For the past year, Austin’s Master Pancake Theater has been petitioning Summit for the rights to give Twilight– a film in desperate need of the Master Pancake treatment–a very public shaming. Finally, after several requests to mock the film in front of an audience were denied, Summit relented. For the next few weeks, Master Pancake will be tearing Twilight to shreds for your viewing pleasure, and we were lucky enough to catch one of the shows last night. Read on for our full review of Master Pancake Theater’s Twilight takedown, my gentle Examiner readers…
When I met Master Pancake Theater’s John Erler last month, he was already talking about how excited the group was to have finally been given the chance to take on Twilight. They’d been trying to get permission from Summit– the company that holds the rights to the film– for months, and after a series of denied requests, they’d finally been given the go-ahead. Having had a few run-in’s with the Twilight fanbase in the past, I cautioned Erler: Twilight fans don’t like it when Twilight gets made fun of, and he might very likely have a riot on his hands once the Twi-hards saw what he and the rest of the Master Pancake crew had planned for the series of shows.
In case you’re unfamiliar with how Austin’s Master Pancake Theater works: a film is chosen by the group– and, generally, it’s the sort of movie that invites mockery, like The Happening or The Matrix, or any other movie with the balls to take itself too seriously– and then screened at one of the Alamo Drafthouse’s locations. Erler and company sit up front with a trio of microphones, offering running commentary (read: jokes) on the film unspooling on the screen above. Imagine Mystery Science Theater 3000 done live– with a bit more swearing, and a few clever edits thrown into the film to jazz the whole thing up a bit– and you won’t be too far off.
When my date and I arrived, we discovered a line stretched out the Alamo’s front door, down the sidewalk, and into the parking lot. The Twilight fans were out in full-force, but all seemed to have a pretty good attitude about what was going to happen. When I got inside, I asked Erler how the performances had been going thus far, and he told me the response had been across-the-board fantastic. When asked whether or not the Twi-hards seemed to be dealing well with their beloved franchise being so ruthlessly mocked, he said, “Yeah, no death threats or anything like that.” This, as you well know, is always good news.
Before the show, Master Pancake Theater had the audience select their “drinking phrase” for the night– that’s the phrase that everyone yells out (and drinks to) whenever something specific happens onscreen; last night, we were watching for extreme close-ups on anyone’s eyes, something that happens in Twilight far more often than you might believe– and the audience selected “Bite Me”. The audience then selected a volunteer to appear in the group’s mid-movie sketch, and in a strange twist, a 10 year-old girl got picked for the job: The Alamo Drafthouse had apparently disregarded their “No Persons Under the Age of 18” policy for last night’s show.
And then: Twilight. Having never seen the film before, I didn’t know what to expect beyond a film that I probably wouldn’t enjoy without Master Pancake’s commentary. As it turns out, that’s precisely what I got: Twilight is a terrible movie, far worse than I ever could have predicted. It’s been years since the film was released, though, and by now no small amount of people have spent a bajillion words online spreading the word about the film’s awfulness, so it’d be kinda pointless to pile on with another two paragraphs’ worth of ridicule. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Shockingly enough, I didn’t find Robert Pattinson to be the weakest link in the Twilight chain. Kristen Stewart– an actress that I previously had no opinion of– turns in a shockingly ham-fisted performance here. Having seen the third Twilight film (don’t ask), I know that she’s improved in the few years since this first film arrived, but…man, she’s just laughably bad. Master Pancake made sure to point out every time she chewed on her lip in an effort to appear thoughtful or emotionally tortured, which was frequently (the online claims that Stewart appears to be constipated throughout the film are dead-on). And, when the moment came where Bella had to protest Edward’s decision to leave her side, Erler told us, “Now watch this. Kristen Stewart’s about to give us a master-class on acting”: She did not disappoint.
Obviously, I’m pre-disposed to dislike this movie– it’s just not my thing– but if the Twilight fans really think that Stewart performed well here, they’re kidding themselves. Heavily. More alarming, however, was the direction. There were moments in this film that I simply couldn’t believe I was seeing: the “vampires playing baseball” scene, or the pseudo-dream sequence where Edward and Bella are filmed in a misty, gauzy-looking room while Edward plays the piano (it looked like a deleted scene from Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” video), or the scene where Edward scampers up and down trees with Bella affixed to his back like a spider-monkey. On paper, these scenes are ridiculous. On the screen, they’re unbelievably ridiculous.
I’ve always had trouble understanding the draw of the Twilight franchise, but seeing the first film in the series only exacerbated that. Thank God Master Pancake was leading the charge, because there’s no way I would’ve been able to get through the film (unless, of course, a bottle of tequila was involved). This was– without a doubt– the best performance I’ve seen from Master Pancake yet, and it was obvious that they were relishing the experience. They’ve been waiting to give this series what-for for a long, long time, and they really brought their A-game when the opportunity arose. Like any comedy writers, Master Pancake Theater doesn’t always land every punch, but I can’t recall a single weak spot in their “script” for last night’s show.
The show was so good, in fact, that I’m strongly considering going back for seconds…even if it means seeing Twilight for a second time. Master Pancake Theater will be destroying Twilight in theaters for the next week-and-a-half or so, so if you’re in the Austin area between now and the end of the month, you need to pick up tickets immediately. If you’re a fan of this franchise, it couldn’t hurt to poke fun at the thing you love, and if you’re a Twi-hater, you’ll be enormously pleased with what Master Pancake Theater has done with the film (especially the moment involving Footloose; you’ll know it when you see it).
My grade? For Twilight: F+ (the “plus” is for the “vampires playing baseball” scene, which I will never forget). For Master Pancake Theater’s Twilight edition: A+.
UPDATE: By the way, I saw Master Pancake’s Twilight with the lovely Amy Curtis, also of echoflam.com. She’s the “Austin Movie Examiner”, and you can read her write-up on the event RIGHT HERE. Y’know, just in case you want a second-opinion. And, if you’re looking for solid movie news, there are few echoflam.com writers working today that make for such consistently good reading, so do Ms. Curtis a favor and subscribe to her page. You don’t just wanna read about comedy all the time, do ya?
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