Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg are a pair of writer/directors that collaborate with each other on all of their projects. They create comedic movies that parody and reference pop culture in the Zucker, Abrams and Zucker style of rapid-fire gags without concern for the overarching plot or characterization.
Their first official project was the 1996 Leslie Nielsen spy parody Spy Hard. It received a lukewarm reception and little notice at the box office. Their next contribution to parody films was one of the many scripts that was folded into the first Scary Movie. The duo finally attracted commercial success on their own with the 2006 film Date Movie. While panned by critics, the film made back triple its meager budget and secured them a contract to do a couple more films. They became known for turning out simple, cheap, and quickly produced parody films during the mid-late 2000s, releasing Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Disaster Movie back to back over 2007 and 2008, the latter two films coming out within mere months of each other. Their movies were routinely Not Screened for Critics. The few critics that did see them had nothing but scorn for them. However, the duo's successes tend to involve the low-cost of their movies (not a one of them has a budget over $20 million) and their release dates during the typical Dump Months of January and February when the competition is light and a film simply cashing in on a pop culture craze can stand out.
After Disaster Movie flopped even by their standards (largely due to popping up in August, which has become a much more crowded Dump Month in recent years), they took a short break before jumping on board the Twilight train with Vampires Suck. While the latter was still not well received, it did slightly better critically than their previous couple of films and returned them to box office glory. They have since released two more projects, Best Night Ever and The Starving Games, the latter a clear parody of The Hunger Games. While their output has slowed since their heyday, they've hardly stopped.
Due to the nature of their films largely being simplistic parodies of whatever is popular at the time, a number of other parody films in the same style have been wrongly attributed to them. This includes Not Another Teen Movie, Superhero Movie (which was in fact by a different pair of Scary Movie alumni), and Dance Flick (which was actually the Wayans brothers).
This duo tends to attract writing just as negative as their own, so the page is locked.
Their work provides examples of:
- Artifact Title: Some of the films have issues with the titles not really representing the content being parodied. As the making-of materials on Disaster Movie revealed, this is because the films change rather rapidly in production and the title is simply meant to cover what the filmmakers expect to be the most marketable element.
- Black Comedy:
- Jokes about the most recent deaths of celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith in Meet The Spartans.
- In Disaster Movie, Juney chugs vodka, breakdances on her belly, and she and her unborn child get ripped apart by rabid wildlife from the popular disaster film Alvin and the Chipmunks.
- In Disaster Movie, there was a big bottle of Ambien and a wine glass, which could be a reference to Heath Ledger's death. Rumors also circulated that they wanted to be more direct based on casting the role of the Joker, but the deleted scene in question was actually just the character making out with some guy in a reference to Brokeback Mountain.
- A recurring theme in Meet the Spartans is violence against children. Not over-the-top ridiculous violence or violence for the sake of social commentary... just plain, down-to-earth violence. People are expected to laugh at kids having chairs broken over their backs?
- The Cameo: Carmen Electra appears in all of these movies (and plays a major role in Meet The Spartans) making her, for want of a better term, the series mascot.
- Crack Fic: Most of the X Meets Y formulas for the Seltzer and Friedberg are bizarre beyond belief, with the very few threads connecting them being that they were in the public's zeitgeist by the time the film was created. For example, "Meet The Spartans" was 300 combined with Meet the Parents. As The Nostalgia Critic eloquently asked: "What the fuck do those two things have in common?!"
- Creator Killer: Disaster Movie was their only movie to bomb both critically and financially, and since then, their output has been far more sporadic.
- Designated Girl Fight: Happens quite a bit in these movies, although the male characters absolutely Would Hit a Girl.
- Deus ex Machina: The ending of Epic Movie. When it looks like Peter is going to lose, he just randomly finds the magic remote from Click in the grass, (which, he of course helpfully tells the audience, is the remote from Click).
- Disposable Woman: Lisa in Disaster Movie, though the characters' grief doesn't last for very long.
- Distressed Damsel: Amy (Vanessa Minnillo), also from Disaster Movie being an expy of Beth from Cloverfield.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Every single reference will be explained flatly to the audience. The Soup made fun of this with a parody of the movies entitled "Reference Movie" in which every character parody explained who they were and said "Get it?"
- Drop the Cow: Literally in Disaster Movie — three cows fall on different superheroes during the tornado scene, and another falling cow caps off the Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number.
- DVD Commentary: Two film critics who did not like the movie were hired to commentary Date Movie. Highlights include pin-pointing exactly where movies like Airplane! succeeded while Date Movie failed. The directors themselves did a commentary for one of their films that started out informative, but quickly turned into a tongue-in-cheek bullshitting contest.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: All of their films are fairly straight-forward in the title, even excusing for the tenuous connections the films themselves have to their titles.
- Fan Disservice:
- The amount of times they show a woman with extreme cellulite is just downright disturbing.
- The naked "Flavor Flav" is not something anyone wants to see.
- Follow the Leader: Spanish Movie, Superhero Movie, and Dance Flick. Sometimes, these guys are mistakenly credited for the latter two.
- Genre-Killer: You could argue that the spoof genre would have died out in the late 2000s regardless, as audience tastes moved to "bromance" films, ensemble pieces and more intellectual comedies, not to mention the rise in popularity of quickly-produced (and, therefore, more topical) web-based comedy, but Seltzer and Friedberg helped completely drive the genre into the ground, with Disaster Movie being seen as the one that officially signified its death. These days, most spoof movies are relegated to Direct-To-Video or digital.
- Humongous Mecha: In Meet the Spartans. It even has a TV screen on its chest playing Chris Crocker's Britney Spears rant. For no reason.
