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Seth MacFarlane: Our Next A-list Comedy Filmmaker?

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We’ve known for years now that Seth MacFarlane was one of the kings of animated television comedy, but it was only a few years ago that we saw him conquer cinemas as well with his directorial debut Ted. The film was hilarious, clever, and better received by critics than anyone was expecting. In a heartbeat, MacFarlane had the keys to the Hollywood comedy kingdom. Obviously, sequels to Ted will follow soon enough, but this week will see the release of his sophomore outing, the Western spoof A Million Ways to Die in the West. As a huge Mel Brooks and Blazing Saddles fan, I’m all for people trying to follow that path. If the movie is a success this weekend, could MacFarlane be on his way to surpassing Judd Apatow as the biggest comedic filmmaker out there?

To be fair, that’s not exactly an apt comparison. Apatow and MacFarlane are both masters of different crafts, with the former also someone who consistently has his hands in more pies and seems to have somewhat artier ambitions at times. They’re also shooting at different audiences now too. The people that came out in droves for The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up aren’t the same targets for Funny People and This is 40. In fact, they’re the target audience for Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West. If his latter work is a bit hit, MacFarlane will certainly be able to at least stake the claim that there’s nobody bigger in comedy today than him.

While his work is far from highbrow, I think his writing doesn’t get enough credit. I’ve seen A Million Ways to Die in the West at this point, and while it’s not a total gut buster, it’s very funny and a few of the jokes made me laugh fairly loudly. He’s got a talent for getting you to giggle at things you normally wouldn’t. He’s no Brooks, but it’s at least a similar sort of skill set.

Ideally, I’d say that he should focus on writing and directing as opposed to having to star in his projects, since with a slightly more focused director’s eye, he could really wind up a true filmmaker. Right now he’s still getting the hang of that, but if his direction can catch up to his writing, well…that’d really be something. The visuals of A Million Ways to Die in the West are the first step there.

It’ll be a few years before we truly know where MacFarlane stands, but if at least one other original project besides a Ted sequel becomes a hit, we’ll know that he’s officially in the top tier of comedy filmmakers and could very well be the king of them, at least at that moment. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to see where his career goes. If nothing else, we know he has a comfortable home on television with Family Guy and his other shows.

Right now, we have A Million Ways to Die in the West hitting this weekend to entertain comedy fans. From there, what happens next is anyone’s guess. MacFarlane has the world on a string though, so I’m eager to see what he does next…

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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