Apatow Ups His Game

There have been a couple of recent bellwether showings of Judd Apatow ‘s Funny People (Universal, 7.31) in Los Angeles — a friends-of-Apatow screening plus a research screening that happened (I’m told) about eight days ago. And the word is better than pretty good, “amazing,” “James L. Brooksian,” etc. The leads, of course, are Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, with Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman in supporting.

Possibly an award-level thing, a director friend said this morning, although he was just passing along the chatter. It’s more in the realm of Sandler for Best Actor and Apatow’s script for Best Original Screenplay, he speculated, than a Best Picture shot…but you never know.

So I called a non-vested guy who’s seen it, and here’s what he said: “Really funny, a really sweet movie, a lot of veracity…really a brilliant film. Everybody’s game goes up a lot. It’s a James L. Brooks-level thing and a great role for Adam. It’s a perfect blend of everything Sandler has done in a serious vein. The film could be a bit of a marketing problem because it’s about show business but it’s so real.. It’s about a famous guy, a comedian, having to deal with the fact hat he has no life and nobody to turn to. But he gets better [through a relationship with a younger comic]…it’s basically a love letter to having a family.”

Could be a “marketing problem” because it’s about show business? Average Joes are resolved in their opposition to a movie set in the entertainment community? What kind of stupid-ass attitude is that?

A guy in the Universal loop says he “would argue a bit on the ‘marketing problem’ as the trailer [has] consistently scored tremendously well, no matter what kind of movie it’s shown with. Audiences are really responding very very well so far and the trailer does not dodge the central conceit of the sickness/rebirth.”

I’ve had the script for a long while and have been too lazy to read it. The IMDB synopsis says it’s about “George (Sandler), a very successful stand-up comedian who learns that he has an untreatable blood disorder and is given less than a year to live. Ira (Rogen) is a struggling up-and-coming stand up comedian who works at a deli and has yet to figure out his onstage persona. One night they perform at the same club and George takes notice of Ira, and hires him to be his semi-personal assistant as well as his friend.”

94 thoughts on “Apatow Ups His Game

  1. The script read like a raunchy James L. Brooks/Cameron Crowe dramatic comedy. I’m not surprised it turned out good…

  2. Why is this surprising? Apatow’s other two films that are 100% his are both outstanding – funny, sweet, a cut above any other rom-coms around.

  3. Doesn’t surprise me.

    The guy worked on Larry Sanders, Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared.

    As a fan of those latter shows in particular I think it’s great to see that a) they’ve all stuck together and b) they’re getting their due.

    I think the success of the last few years- the way he’s become sort of a brand – has obscured the talent underneath a bit. He’s still only actually directed two films and its worth remembering before lumping him in with Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and all the other films (funny or not) which he was not the main driver for.

    I also think Sandler is talented when reigned in from doing his Idiot Manchild shtick so I have high hopes for this flick.

  4. Could be a “marketing problem” because it’s about show business? Average Joes are resolved in their opposition to a movie set in the entertainment community? What kind of stupid-ass attitude is that?

    I’m pretty sure what we’re talking about here is history, Jeff. Movies about showbiz tend to underperform, I’m fairly certain.

    I’m surprised they let the movie’s twist slip in the trailer. I wonder when in the movie’s timeline the twist occurs.

  5. People really have no frame-of-reference movie-wise. How is James L. Brooks a marker of quality? The guy’s made some mildly effective (yet utterly conventional) films like Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News and some outright duds like Spanglish, as well as mixed bags like I’ll Do Anything and As Good as it Gets (which, 12 years later, is pretty hard to take). If that’s what Funny People is reminding people of, “amazing” sounds like a bit of a stretch.

  6. I certainly hope it’s that good. I admire Apatow’s talent but have yet to be impressed by his work. Apatow, Rogen, etc. all seem to waste their skills on juvenile dick and pot humor. *yawn* It’s about time one of them grew up.

