To say that movie fans hate Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg comedies would be the understatement of the year. Actually, it would be the understatement of the decade. Actually, it would be the greatest understatement since the dawn of mankind. In fact if you look up the word understatement in the dictionary there is a picture of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer and a detailed explanation of how no feasible means of wording known to humans can encapsulate the hate movie fans feel towards these two men. Thus the word understatement received its understanding based on the unfathomable and indescribable hate that is displayed toward Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Don’t Believe me. Check out some classic quotes films critics and bloggers about the duo.
“Friedberg and Seltzer…are not filmmakers. They are evildoers, charlatans, symbols of Western civilization’s decline…”
- Critic Josh Levin of Slate
“Writer/directors Friedberg and Seltzer are a scourge. They’re a plague on our cinematic landscape, a national shame, a danger to our culture, a typhoon-sized natural disaster disguised as a filmmaking team, a Hollywood monster wreaking havoc on the minds of America’s youth and setting civilization back thousands of years.”
- Josh Rosenblatt of the Austin Chronicle
“In the Adam Sandler vehicle Little Nicky, Hitler spends eternity in Hell in a frilly smock getting pineapples shoved up his butt. Compared to anyone watching Disaster Movie, he got off light. Rushed into production with no better drape for its threadbare gags than Cloverfield—unless you count such proud upholders of the Irwin Allen tradition as Juno, Enchanted, and High School Musical—this carpet-fouling mongrel of a movie no more deserves release than do anthrax spores.”
- Jim Ridley of The Village Voice
“If Judd Apatow is the Jesus of modern comedy, these two are the Anti-Christ – and sadly just as prolific.”
- Garth Franklin of Dark Horizons
From the way they’re described you would think they direct movies featuring hardcore child porn, bestiality, cross burning, necrophilia, hate crimes, incest, prison rape, and terrorist bombings all shown in an edifying light. Why else would they be called the “Anti-Christ” and a “plague upon the cinematic landscape”. Alas, they haven’t done anything that notorious and despicable yet. Their only crime for which they receive such hate and ill will is trying to make people laugh.
Now if you’re a critic and you don’t like their films that’s okay. You don’t have to like the movies that Friedberg and Seltzer make. If they have deficencies as directors point it out, label it, and perhaps they can learn from it. You don’t have to crucify them for it. Really, what is it about their technique that causes such strong hateful reactions? Most would say the problem is that they have no technique. Their films are seen as collections of cheap comedy sketches relying on an overabundance pop culture jokes held together by the tiniest whisper of what could deemed only under very generous circumstances as a plot.
Likewise their humor is seen as purely juvenile relying on an over-abundance of fart jokes and other forms of gross out humor to provoke cheap laughs in their audience. Not the most flattering characteristics but certainly these “shortcomings” aren’t so bad that Friedberg and Seltzer should be blamed for all societal ills. Other comedic directors have been accused of being juvenile (Farrelly Brothers, John Waters) but they get away without the vilification that is usually heaped on Friedberg and Seltzer. So what makes Friedberg and Seltzer such targets?
A lot of it has to do with success. Friedberg and Seltzer’s movies, despite their low critical pedigree, are almost always successful and often premiere number 1 at the box office. They find success using the low budget horror movie formula. This formula stipulates that a small budget will be spent sparingly on sets, actors, and special effects with the majority of ingenuity and funds focused on producing grandiose memorable kills. Replace kills with jokes and you’ve got the Friedberg Seltzer formula. They work the same successful formula as low budget horror filmmakers but sadly don’t get the same respect low budget horror films do.
Horror film freaks will sit up and defend the latest gore fest with impassioned arguments stressing the appeal and worth of good camp cinema and the cathartic release that horror films (even low budget ones) provide. The strange thing is their arguments are not only heard but generally accepted and seen as valid. However you won’t find that same kind of respect extended toward the low tier comedy of Friedberg and Seltzer. Yes their sets are cheap, the actors stock, and special effects abysmal, but the jokes (i.e. kills) can often be smart, scathing, and gut-bustingly funny. If people are willing to admit that Sally getting her head chopped off at least provides a tiny jolt of excitement, then they should be willing to admit that Friedberg and Seltzer are occasionally able to tickle their very fickle funny bone.
Sadly, in today’s overly sophisticated Apatow or bust comedic landscape there doesn’t seem to be room for anything else, which is sad, since it’s the Apatow formula for comedy that leaves a lot lacking. What is the Apatow formula? It involves getting a bunch of comedic actors together to crack jokes about everything under the sun, while remembering to throw in a cheap maudlin plot point (cancer, birth, growing old, virginity) to appease (fool) the critics into thinking something worth while is happening. If people were actually honest with themselves they would see that Friedberg and Seltzer are not all that different from Apatow.
Both gather a collection of comedians together and let them crack jokes on a bunch of scatter-shot topics with the illusion of a plot running underneath. The difference is Friedberg and Selzter have no pretensions about what they do, whereas Apatow, who is a less ambitious and talented version of James L. Brooks, is considered to be the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, Richard Pryor, and the second coming all wrapped up in one. Neither filmmakers can produce a good plot but only Friedberg and Seltzer are persecuted for it. Apatow can afford the more expensive sets and cast more famous comedies so he gets more credit while Friedberg and Seltzer are stuck in the comedy ghetto.
I wonder if you could step outside of the Apatow box and open your mind. I going to present to you 10 of the funniest movie moments from Friedberg and Seltzer-directed films (Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie, Vampires Suck). Yes, there will be farting, dancing and pop culture jokes galore. If you feel that you are too much above this kind of material then I don’t think you’ll get much out of it. However, if you like to laugh and don’t care how that laughter is brought about then you should have a wonderful time. Hey, if Mel brooks can find the humour in farting, dancing and pop culture jokes, then you and I should be able to as well.
Here are 10 funny moments from Seltzer and Friedberg movies…
This article was first posted on January 14, 2013