“National Lampoon’s The Legend of Awesomest Maximus” is for people who want to see nudity without the stigma of watching porn, and for those who’d rather suffer through 87 minutes of mostly bad comedy to see skin than endure 156 quasi-dramatic minutes of “Caligula.” It’s for people who prefer dumb, low-brow comedies over sophisticated ones, and who wouldn’t even think to call it a guilty pleasure because, hey, they know it’s stupid, but sometimes stupid is just fine. (Warning: Language ahead)
“Awesomest Maximus” was headed for the theaters but then appears to have been pulled back (maybe “pulled out” is the more appropriate term?) and released direct-to-video. That’s never a good sign, but I knew I wasn’t exactly going to get “Gladiator,” “300,” or “Troy,” which the movie mostly spoofs. I braced myself for some Wayans brothers’ humor, even though this one comes from the director of “Revenge of the Nerds” and there were only two black actors—Tony Cox as Minoritees and Khary Payton as King Erotic. Why? Well, with a title like “The Legend of Awesomest Maximus,” how can you NOT go for Wayans’-style raunchiness when the Roman Empire was full of it?
Except that this isn’t about Rome at all. It turns out that “The Legend of Awesomest Maximus” is a parody of the movie “Troy,” right down to every dueling detail. Will Sasso, who just wrapped up filming as Curly on “The Three Stooges” movie, plays General Awesomest Maximus, a “dumb fuck” (the voiceover narrator’s words, not mine) who became a general of Troy because he married Hottessa (Kristanna Loken), daughter of King Looney (Rip Torn).
The action begins when the king orders Awesomest to join the not-so-manly prince Orlando (Gary Lundy) in Greece and “kiss their hairy Greek asses” so they won’t attack Troy. If you’re sensitive to homophobic and gay-bashing jokes, this isn’t the movie for you—I’m guessing “fudge packer” isn’t a word that was used in the ancient world? Most of the humor involves bodily functions, bodily parts, hetero sex, gay references, foul “mother fucking” language, or modern-day perversions (like “a titty bar” with stripper poles) transported to the Mycenaean Bronze Age . . . not that any of this is remotely historically accurate.
In Greece, Orlando is drawn to Princess Ellen (Sophie Monk), and invites her to come back to Troy with him to prove to his dad that he likes girls. Later, when this kid’s face launches a thousand ships, instead of the Trojan horse we get a gigantic wooden Trojan penis—but surprisingly, no prophylactic jokes. Meanwhile, the Greeks’ best warrior is named Testiclees (Ian Ziering), and like the guy he’s spoofing, his name is also his weak spot.
Sasso and Torn are surprisingly fun to watch, with Sasso reminding you a bit of Kevin James. He comes across as a likable guy, and that helps, really, when the gags fall flat . . . or flatten. So slam, bam, thank you Max. One of the funniest (and grossest) scenes involves two very large women, topless, in an arena scene, while one of the unfunniest (and grossest) scenes involves a severed head—of which, by the way, there’s more than one. As for the writing, well, there’s the occasionally funny line, as when a leader says “Do you know what lies beyond that beach?” in an inspirational pre-battle speech, and one of the soldiers says, “An open bar!” “No,” the leader says, “but I like the way you think.” Or exchanges like these:
“Ellen, come sit on my lap so I can fondle you while we watch Orlando getting his ass kicked.” (King Looney)
“Stop getting in my face!” (King Erotic)
“You Got a problem with Testiclees in your face?” (Testiclees)
“Not usually.” (King Erotic)
That ought to tell you right there whether to pop in this movie or “Caligula.”
The video quality is definitely awesomest. They used a digital camera to film this, and it looks superb—with practically no grain. It looks like a big-budget movie, which for some viewers will seem like compensation for less-than-stellar acting and writing, and for others will seem disjointed considering the rough, raw feel that the film has. It’s another “you decide.” I can only report that colors are bright and bold, black levels spot-on, and skin tones realistic looking (uh, did the ancient Trojans use spray tan?). “The Legend of Awesomest Maximus” is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and transferred to a 25GB Blu-ray disc using the AVC/MPEG-4 codec. And yes, the transfer is clean . . . the only thing about this film that is, actually.
The audio is a mere English Dolby Digital 5.1, with rear speakers that seem underused. It’s a front-heavy soundtrack that emphasizes dialogue, with no attention paid to the effects. There’s really not much to say about it except it’s there. Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
There are no extras, unless you count the theatrical trailer and a bonus trailer for “Division III: Football’s Finest.”
If you go into this one expecting “National Lampoon’s Animal House” or “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you saw “Meet the Spartans” and thought, well, with a little tweaking, this could have been funny, “The Legend of Awesomest Maximus” might be your thing. It’s certainly better than “Meet the Spartans,” especially in the first act. Unfortunately, it loses steam, rather than gaining it, as the minutes clock on.