  7. I’m really interested in this. I enjoyed 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but they felt like a guy trying to find his footing – kind of a weird parallel to his characters. It’s encouraging to hear that he might have really come into his own with this one.

    And Wells, I’m sorry, I seem to be harping on you a lot lately, but a guy gives you the courtesy of his advance opinion on an anticipated summer release, and you write on your blog that he has a “stupid-ass attitude”? That’s a textbook dick move.

  8. ….and also The Tracy Ullman Show and The Simpsons, JD (not films, I grant you).

    For whatever reason people like Cameron Crowe (who has like 2 outright missteps in his career) aspire to be Brooks and value his mentorship.

  9. The Apatow backlash is weird. What is so wrong about the movies he’s produced? They’re funny.

    This decade has been so much better for big-screen comedy than the 90s. All the mad bastard Frat Pack stuff in the early half, and now the Apatow things. Funny films. Or would the anti-Apatow crowd prefer Liar Liar and Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion?

  10. Wells to Televison Tears: I made it perfectly clear that my use of “stupid-ass attitude” refers to any Average Joe who carries around a prejudice about showbiz stories, and not to the guy who passed along this concern. Jesus.

  11. The 90′s were fine. The comedic voices were just spread out more and harder to label:

    Dazed and Confused, Jerry Maguire, Four Weddings, Full Monty, Something about Mary, Boogie Nights, Mrs Doubtfire, City Slickers, Big Lebowski, even Reality Bites…

  12. Sorry, Wells. I thought you were saying you don’t believe that Average Joe’s hold reservations about Hollywood movies, and to believe that they do is a stupid-ass attitude. Apologies.

  13. So hoping this is good.

    I think Apatow has the chops to pull off genuine sentiment and genuine humor simultaneously. Hope I’m right

  14. Fucking horrible poster. Seth Rogen looks like a tool. And in some circumstances I’m sure he would wear that pejorative with pride. But this is not one of those circumstances. That’s just shitty design. Whoever created and signed off on this poster did not earn their money.

    And of course everyone is going to say that it’s amazing and that it’s a work of genius. They have to say that about Apatow right now because he is a top earner. What else are they going to say?

    Of course there’s going to be a backlash against Apatow and Company. Because the product is mediocre. That’s what happens when you praise something incessantly that doesn’t deserve incessant praise. Some people are going to raise their hand and speak up and say, you know what, this shit really isn’t that great. That’s why backlash happens.

  15. Mark, did you really just put Mrs. Doubtfire on a list of great comedies from the 90s? Was Home Alone 2 too lowbrow?

  16. MilkMan wrote:

    Of course there’s going to be a backlash against Apatow and Company. Because the product is mediocre. That’s what happens when you praise something incessantly that doesn’t deserve incessant praise. Some people are going to raise their hand and speak up and say, you know what, this shit really isn’t that great. That’s why backlash happens.

    Not likely this time, because Apatow will do his press blitz for FUNNY PEOPLE and the media will repeat the probable storyline about new artistic maturity.

  17. I do have to agree that generic white people against a flesh-toned background do not make a good look for a teaser poster. Shit looks like they set up a space to take prom photos at the Pottery Barn outlet store.

    I know this is being overly cynical but nothing says ALRIGHT ALREADY GIMME THAT BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY NOM like respectable beige

  18. James L. Brooks and Cameron Crowe have similarly spotty track records. But Brooks never directed anything as specific, finely-honed or idiosyncratic as Singles or Almost Famous. Calling him a “smart commercial voice” is like defending Angelina Jolie’s acting talents by calling her attractive. I’m not condemning Brooks — I acknowledged that he’s made some good movies — but what kind of corrupt film culutre celebrates knowingly shallow, sentimental, dishonest filmmakers, while ignoring filmmakers of genuine value and distinction. While Judd Apatow’s previous films as director were silly and didn’t take themselves very seriously, they were already just as good as Brooks’ finest films.

