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Mainstream Movie Report: Apatow Edition

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I’m way behind on my movie blogging, so the two Apatow movies seem like a good place to start. Asthetically, they’re evidently both extremely funny. The first two-thirds of Knocked Up are more consistently funny as any Hollywood movie in a long, long time. Perhaps even more relevant than Freaks and Geeks (and the underrated Undeclared) is Apatow’s involvement in the best television comedy of my lifetime; it’s nice to see the art of the multiple good one-liners come back. It does sag a bit towards the end. I wasn’t surprised that, having systematically recycled the most exhausted sitcom cliches for his clever ploy to demonstrate the ineptitude of most television critics Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip Aaron Sorkin climaxed with a childbirth plot — highly appropriate because whereas most cliches are cliches because they used to be good hooks as far as I can tell a childbirth plot has never led to a comedically or dramatically good episode of television ever. The last part of Knocked Up isn’t nearly as bad, of course, but it does tail off noticeably as things move to the hospital. Even with that, it produces so many more laughs than the typical comedy that it seems churlish to complain. Superbad doesn’t peak as high and is more consistent, although it does overdo the sitcommy reaction shots and as many people have noted the cop subplot gets too much screentime. Obviously, the evolution of the teen sex comedy is unusually rapid: Porky’s-American Pie-Road Trip-Superbad is a lot of progress.

One potential complaint about both, which bleeds into the quality of the films, is that Apatow & co. haven’t created enough movement with the gender paradigm. Enjoying Knocked Up as much as the quality of the comedy merits does require getting over the utter implausibility of virtually every aspect of the central relationship. (This isn’t to say that any aesthetically mismatched relationship will be implausible, but this one isn’t convincing in its details.) Interestingly, Ezra tries to salvage Superbad from similar charges with a charitable reading of the conclusion. I would like to agree but while I’m open to change my mind on a second viewing I don’t really buy it. IIRC Jules carefully avoids giving Seth even a sub silento permanent rejection at the party and the conclusion does nothing to negate the possibility of a mutual pairing-off rather than Jules strictly running interference.

Admittedly, it must be said that tensions derived from mismatches are a fruitful source of comedy, as both of these movies ultimately prove. Still, it would be nice to see some fruitful tensions other than the “shlubby guy scores with smart, nice, extremely hot woman for no obvious reason” relationship. At least Superbad avoids the “girl who looks like a model portrayed as ugly because she wears glasses and inevitably looks better before the makeover than after” routine…

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