This is an old routine but here we go. On 8.25 Christian Lorentzen, essayist for nplusonemag, ripped Judd Apatow a new one for his usual failings. But after reading it I had an impulse to write Apatow and ask if he wanted to respond, and lo and behold he did. So stay tuned.
Apatow’s films, Lorentzen said, “have come to be perceived as the deluxe version of the current Hollywood comedy — the sort it’s acceptable for smart people to like. They come with self-consciousness, a running time of more than two hours, and the implication of an Important Social Message.
“Thus they have earned the adulation of critics who have variously claimed that Apatow has reinvented comedy, rendering obsolete everything from Lubitsch to the Farrelly Brothers; that his films are actually deep meditations on aging; that he has made movies in line with Stanley Cavell‘s ideas about the American comedy of remarriage that thrived in the ’30s and ’40s; and, perhaps most perniciously, that they constitute an antidote to a pervasive culture of quirk in American cinema, which had for too long been under the siege of hipsters like Wes Anderson.
“It is hard to read encomiums to Apatow without the sense that his champions are desperate to bear witness to a comic filmmaker who is both popular and worthy of their attention during an age of dreck. They strain to wring relevance out of Apatow’s pro-family message. (Who in America is against families and children?) They strain to argue for his place in a tradition. They use him as a cudgel against flawed filmmakers who are both smarter and more ambitious than he is.
“All the while they miss the simple moving force behind the gratuitous cameos, the accumulating in-jokes, the repeated casting of the director’s wife, children, and friends, and the constant carping about aging in Apatow’s films; they miss all the vanity. He is allowed this vanity because he delivers a message Americans crave to hear. As long as you behave yourself, take on a modicum of responsibility, and wear the yoke of commitment, it is entirely acceptable — even preferable and profitable — to be stupid.”
Apatow’s retort: “Maybe I’m just dense, but I can’t tell if he likes the movies or not. Maybe because when I was reading his article I was watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Go Danielle!
“There certainly are a lot of dick jokes in Funny People but there is no way to portray comedians without having them tell a lot of those types of jokes. If I was a hundred percent accurate I would have doubled the dick joke count. The only thing more troubling than making jokes about the male penis would be to be serious and honor the male penis.
“I am sure I do have all sorts of problems and shortcomings he can read into the work, but that is the fun in making it. I don’t know what it all adds up to. I just express myself. Maybe one day I will be able to judge it myself but I am too in the middle of it to do it now.
“Now can I get back to my show? Danielle is very mad at Theresa and I don’t want to miss any of it.”