Somehow the news that spoof-teurs Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg are churning out yet another piece of their trademark low-hanging fruit with a Fast and Furious send-up called Superfast had so far eluded me, at least until THR posted a casting notice about the film’s newly-minted leads. Friedberg and Seltzer’s brand of parody doesn’t work for me (and never has), simply because their kind of amalgamation has never struck me as particularly smart or inspired. It’s dartboard filmmaking, scripts seemingly put together by way of a flying stick that determines when, where, and how various recent films get crammed into one “script.”
Parodies can work, and work well – see Hot Shots, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, or MacGruber for proof positive of that – but only if their enjoyment is not determined by how familiar you are with the films they are spoofing. Take a look at the features parodied in Seltzer and Friedberg’s Date Movie, which Wikipedia lists as including My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Seven Year Itch, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Hitch, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, Kill Bill, King Kong, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, When Harry Met Sally, Along Came Polly, and The Princess Diaries – this film was dated before it even hit the big screen (Along Came Polly? Really?). Basically, if a spoof isn’t funny on its own, it’s not funny.
Friedberg and Seltzer’s films are not funny. They are, however, profitable.
The duo are known for making cheap films – and “cheap” in every sense of the word – which is what keeps them bankable enough to keep churning out their specific brand of schlock. Friedberg and Seltzer have directed seven films together so far (including both the upcoming The Starving Games and Best Night Ever, which are classified as completed) and their career shows no signs of abating. Of those five released films – Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie, and Vampires Suck – none have surpassed a budget of $30m (and only Meet the Spartans actually did that, and is currently the lone break from the typical $20m budget) and only one of them (Disaster Movie) didn’t crack the $80m mark when it comes to worldwide box office receipts. They don’t cast big name “stars,” instead dotting their features with somewhat recognizable enough actors, bad cameos, and total unknowns. They utilize acceptable production value and don’t take too long to make their films. They don’t care that critics absolutely hate them.
Friedberg and Seltzer also penned two other spoofs – Spy Hard and the first Scary Movie – before jumping into the director’s chair(s), and both of those films were also comparably massive hits (Spy Hard made nearly $100m worldwide, and Scary Movie earned a boggling $278m at the box office).
The films are cheap indeed, but they pay.
The pair’s next three films – their Hunger Games spoof (The Starving Games, naturally), a seeming send-up of Bridesmaids (Best Night Ever), and that inevitable Superfast (how has it taken this long to chew up a franchise that already has six films in release?) – won’t break with tradition. They’ll draw from far bigger and better features, they’ll be cheap, they’ll be “cheap,” they’ll be populated by unknowns, they’ll make their budget back with ease. And, better yet, you won’t have to see them if you don’t want to.