  19. Sandler’s 15 minutes should have been over 15 years ago.

    Anyone who thinks he’s anything above a marginal talent should get their head examined. The guy has very good people working for him who have learned what the ‘idiot/nitwit masses’ like and exploited it perfectly.

    Get a good script and acting hacks like Kate Hudson can look good too (‘Almost Famous’).

    Looks like Apatow’s quality script gives Sandler another pass as a serviceable actor.

  20. MilkMan, I think 40-Year-Old Virgin surprised a lot of people. We were saturated in standard bullshit over-the-top gross-out comedies at the time and it turned out to be relatively reserved, and without a doubt, funnier.

    Of course Apatow’s not Woody Allen – I don’t think anybody’s making that argument – but comedy lovers have to take what they can get, and some of Apatow and company’s work is light years beyond most of the tripe that gets pushed through the system like a White Castle slider through the arteries of a type-2 diabetic.

  21. On a different note, it’s nice to see Eric Bana finally in a Hollywood comedy. He’s been saddled with the most serious-face roles going since Chopper. It’s about time someone utilized his comic chops.

  22. I agree with your Television, and you too Bosh. Apatow and Company are better than say, the Weitz Brothers, or The Will Ferrel/Owen Wilson Axis, but still, it makes me frustrated how little most people ask of their comedy. All they want is cockpunches and dirty words and people acting stupid and saying stupid things they would never say in real life because in real life it wouldn’t be funny. Ahh…what’s the use. The people have spoken. But I am not in agreement with the people. These movies don’t make me laugh. I don’t know what to do about that. They just don’t. Fuck it.

  23. “it makes me frustrated how little most people ask of their comedy”

    You’re totally right. But I guess I’d rather try to enjoy what I can instead of waiting for the perfect comedy to come along. I don’t hold these films as genius by any stretch of the imagination, but to me they’re decently fleshed out, albeit simple comedies. I do find a good chunk of both his films really funny, and I guess that’s what it boils down to.

    Humor is such a subjective thing, even for people who aren’t idiots. Some of the smartest people I know laugh their asses off at crap like Scary Movie. Granted, they’re not exactly film literate, but it still shocks me to no end. I thought Juno was the most annoying piece of fetus-shit I’ve seen in years, but I was the only one in a crowded theater laughing at the Chinese baby t-shirt gun line. It was the only thing that I laughed at, and I laughed for so long that I had to leave the theater, which was probably a good thing. It’s impossible to state for a fact that something is funny or not. You either laugh, or you don’t.

    Disclaimer: I do realize that I said Virgin was funny in an earlier comment. I was speaking subjectively.

  24. I didn’t know Boogie Nights was meant to be a comedy? I thought all the times Mark Wahlberg maded me smirk in the film were unintentional.

  25. I can tell you this. All you people shit-talking Apatow, Inc. don’t know a fuck-all about writing comedy.

    His impact (for the better) on Hollywood is right up there with Mel Brooks and Preston Sturges. (can’t really think of anyone else over the last 80 years who has shifted the genre or had more success?)

    The 90′s were a wasteland of Dumb=Funny dogshit brought to you by Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller and the Farrely and Weitz brothers, among others, none of which I could ever sit through.

  26. I don’t have a problem with you comparing Apatow to Sturges, Gordie. That seems about right. But don’t compare Apatow to Mel Brooks. History of the World has more funny bits in it than the entire lot of Apatow’s work so far. And more original. Having a bunch of dudes sit around and riff about porn and weed and being gay is not the same as having a musical set during the Spanish Inquisition. The first is pretty safe and mildly entertaining; the second is balls-out and bordering on the absurd. A game of human chess that devolves into a 40 man gang bang? Show me the equivalent in Apatow’s work. We’re talking imagination here, not just schlubs talking shop.

  27. You also can’t use the N-word 200 times in a film anymore. Such are the times.

    Brooks was a genius, but he was lucky to come up during the post Hayes Code free-for-all that was the 70′s.

