  • Tom | November 10, 2013 2:22 PMReply

    Thank you. One would think after a few films this duo would realize what is funny and what is painful. Hell can't be hot enough for these two. Sickening to think kids today think these movies are good parody movies when they aren't even "movies".

  • Steven Flores | November 8, 2013 8:21 PMReply

    I hate those guys. They're filmmakers. They're not even worthy to be called bad filmmakers. They're just bottom-feeders who aim to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

  • Darryl Retchison | November 8, 2013 10:30 AMReply

    Thanks. I was planning on seeing this until your review convinced me not to.

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