Thursday, February 07, 2013
You stop thinking “what would audiences want to see?” and start thinking, “what would I want to see?” You assume that since you have your finger on the pulse, anything that interests you must surely fascinate everyone else.
And now we have THIS IS 40, clocking in at a brisk 2 hours and 13 minutes. Here’s the premise: a spoiled upper-middle class couple of Brentwood assholes who live in a huge house in the exclusive section of Los Angeles Judd Apatow lives in are bothered that they’re entering middle age. Not a big problem plus you hate them. To combat this crippling crisis they whine and try stuff.
And does Paul Rudd now have to star in every romantic comedy? He’s becoming the Ryan Seacrest of the silver screen. I’m a big fan of Paul Rudd and I’m saying, “let’s give someone else a chance, shall we?”
Rule number two in comedy is don’t wear out your welcome. Keep it short. Film comedies work best at about 90 minutes. FUNNY PEOPLE was 2 hours and 26 minutes. Holy shit! That’s longer than CHINATOWN.
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was only 2 hours and 1 minute.
UNFORGIVEN was a mere 2 hours and 11 minutes.
The story meanders. Perhaps that's because the subject matter isn't particularly compelling. Scene after scene is just cobbled together. Paul learns that he has big money problems and should sell his house. Four or five scenes later he’s taking Leslie to a swank resort hotel for a weekend celebration. Huh?
HURT LOCKER was only 2 hours and 11 minutes.
Still, all of this would be forgiven if the movie was funny and for the most part it’s not. Lots of obvious crass sex jokes and on-the-nose set pieces. Leslie is trying to give Paul a blowjob while the kids are outside banging on the door. Leslie and Paul keep yelling, “Stop that!” “We’ll be out in a minute!” and the kids keep banging until finally Leslie gives up and that’s that. Not what you’d call inspired lunacy. In the hotel sequence they get high on marijuana cookies (haven't we seen that scene in fifty other movies and sitcoms since 1966?) and are silly when the room service waiter arrives. Paul takes a banana off the tray and says “it looks like a dick!” then he takes a bite and says, “I’m eating a dick!” Wow. Now an argument can be made that the point was he was stoned and not as funny as he thought he was, but you could also achieve the same value and give him hilarious, outrageous, goofy, inappropriate things to say. (See the BARNEY MILLER version written by Tom Reeder. You'll be on the floor.) I think the pre-genius Apatow would have. Judd Apatow can write a funny line as well as anybody in the business… IF he wants to. IF he’s willing to put in the effort. “I’m eating a dick” and many other lines in the film are just plain lazy. So is doing a sequence in a ritzy hotel when you've established financial problems. Not worthy of a comedy master.
THE KING’S SPEECH was only 1 hour and 51 minutes.
I know there are Judd Apatow haters. They resent everything he does. I’m not one of them. I admire his achievements and think he's enormously talented. And he has a golden opportunity. At least for now he can make any movie he wants. So if I may offer some constructive advice: Step back. Get out of your head. Instead of making a raunchy sex farce disguised as an important incisive look at modern mores (and don’t kid yourself – when you send out screeners and copies of the screenplay you’re trolling for Oscars), find a good comic premise, just have fun with it, don't try to top yourself, keep Leslie Mann at home, keep it at 90 minutes, and make an entertaining movie the whole family can enjoy that isn’t just your whole family. I will be the first in line.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM