Monday, September 22, 2008

Disaster Movie

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Aaron & Jason.

You don't need me to tell you that Disaster Movie is an emotionally and spiritually ugly affront to cinema, an incoherent and sickening swirl of pop culture references mixed lackadaisically with bathroom humor so unfunny and so loathsome as to be considered among the ten worst movies of the decade. You know this and dozens of critics have wasted their time writing slightly different versions of the same review saying so. If you so desire you can even read a scene-by-scene synopsis of the entire picture (and I will confirm that the three references in that synopsis to "five-minute" sequences are not exaggerating at all).

But no, that review would be a waste of time. I am here instead to analyze the collective series of Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Disaster Movie and proclaim my appreciation and dare I say love for writer / director duo Aaron Seltzer & Jason Friedberg.

It goes without saying that they are the worst filmmakers in the history of the medium, but it should also be clarified that they are the single worst artists who have ever worked in any medium since the first caveman drew in the sand - film, literature, painting, photography, poetry, architecture, sculpture, video games - drawing together every human who has ever tried their hand at any tangible creative effort, Aaron & Jason stand proudly above (below?) the fray as the absolute worst, a logical nadir that can and must never be topped.

And so it seems that their bi-yearly movie would inspire only tears from me, a lover of film comedy who believes the genre is currently basking in a new golden age. But no. Aaron & Jason serve a valuable and perhaps necessary purpose in the collective cinematic dialogue, and when they make Iron Man, the Hulk, and Hellboy appear and get crushed by cows one after another and Indiana Jones appear as a black midget, it operates as a bottoming-out and a point of harmony for film nerds everywhere.

You see, the Internet is a contentious medium; anonymity allows for people to express their opinions loudly and aggressively with excessive profanity while declaring that anyone who disagrees with their views on a film is a piece of shit douchebag faggot who should get AIDS and die in a gutter. Ergo disagreements on message boards quickly escalate, even the most popular film has loud, angry detractors, and few opinions seem truly ubiquitous amidst the infinite, ever-expanding flame war, a civil war that seemed headed for inevitable apocalypse.

But Aaron & Jason proudly rose above the fray and saved us from ourselves, and every six months when a new movie rolls around there is a blissful truce as everyone joins hands to unite in hatred and loathing against them. And for a moment, there is peace - no e-voices are raised, no insults are flung, and all discussion turns to a similar tone of disgusted ire all directed towards Aaron & Jason. Their attack on the medium unites us. Their awfulness begets harmony.

Case in point: on the movie message board I frequent, the Disaster Movie thread had over a thousand replies over the three or four months before the film's release. The only movies all summer that had more disucssion were The Dark Knight, Iron Man, WALL•E, and Indiana Jones - an impressive feat for a film everyone claimed to detest the very existence of. People talked of their hatred for Aaron & Jason, lamented the poor writing and production values of the film, predicted jokes. Screenings were organized, people went to see the movie and documented the experience, it was a spectacular event unto its own. Aaron & Jason's lack of talent gets people talking, agreeing, organizing.

Not to mention that the work of Aaron & Jason lifts up everything around it. Like the morbidly obese friend of an average-looking girl whose proximity makes the latter seem quite the goddess, Disaster Movie and its predecessors make every other comedy in theaters seem incredibly vibrant, funny, and creative. I saw College and thought it was a weak Animal House wannabe that should have gone straight to DVD. Then I saw Disaster Movie and College was retroactively filled with rich characters, clever jokes, energy, and excellent cinematography. The same could also be said of The House Bunny, let alone legitimately good comedies like Tropic Thunder, Hamlet 2, or Pineapple Express, which while you're watching Disaster Movie seem to be among the greatest masterpieces since the advent of film.

You see, Aaron & Jason nobly sacrifice their own good standing amongst humanity to make every other comedy ever made seem better. Other comedies merely try to muscle their way to the top of the crowd, try to win some laughs, try to make a little money. They exist unto themselves and do not effect other comedies. Disaster Movie shuns these obvious notions of humor and self-respect and instead harnesses its grotesque awfulness as a sort of fulcrum and lever with which it lifts up an entire genre. Amazing!

It may be coming to an end, though: the caliber of stars in this series has slowly but steadily declined over the years. Date Movie was actually starring a bona fide if minor celebrity, Alyson Hannigan. Epic Movie had Kal Penn, Jennifer Coolidge, and Crispin Glover. Meet the Spartans had only former Hercules Kevin Sorbo. Now Disaster Movie leans on an uncomfortable ensemble of minor MADtv players with no other film experience, amateur porn star Kim Kardashian, and someone called G. Thang, with black midget Tony Cox by far the biggest celebrity to appear onscreen at any point.

Between this and the declining box office revenue I have a feeling that Aaron & Jason's next spoof will be Straight-to-DVD Movie, a downgrade which might be the end of the collective mass anger over their work - a theatrical film is an imposing event, with theatrical previews and commercials and posters and websites and advertising. A straight-to-DVD movie is like a picture on the wall; if you don't care for it, it is easily ignored, and discussion will atrophy to a scant, negligible fraction of what it is now. The truce will sadly be ended.

But if Disaster Movie proves the end of their theatrical journey, I must thank Aaron & Jason for the ride. Their unspeakably awful movies have allowed us, as a species, to step back and re-acknowledge the beauty of the other films we have. The proximity of such pungent feces makes us admire the sweet aroma of the flowers all the more. Aaron & Jason united us. They brought us together. They made us look within ourselves and realize that we are better than this. And they did it all without winning one legitimate laugh in the process. I salute them.

1 Star out of 5

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