Before I Love the ‘80s made revisiting Big Movie Moments chic, spoofs usually existed independent of the titles they implicitly mocked. Now literal-minded satires like Not Another Teen Movie and the most recent Date Movie have become cheap excuses to entertain audiences’ encyclopedic knowledge of pop-culture history, dishing out romantic-comedy landmarks like the latest ride at a Universal theme park. Take this movie’s opening sequence, in which the obese main character Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan)—herself a hollow reference to the actress’s nympho band camper from American Pie—attempts to seduce passing construction workers and firemen on the street. Jones grinds to Kelis’s “Milkshake” and, in a shout-out to Marilyn Monroe, lets her skirt billow up, only to reveal patches of repulsive cellulite. It’s a dizzying, sometimes audacious reworking of fat suits, hip-hop eroticism, and iconic ‘50s beauty, yet writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer only seem interested in using it as the basis for a miserably over-extended fat joke (Jones’s sagging breasts swing over her shoulders, to the horror of an on-screen cab driver as well as the body-conscious audience), revealing them to be as soulless as the brunt of their jokes.
The filmmakers reach as far back as Say Anything and to works as obscure as Rize, rewarding viewers who can pinpoint the most throwaway pop-culture references, yet they refuse to satirize or subvert, only embellish, these mostly reductive visions of romantic bonding: My Big Fat Greek Wedding‘s stereotypical mishmash of Wisconsin politeness and Greek extravagance becomes a Blackanese-Indian family’s awkward lunch with loud Jewish parents (Meet the Fockers, now Meet the Fonckyerdoders), still with no cultural reconciliation in sight. Even worse, Date Movie borrows liberally from popular titles in other genres (Kill Bill, Star Wars: Episode III), with no rationale, cashing in on viewers’ self-satisfied awareness of particular images and sounds, such as Uma Thurman’s yellow jumpsuit (an homage within an homage). What with this whirlwind of shot reconstructions and famous line quotations, it’s no wonder the whole thing unravels like a long night of Trivial Pursuit.