- I Ate WHAT?!: In Epic Movie, Edward notices what he thinks is the chocolate river, and quickly gulps some "chocolate" up in enjoyment. After a beat, Willy points out, "That's actually the sewer line," causing Edward to gag in disgust.
- Informed Flaw: The main character of Date Movie is "389 pounds, smokes a thousand cigarettes a day, and drinks like Tara Reid". While the first one is quite visible (and gets quickly removed via magic liposuction), she is never shown smoking or binge drinking. At all. Maybe an unmentioned rehab session happened some time during the liposuction?
- Inherently Funny Words: Meet The Spartans was called Spartatouille (pronounced "Sparta-too-eee") in France.
- Magic Pants: Parodied, of course, with The Incredible Hulk. Then a cow falls on him.
- Monster Misogyny: Juno getting eaten by chipmunks.
- Narrow Parody: The movies "parodied" are often only one or two years old. For example, Disaster Movie had parodies of Juno, Hannah Montana, Iron Man, Sex and the City, The Incredible Hulk, Kung Fu Panda, Hellboy, The Dark Knight, Hancock, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Superbad, High School Musical, The Simpsons Movie, The Love Guru, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Enchanted, Wanted, Beowulf, Night at the Museum, Jumper, and 10,000 BC. None of these movie were older than a year at the time, and many were in fact released after Disaster Movie hit theaters.
- Negative Continuity:
- Main characters in Epic Movie suffer numerous life-threatening and traumatic injuries and are just fine in the next scene.
- Disaster Movie has a character get all covered in shit....only for him to be clean in the next scene. And "water breaking" (which in this case means "everybody is covered in foam").
- The two scenes where "Enchanted Princess" is mutilated by broken glass...
- No Budget: Considering the poor quality of their special effects along with how fast they apparently write and produce their films, this should be a given. Following "Vampire's Suck", their later films would be produced on even smaller budgets compared to their Hollywood titles.
- Not Screened for Critics: A tradition for each film, and considering the rather vicious reaction the films tend to get, rather unsurprising.
- Overly Long Gag:
- In Date Movie, a scene involving a hand-puppet cat squirming on a toilet bowl lasts several minutes.
- Amy Winehouse's belch in Disaster Movie.
- Silas shooting Mr. Tumnus to death.
- In Meet the Spartans, they parody the famous "This is Sparta" scene from 300 by... having their Leonidas equivalent kick about ten more people into the well in succession.
- Parody Names: Not often, but they're there.
JunoJuney, the White WitchBitch, Captain Jack SparrowSwallows, etc.
- Production Posse: Usually includes Jerry P. Jacobs and Peter Safran as producers, with regulars like Ike Barinholtz, Crista Flanagan, Carmen Electra or Diedrich Bader as actors. Pixel Magic serves as their usual visual effects contractor.
- Raiders of the Lost Parody: Disaster Movie, like most films made by them, contains a parody of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
- Rapid-Fire Comedy: In the Abrams, Zucker and Abrams style, but most of the time, they throw in near-exact replicas of scenes from other movies instead of jokes.
- Reclusive Artist: Understandably, considering their public reputation, the duo make no spectacle of themselves. They have granted exactly one hour-long phone interview. Beyond that, all we have are two photos floating around the internet and some very cryptic, uninformative DVD commentaries.
- Redundant Parody: Sometimes, they make jokes that were present in the original source material. For example, the Wolverine parody in Epic Movie uses his middle claw to flip Edward the finger. This would be a valid parody of the character... if the real Wolverine didn't do the exact same thing in the first X-Men movie.
- Reference Overdosed: Each film is kind of like seeing about a hundred different movies, TV shows, music videos, viral memes, and other pop culture artifacts squeezed into ~80 minutes. See the Narrow Parody entry above for a short list of examples from one film.
- Say My Name: Disaster Movie features several characters doing nothing more than yelling their names, y'know, so you understand who they are. The best way to parody something is to explain exactly what it is you're parodying!"I AM IRONMAN!""I am Prince Caspian!"" I! AM! BEOWULF!
- Tongue on the Flagpole: In Epic Movie, complete with the tongue getting torn off. Since the movie has no continuity, the character's tongue is fine anyway for the rest of the film.
- Unintentional Period Piece: One of the main criticisms of their work is that the pop culture jokes that they rely on become outdated within just a few years, with the things that they're parodying having fallen out of the collective consciousness. A few of their gags had fallen out of memory before the respective movie came out. Their tendency to base brief parodies on the trailers to movies that wouldn't be released until well into their own production probably has something to do with it.
- Universal Remote Control: Epic Movie has a parody of the Click remote, which the characters use to win the battle of Narnia.
- Vulgar Humor:
- What Could Have Been:
- The duo were the first choice to write and direct Scary Movie 3, but turned in a script that barely parodied horror films at all, and instead mostly spoofed Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. In the duo's defence their script was written in 2001, which was an awful year for the horror genre — there were no real high-profile horror releases at all that year, outside of The Others and Jeepers Creepers, and maybe Hannibal and Donnie Darko if you're being generous — but the studio quickly realized that they were more interested in just getting cheap laughs from whatever happened to be popular rather than sticking to what they were actually meant to be spoofing, resulting in them being canned and replaced by David Zucker.
- They spent several years trying to sell a script for a straightforward Liberace biopic, only forfeiting when Behind the Candelabra was produced.
- The were supposed to make The Biggest Movie of All Time 3D, a spoof of Avatar, but nothing came of it outside of some pre-production work.
- After Epic Movie, they had plans to helm A Christmas Carol-style holiday comedy that was sold as a star vehicle for Rainn Wilson, but was cancelled days before production would've started due to budget concerns from New Regency.