When the phenomenally annoying Touré dared to criticize This is 40, Judd Apatow attacked him personally like the beef was unique but my experience has been quite the opposite.
Everyone seems to agree this film is a violation of our comedy rights. In fact, I find it’s a good way to bond with people in the funny business. I always feel a little unworthy around comedians and comedy writers because most of the ones I know have been doing stand-up for decades and have had several shows on air whereas I’ve done stand-up a dozen or so times mostly for free and all my pilots end up in the garbage. This all goes out the window when walking into a room of people hoping to be as successful as Judd Apatow. All you have to say is, “Sorry I’m late. I was watching This is 40” and the party springs to life. “I kept storming out of the room” said one successful screenwriter I can’t name. When I asked him why Appatow thinks we want to live with his family for two hours he said, “They’re not even that cute! Even if I was their grandfather, I’d be trying to avoid them. In fact, that was the only character I could identify with, the grandfather who wasn’t around.” Unknowingly mimicking a New Yorker review that said the family’s house is, “easily three million dollars, even in a down market” a popular comedian jumped in with, “And what’s with their house? They have a multi-million dollar mansion and he runs an indie record label? We have a guy here who runs a record label. Look at him.” The guest who runs the label then pulled out his pockets in that “I’m broke” way. “It made me so fucking mad” said a comedy writer who recently had his show cancelled, “It was so obvious he ran around with a notepad writing down everything cute his kids said and then crammed it into the script.” “He even makes us watch his wife blow him” I added excited to be part of the crowd that gets screeners, “Who does he think he is, Vincent Gallo?” It sounds like jealousy but the indignation is more frustration that someone in Apatow’s position would drop the ball so severely. We didn’t mock Team America World Police when it changed the game forever. We got on our knees and thanked the comedy gods.
In interviews, Apatow tells us he wanted to put his daughters in the film because it would ad a layer of realness. He is also quick to point out how cute and talented they are and even showcased them eating snacks during a recent 60 Minutes segment. While doing press for another movie he put his kids in, Apatow cooed,
“And they’ve gotten good at improvising, which is somewhat shocking. Or I can feed them lines and they will repeat them. I said to Iris, it’s true, I said, ‘After Seth walks away, turn to Paul Rudd and say he looks like Winnie the Pooh.’ She just turned and went, ‘He looks like Winnie the Pooh,’ without missing a beat.”
Being told you’re wonderful all day can’t be good for your idea of what’s good and what sucks. When British rapper Mike Skinner became rich and famous he penned the song, “When You Wasn’t Famous” that included the lines, “When you’re a famous boy, it gets really easy to get girls / It’s all so easy you get a bit spoiled / But when you try to pull a girl who is also famous too / It feels just like when you wasn’t famous.” The song caused such a backlash with his fans he was forced to sign a kid whose big hit was a parody of the song. This is what Charles Murray is talking about in Coming Apart. He’s saying what Joe Strummer said before he died, “Without people, you’re nothing.”
The only thing that goes on longer than this film is me talking about how bad it is…
The first time I saw the movie, I fell asleep. As I drifted off, I remember my pregnant wife punching the couch in a rage. She was furious she had stayed awake this long and was going to be tired all day for a film that was so ponderous, it makes Wuthering Heights look like a Tweet. The second time I saw it, I was with pals and instead of pounding the couch in a rage, we stared at each other with golf balls for eyes and shrieked, “Where’s the fucking plot!?” It was fun.
Virtually everyone I spoke to about this film cannot believe this celluloid turd is from the same guy who created the groundbreaking comedic masterpiece Freaks & Geeks and then went on to do The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, Wanderlust, and Bridesmaids. All of those are so fun to watch, they’re almost action movies.
This is why it’s so shocking to see him create the 133-minute torture chamber that is this film. As Richard Roeper pointed out, the torture porn Zero Dark Thirty crammed in ten years of tracking bin Laden in less time. And bin Laden was more likeable. I’m pretty sure the only people who can relate to these characters are the characters themselves. Hey non-overweight husbands, don’t you hate it when your wife screams “Stop eating cupcakes” so often you have to eat sweets out of the garbage? Hey dads, aren’t you annoyed by how often your wife refuses to go to a “Western” doctor when your daughter has an excruciating ear infection?