Under normal circumstances, a failed comedy titled “The Starving Games” might inspire punny put-downs like “malnourished script” or “unappetizing gags.” But, really, a movie as lame as this one doesn’t merit the expenditure of snark. Suffice to say that it is the latest stillborn spoof from filmmakers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (whom you may remember, if not forgive, for “Disaster Movie,” “Meet the Spartans” and “Vampires Suck”), and it seems even more slapdash and desperately unfunny than their earlier work. Already available on VOD, the pic is making a fleeting appearance in a handful of theaters, not that its attempt to capitalize on the release of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” will delay its passage into homevid obscurity.
This time out, Friedberg and Seltzer stick closer than usual to the plot specifics of their primary target, and only sporadically attempt collateral damage by skewering other pop-culture phenomena. Maiara Walsh does what she can to preserve her dignity while gamely shouldering the lead role of Kantmiss Evershot, an archery-adept heroine who proves improbably resilient while competing in a nationally televised kill-or-be-killed survival game.
The young woman warrior is just one of several figures intended as parodies of characters in “The Hunger Games.” But with the arguable exception of the autocratically tyrannical President Snowballs played (not half-badly) by Dietrich Bader, Kantmiss is the only one that comes even close to hitting the mark as an on-target satirical creation. (Oddly enough, there is no equivalent here for the cynical ex-champ played by Woody Harrelson in “The Hunger Games.” Maybe the filmmakers figured they couldn’t come up with a name that would sound nearly as funny as the original’s Haymitch Abernathy.)
There is barely 70 minutes’ worth of narrative in “The Starving Games,” an 82-minute feature pitilessly padded out with a blooper reel and a protracted credits roll. Judging from the threadbare production values, one might suspect the filmmakers simply couldn’t afford to make a longer film. In all fairness, there are two moderately funny sequences during the final 10 minutes or so, both of them involving well-placed jabs at other movies. In another context, the gags might not seem quite so clever. But they arrive in “The Starving Games” at a point when the audience is, well, famished for anything to laugh at.