    I’d love to see Apatow do a sketch anthology like Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know…… but I don’t think you can get those things green-lit anymore.

  28. I tend to like writer/directors like Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, Coen Brothers, and I find their brand of humor much more subtle and rewarding. I don’t really like a lot of the artificiality inherent in the so-called “comedy” genre. To me, real humor comes out organic tension of real-life situations, not people just walking around acting like dumbfucks without consequence. So in that respect, I guess my favorite comedies may very well be After Hours. Or Taxi Driver. I’m not exaggerating when I say I get more real belly laughs out of these movies.

    I understand JA has been ultra-successful for the last five years, but is that really license to put him on the same level as Mel Brooks and Preston Sturges(?!)? I would probably argue not. And don’t you have to do something a little more unique to “shift” an entire genre? I’m thinking along the lines of Keaton, Marx, Luis Bunuel, Monty Python, Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker, or (God help me) maybe even Sacha Baron Cohen?

    Incidentally, The Ben Stiller Show (part of that 90s “Dumb=Funny dogshit” era you recall not-so-fondly) is still my favorite thing that either Apatow or Stiller has ever been involved with.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting old, out of touch, or expecting too much out of my comedies. But (in addition to those named above) give me Woody Allen, David O. Russell, early Rob Reiner, or early Kevin Smith and I’m happy.

    I actually think I’d take Savage Steve Holland over this Apatow guy.

  29. “I’d love to see Apatow do a sketch anthology like Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know……”

    Me too. I’d honestly pay to see that.

  30. My comment about genre “shifting” applies to Apatow’s role in the success of people like Will Ferrel and Adam McKay, who for my money are funnier than Judd (and that reminds me, the news crew street fight segment in Anchorman was pretty damn balls-out absurd, Milkman).

  31. Am I going to get banned if I ask who else loved Step Brothers? I promise I am typing this comment with non-beef-tallow-coated fingers.

  32. I sometimes do really think McKay/Ferrell do a better job with satirizing American masculinity while Apatow seems to fall into mythologizing it

  33. The Farrelly Brothers get some love from me – if only because of Dumb & Dumber and TSAM. I did like their Heartbreak Kid – it was weird fun – plus the ending was hilarious. I was really surprised so many hated it – then again, I haven’t seen the original.

    I do like Apatow in theory, but I won’t probably ever watch Knocked Up again (once was enough) and The 40 Year Old Virgin I own, but have only re-watched maybe once…That being said, I hope that Funny People is actually a perfection of what he’s been trying to achieve in his past couple films.

    Also, Sandler’s got the chops. Punch-Drunk Love is a prime example…or Reign Over Me. So what if he still makes stuff like Bedtime Stories or Zohan? He’s gotta remain marketable for now…and unlike Carrey, he doesn’t seem to be asking for critical/award respect. He just is and doesn’t seem to care what you think about it.

  34. “But don’t compare Apatow to Mel Brooks. History of the World has more funny bits in it than the entire lot of Apatow’s work so far. And more original.”

    I like Apatow and I like Mel Brooks, but I think they’re two completely different styles of comedy. Mel Brooks is straight absurdity and Judd Apatow is much more grounded. I’m not saying it is realistic, but it based more on realism, and certainly the comedy derives much more from the specific characters than in most Mel Brooks movies.

  35. raygo wrote:

    No love for Leslie Mann in this thread?

    Lots of love for Leslie. In fact, I triple dog dare Judd to come up with a suitable starring movie/TV series for her and cut out the “only guy stuff works for me” crap for once.

  36. Gordie Lachance wrote:

    My comment about genre “shifting” applies to Apatow’s role in the success of people like Will Ferrel and Adam McKay, who for my money are funnier than Judd (and that reminds me, the news crew street fight segment in Anchorman was pretty damn balls-out absurd, Milkman).

