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Friday, June 27, 2008

305 -- DVD review by porfle

If you haven't already seen the smash hit YouTube video "305", which has gotten several million hits since its July 2007 debut, then you may want to do so now--I'll wait.

Okay, now that you're back, you may be interested to know that this clever take-off on the recent Spartans vs. Persians epic 300 has been expanded into a feature-length mockumentary, also titled 305 (2008). The plus-five guys are the same group of cowardly rejects from the earlier short, ordered by King Leonidas to guard a goat path but ultimately responsible for the defeat of the Spartan army. They're forced into hiding, but two years later, as Persia prepares to launch a final assault on Sparta, our five non-heroes--Claudius, Darryl, Shazaam, Demetrius the Blind, and Testiclees--must band together once again in order to thwart the enemy and save the day.

It sounds stupid, and it is. It's also pretty funny--not riotous, but about as funny as good sketch comedy like SCTV or Mr. Show, with a wonderfully deadpan absurdity that carries almost every scene. With elements of THE OFFICE and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, the satirical targets include LORD OF THE RINGS, THE MATRIX, and THE ODYSSEY, among other things.

When Claudius is kidnapped from his job at a family restaurant called Spartie's and imprisoned by the Persians, the rest of the group set off on a perilous journey to rescue him, encountering such characters as an angry giant and a huckster who sells them worthless crap like "invisibility powder" in exchange for their food and water. Meanwhile, Claudius cheerfully endures endless whippings ("it's like hundreds of tiny kisses") while organizing several of the guards into an enthusiastic book club.

The five main characters are wonderfully fleshed out for the feature. Tim Larson is great as the portly Claudius, with his ever-present coffee cup that never seems to run out. Co-scripter Brandon Tyra plays the comparatively competent Testiclees like a dazed beach bum. Sunny Peabody is Demetrius the Blind, now tickling the ivories in a tavern along with his faithful dog Zeus. Ed Portillo plays the ethnically-ambiguous Shazaam, and Heaven Peabody rounds out the group as Testiclees' love interest, Aurillia. On the Persian side, Les Jennings is the comically nasty commander (his pep talk to the troops includes the reminder "Charge in the same direction as everyone else"), and Nate Hopkins returns as the scary guy with the carrot sticking out of his forehead.

My favorite, though, is the supremely conceited yet grossly stupid and cowardly Darryl (David Schultz). Darryl seems to enjoy the Persians' dreaded Purple Nurple torture a little too much, and when the mystical Oracle that they seek for guidance turns out to be a wildly flamboyant "he-she" who prances like Britney Spears, it's love at first sight for the clueless Darryl. Visually, he's like a pudgy office drone at a medieval-themed costume party.

The audio and (1:85:1) video are much like that of the YouTube short, only bigger. Almost the whole movie uses green screen with lush, well-rendered backdrops, giving it an agreeably cartoonish quality. In addition to two (directors and cast) commentaries, bonuses include the original short, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted material (including an alternate ending and an electrocution scene that should've been in the final cut), and bloopers.

With a very small budget and limited resources, directors Daniel and David Holecheck have managed to put together a pretty nifty comedy here. There's even a fairly good battle scene at the end, and an overall sense of imaginative fun throughout. 305 may not be non-stop uproarious hilarity, but it's so good-natured and loaded with goofy gags, slapstick, and funny dialogue (much of it improvised) that I couldn't help but enjoy it. Not bad for an expanded YouTube video.

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