September 28th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments
(Note: this is an old article I wrote for my school paper, the Lawrence Park Panther Print. I’m posting it just because if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be available for your reading enjoyment anywhere else…and that would be too terrible…)
Judd Apatow? Ummm…who is he again? Oh right, he’s the auteur who directed The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, produced Superbad, Anchorman, Talladega Nights and executive produced the cult classic TV shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. What’s so special about him? The answer is simple: everything.
Judd Apatow and his loyal gang of misfits are changing American comedy in an awe-inspiring way. For the last couple decades people did not expect much from comedy. The 90’s were ruled by Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler movies. While they were undoubtedly funny, they were largely brainless fair that were conventional and conservative in retrospect. It didn’t look like much was going to change until Apatow’s 40 Year Old Virgin was released. While the movie’s cartoonish, clueless main character and outrageous situations were nothing revolutionary, the movie’s honesty, subtle wisdom and pitch-perfect characters were. That honesty and purity is Apatow’s trademark. Few other comedic filmmakers (let alone filmmakers in general) can inject it so perfectly into their work.
This summer’s Knocked Up allowed Apatow to continue to evolve as a filmmaker and writer. “Virgin” was about the discovery and excitement of sex, dating, flirting and relationships. Knocked Up is about growing up, responsibility, commitment, trust and change. It was a natural progression for Apatow and it couldn’t have been pulled off better. The direction was tighter, creating a more well-constructed film that was at times funnier and more outrageous than “Virgin…”. The story was filled with issues far more pressing than in “Virgin…” such as the difficulties of marriage , the inability to cope with responsibility and the pressures of relationships and dependency. Steve Carrell’s relationship with Catherine Keener’s character in “Virgin…” was pretty smooth despite the lovely innocent awkwardness of it all. In Knocked Up, Seth Rogen’s relationship with Katherine Heigl seems doomed from the start. It was clear that these two are two very different people and that many painful sacrifices would to have to be made to make the situation work-if it ever even could. I’m glad that it still had a happy ending – that may change in Apatow’s future.
It should be noted that Apatow’s actors adore him. Seth Rogen has been in everything “Apatow” since they met while working on Freaks and Geeks more than 7 years ago. Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Martin Star, Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel are all also part of his entourage, having worked with him in various movies and TV shows. In interviews they will often attest to his brilliance. The characters they play in Apatow’s movies are always oddballs, losers, stoners and just general outsiders. Generally the type of characters people most easily relate to and remember. The actors sometimes say that the amount of “acting” they do is very minimal.
By combining brilliant characters, serious issues, honest dialogue and enough lewd humor to fill ten “Animal House”s and “Road Trip”s combined, Apatow is truly changing comedy. His films are now instant hits before their trailers are even on TV. Just several weeks ago I remember how nobody had any doubts that Superbad was going to be brilliant simply because it was well known that it was an Apatow comedy. If I had seen the trailer without the knowledge he was behind it, I wouldn’t have expected anything more than a dumb teensploitation movie. Studios will have to catch on that his brand of brilliant, honest and truly well-crafted filmmaking sells and rethink their game-plan. I’m very excited about this. To know that in the next decade there’ll be more Knocked Ups and Superbads and hopefully no more American Pie sequels is a very exciting concept. Already, Apatow and crew are getting the funding to make all the crazy stories they’ve dreamt of over the last couple of years. Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are all booking up their schedules, now that their respective films have made them instantly recognizable by appearance, if not by name. The 40 Year Old Virgin ended with a completely random rendition of The Age of Aquarious. Perhaps the song should have been changed to The Age of Apatow.