    Ferrell/McKay are 2 for 3: ANCHORMAN and TALLEDEGA NIGHTS are miles above STEP BROTHERS, which would have been better off as a Funny or Die short.

  37. ‘Step Brothers’ has such a strange attitude towards its own plot, I almost want to accuse it of some higher artistic design, a la Dada.

  38. The Farrelly Brothers get some love from me – if only because of Dumb & Dumber and TSAM. I did like their Heartbreak Kid – it was weird fun – plus the ending was hilarious. I was really surprised so many hated it – then again, I haven’t seen the original.
    I do like Apatow in theory, but I won’t probably ever watch Knocked Up again (once was enough) and The 40 Year Old Virgin I own, but have only re-watched maybe once…That being said, I hope that Funny People is actually a perfection of what he’s been trying to achieve in his past couple films.
    Also, Sandler’s got the chops. Punch-Drunk Love is a prime example…or Reign Over Me. So what if he still makes stuff like Bedtime Stories or Zohan? He’s gotta remain marketable for now…and unlike Carrey, he doesn’t seem to be asking for critical/award respect. He just is and doesn’t seem to care what you think about it.

  39. after observe and report, it’s going to take a lot for a comedy to make me laugh as much as that film did. it’s a brilliant film. and jody hill is, as of now, the NEW comic voice of hollywood. i have really enjoyed apatow’s directorial efforts, but for me, this one looks too sentimental and cloying, two things that hill’s comedy never succumbs too.

    also, sandler will NEVER be better than he was in punch drunk love, which is still his best film, best performance, and one of the best comedies ever made.

  40. Gordon27-

    You are completely right about Step Brothers. It’s a screenplay that could have worked with a couple of 12 year olds cast in the lead roles. It perfectly satirizes the experiences of childhood; the juvenile sex talk, the constant bickering and fighting, the over-the-top homemade curse words, the idiotic ‘business’ plans, etc.

    Except, we live in a country where you could never make a movie portraying children as they really are (and certainly couldn’t let them see one), so Will Ferrell and John Reilly are merely stand-ins in this film, which of course makes the whole thing completely absurd, which is why it’s so funny and rises above the currently saturated market of ‘Men-Who-Refuse-To-Grow-Up’ comedies, of which it is not.

    The fact that Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen play their roles completely straight and talk to their kids as if they were 12 only ads to the ludicrousness.

    It’s fairly brilliant, I think.

  41. I saw the test screening. BRILLIANT. Does for Sandler what KING OF COMEDY did for Jerry Lewis, showing his dark side.

  42. P.T. Anderson already did that with Punch-Drunk Love. It helped that he has some sense of where to put the camera when he directs a movie.

  43. I saw a test screening and I have to say that this is by far Apatow’s best film.

    I can definitely see at bare minimum a Golden Globe nomination for Adam Sandler.

    the movie is over 2 and a half hours, and I assumed that at least 20-30 minutes would be cut short, but now that I hear it will be kept at the same running time I am a little worried that the normal ignorant audience will not appreciate the brilliant nature of this film.

    Judd, I love this move but for bussiness sake, CUT IT DOWN!

  44. I am totally pleased to discover this web site. I’d like to say thank you for this brilliant reading. If you possibly can add Reddit button to your blog, it can help you to reach much more individuals on the internet. Cheers

  45. Is this really a surprise? The entire marketing campaign has built up some central mystery to the thing, which will obviously be played out in the third act.

    Just hope it’s not some sort of Shyamalan nonsense. Surely Nolan’s better than that?

    Regards,

    Henry K – Link building services UK

  46. This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  47. Hi, thanks for posting this. I really like your web site design by the way. I’m going to take your rss feed and keep up to date with your future posts. Please keep posting!! Adam Sandler is ok, he was quite good in Happy Gilmore.

    virility ex

  48. ————

    ———–

  49. nice movie, i like it, Not likely this time, because Apatow will do his press blitz for FUNNY PEOPLE and the media will repeat the probable storyline about new artistic maturity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>