MRR Review: "The Starving Games"

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MRR Review: "The Starving Games"

Rating: PG-13 (crude and sexual content, language, partial nudity, comic violence)
Length: 83 minutes
Release date: November 8, 2013
Directed by: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Genre: Comedy
Arguably best known for their marks film spoofs, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are back with their latest comedy, "The Starving Games." Much like other movies in the directors' long line of pop-culture-centric comedies, such as "Date Movie," which spoofs romantic films, and "Vampires Suck," which parodies the widely popular "Twilight" movies, "The Starving Games" takes on a current box-office darling, "The Hunger Games."

Based loosely on the plot of "The Hunger Games," "The Starving Games" features characters Kantmiss Evershot (in place of Katniss Everdeen) and Peter Malarkey (instead of Peeta Mellark). Like their counterparts, Kantmiss and Peter find themselves at the losing end of a nationwide lottery that sentences them to participate in a fight to the death. Unlike in "The Hunger Games," however, the prize isn't lifelong riches—it's half a pickle, a coupon for Subway, and a possibly rotten ham. At least the winner gets to walk away alive, although in the insane world of parodies, a life of misfortune is around the corner for most characters.

Actors Maiara Walsh and Cody Christian, both relative newcomers to the big screen, manage to pull off a range of emotions as absurd things happen to and around them. Many supporting cast members carry similarly limited resumes, with the biggest name on the cast list being Diedrich Bader, who hides behind President Snowball's absurdly fuzzy white beard. Though audiences may not recognize any faces as A-list celebrities, the cast does a great job at keeping a straight face while their costars get murdered, injured, covered in various disgusting liquids, and otherwise tortured for the sake of laughs.

Behind the scenes, the directors, producers, and designers missed few details when recreating the world of Panem. Fans of "The Hunger Games," if they squint their eyes enough and ignore the poop jokes and awkwardly hilarious, sexually intense scenes, may just be able to convince themselves they're spending more time in their favorite world. From the quiet woods where Kantmiss and Dale escape to hunt and bond to the Capitol, where the colorful upper-class citizens gather to watch teenagers fight to the death, every scene is littered with references to and echoes of the source material. This is also reflected in the costume design, as Kantmiss looks almost like a mirror image of Katniss, and Capitol citizens are just as painted as their "The Hunger Games" counterparts.

Like all parody movies from Seltzer and Friedberg, the jokes come not only from a single popular film but also from current pop culture. As they spin viewers a new version of what happens when Kantmiss and Peter are stranded in a cave together, the writers work in a reference to The Lord of the Rings. Instead of having the game creators send in a deadly fireball to wipe out tributes, they launch an army of Angry Birds. When Kantmiss is interviewed by the flamboyant Caesar Flickerman stand-in, Stanley Caesarman, she doesn't hesitate to drop down and give her best Tim Tebow impression. From "The Avengers" to pop group LMFAO, fans of pop culture will have fun counting the references in "The Starving Games."

The humor in "The Starving Games" is immature. It is ideal for audiences who aren't afraid to make fun of the more serious things in life, such as death, sex, world hunger, and the silliness of modern-day culture. It frequently crosses the line with its gross and sexual content, and many laughs rely on portraying characters as utterly and miserably evil or stupid. For example, Peter's nonspoofed counterpart, Peeta, is a master painter, and he uses his cake-decorating skills to camouflage himself for survival. In "The Survival Games," however, Peter simply paints himself as a bright pink cake. Instead of happily sacrificing herself to save her younger sister from the games, Kantmiss reluctantly volunteers after her sister lays on an intense guilt trip. "The Starving Games" drops fans' favorite characters' IQs by 30 points and turns lovable ones hateful. This is, of course, normal and expected from the directors.

Being familiar with the source material is suggested, though not required, to enjoy "The Starving Games," as most jokes are direct riffs on "The Hunger Games." A sense of humor is required, as the writers attempted to jam as many jokes into eighty-three minutes as possible.

Moviegoers who can handle a twisted take on an already slightly disturbing plotline of death and hunger in a dystopian society should check it out.

Rating: 2 out of 5