Seth MacFarlane With Ted
Seth MacFarlane is a comedy titan. Not satisfied with ruling Fox's TV animation division, he's also branched out into movies. And he's made three so far: Ted, A Million Ways To Die In The West, and Ted 2. Guess how many of those were pretty solid? A hint is hidden in the title of this column.
Ted, the story of Mark Wahlberg and a talking stuffed bear, has some heart in it. There are plenty of movies about dude friends who have problems with each other whenever one of them gets in a serious relationship. They want to drink beer and compose fart songs, but SHE likes organizing the apartment! Whatever will they do? Ted is still crass, but in centering the conflict around Wahlberg not wanting to abandon a literal stuffed bear, it truly nails home how infantile the whole "bros before respectable type-A females" struggle is. You can still have a fun life and chill with your bear, even if you're married. And those who don't understand that are the true farters.
After Ted, MacFarlane made A Million Ways To Die In The West, which most closely resembles those Leslie Nielsen jokes-every-ten-seconds comedies, with the problem being that MacFarlane doesn't have the warm presence of Nielsen. Nielsen was the comedy genre's beloved uncle, while as an actor, MacFarlane is still its odd half-cousin. Ted 2 is about teddy bear rights, which expands a few jokes into a two-hour movie. It never ends up being as funny or likable as Ted, and feels like it was made not because MacFarlane wanted to make it, but because a Hollywood executive decided that Ted 2 was their only means of finally getting a third Jacuzzi installed.
Eli Roth With Cabin Fever
I'm always hesitant whenever a horror director says they're making a homage to a certain era of horror films. This is usually because they let the homage aspects outweigh the actually-being-a-good-movie aspects. "But it's a homage to '80s slasher films! It's not supposed to be a masterpiece!" Yeah, but it's supposed to be competent and somewhat exciting, instead of a 90-minute declaration that you've seen Sleepaway Camp multiple times.
One of the only really good '80s homages is Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, which is sort of styled after The Evil Dead, but mostly does its own thing. Now, Cabin Fever isn't perfect. Eli Roth's writing would actually peak with Hostel Part II, which is a statement that no man should ever be forced to make. But Cabin Fever feels less like a guy trying to remind you of how great 1983 was, and more like a guy who's trying really, really hard to make a fun, gory horror flick. Plus, it manages to pull off some gross-out moments that are sincerely shocking. Even in the age of things like The Human Centipede trilogy, which is edgy middle-schooler humor brought to life, Cabin Fever can still make you feel weird.
Roth's next film, Hostel, desperately wanted to be like one of the graphic Asian horror films that Roth is a fan of. The biggest difference is that stuff like Takashi Miike's Audition and Kim Jee-woon's I Saw The Devil manage to place interesting stories and dynamic characters around their torture setpieces. Roth's characters are a couple of dumb guys, which is meant to say something about how young American adults kind of treat other countries like playgrounds of vice, but it mostly comes off as Roth needing characters who explicitly won't grow or change, because an arc doesn't really vibe with a drill to the chest.
Roth would later make The Green Inferno, a movie that I saw on opening day because I can't be trusted with my own money or schedule, and his next movie is a Death Wish remake. Remember that series, the one about Charles Bronson putting bullets in crime and crime-related activities? I don't know whose idea it was to give that movie to the guy whose most famous scene involves cutting someone's Achilles tendons, but I feel like it might have been a bad call.
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