There are only five moviegoers attending this 10:00 pm Tuesday evening showing of the latest Marvel summer blockbuster film. The film has been out for a few weeks already, so some of the excitement has worn off and not a huge number of people like going out so late on a weeknight.
Two of the five members in the audience just got off work at 9:00 pm. Bob Anderson and Lisa Curbowski had a long, stressful day patrolling the streets of the South side of Chicago, and they’d both repeatedly talked about wanting to see Doctor Strange but had not yet gotten around to it. They’ve both been painstakingly avoiding all potential spoilers online, going so far as to delete their social media apps so they wouldn’t accidentally have the movie’s biggest surprises ruined before they could experience it on the bigscreen.
This is Bob’s 4th year as a police officer, and Lisa’s 5th. It’s their 3rd year as partners. Talking (and arguing) about movies has been one of the things that has kept them sane and grounded during some of their more intense shifts and bad days.
Their first week together on patrol, there was a lot of silence, and neither one was sure whether they could get along with the other, but they ended up bonding one night at a 7-Eleven after a car chase, listing off their opinions on the worst films of all time. They each counted down their top 5 worst movies, naming different choices, but then both yelled “Jinx!” as they named “The Epic Movie” as the absolute worst thing to be shown at theaters.
Earlier that day, they had the most terrifying day of their lives. The officers were the first on the scene responding to 9-1-1 calls of a mass shooting in-progress at a restaurant, seeing the horror scenes the active shooter left in his wake. They had their guns pointed at the shooter in the kitchen, but he was wearing Kevlar and had his thumb pressed against what looked like a trigger for an explosive device he had on his belt. Fearing a mass casualty event from his bomb, the police officers allowed him to run out of the fire exit and hop into a bright yellow Hummer he had driven to the restaurant before he started shooting.
As several other first responders had now arrived on the scene to help the victims and secure the crime scene, Bob and Lisa ran to their patrol car (a modified Dodge Charger) and sped after the shooter, determined to stop him before he can make it to any other location for a 2nd mass shooting. They were successful, and after a trial, the shooter, who was unsurprisingly revealed to be a member of a white supremacist militia, was sentenced to life in prison.
Things like that are the reason why Bob and Lisa are so happy to just be able to escape reality for a little while through watching that British actor whose name they can never pronounce (or spell) correctly – Is it Benadryl Cucumberpulse, or maybe Babyeyes Cablepatch? Now, the lights have dimmed, and the trailers just ended. But there is a loud “CLANK” sound, and the familiar “Marvel” intro has changed into “Regency Enterprises,” and Bob and Lisa give each other a worried look.
The two officers, still in their uniforms, scream out to the other three attendees, warning them to get out of the theater now, while they still have a chance. The three of them, not knowing what is happening, suspecting the worst, like a fire or shooting, make a hasty trot toward the illuminated emergency exits.
They only thought that a fire or shooting would be the worst thing possible in a movie theater. None of them could have suspected that “The Epic Movie” was about to be shown in a movie theater for the first time since that infamous year of 2007.
“At least we got those three people out safely and unscarred before any permanent damage was done,” Lisa says to Bob. Bob replies, “Now we must get ourselves out of here and find the culprit of this heinous act.” But just before they could stand up from their seats, a voice comes over the speakers inside the auditorium saying, “Hello again, Officers. So nice to see your lovely faces once again. Remember me? The man whose life you destroyed? Well, I just wanted to do something to you that would be of an equal level of horror as prison was for me.”
Lisa and Bob give each other a knowing glance, realizing this must be that mass shooter they helped put away for life a few years ago. But how the hell did he get out of prison, they whisper to themselves.
“If you try to stand up and escape your punishment, keep in mind that I have rigged explosives underneath your seats. If you get out of your seat before the lights come back on after the movie, it will be KA-BOOM for you two! When the lights come back on, you will be free to go. That is, if you still want to live after witnessing this film!”
Bob begins crying, his hands cupping his cheeks. He is shaking his head side-to-side, mumbling “I can’t do this, I won’t be able to make it, I’m not strong enough.” Lisa, mustering all of her courage, finds the inner strength to lie to Bob, and comfort him by saying “We will make it through. We have to. We are proud members of the Chicago PD. We don’t give in or give up for anything, no matter the circumstances!”
At 20 minutes into the movie, Bob has had a rash break out on his arms and is scratching them nonstop. Lisa is using a handkerchief to try to stop her nosebleed. 40 minutes in, and Lisa has vomited twice. Bob now has a severe eye-twitch in his right eye and his left ear has a throbbing pain. They are just hoping and praying to make it to see the beautiful theater lights come back on.
55 minutes have now passed. Bob and Lisa are dangerously close to qualifying for the Guinness Book of World Records. 66 minutes is the longest that any human being has watched “The Epic Movie” without leaving the theater or ejecting the DVD. Some guy named Daniel in a small Oklahoma theater holds that record, from back in 2007.
But, just as the 58-minute mark approaches, Bob and Lisa, partners and friends, give each other a nod, and holding hands, Bob says a final prayer to Christ and Lisa commends her spirit to HaShem. In perfect unison, they both rise up out of their seats, and the next thing they know, they see a blinding white light and then a guy in a white robe and a checklist on a clipboard is double-checking names and birthdates of the people in the waiting line ahead.
When it is their turn, Saint Peter introduces himself, verifies their names and birthdates, and then his jaw drops. “Wait a minute! You are Bob and Lisa, right? THE Bob and Lisa, from Chicago?” Bob replies, “Yes, that’s right, but I don’t understand…”
Peter replies, “You two, please step right this way, into the VIP Elevator. You’ve been upgraded to the Executive Suite because of the suffering you’ve been through. I mean, 57.5 minutes of ‘The Epic Movie.’ No one deserves that torture. Say hi to Betty White, Ghandi, and Mother Theresa for me.”