In Defense Of Funny People: Judd Apatow Still Loves Schmucks
“None of you is in love with Mary,” Ted argues during the climax of There’s Something About Mary. “You’re just fixated on her because of how she makes you feel about yourself.” Ben Stiller said that because he was in love with Mary; that creepy pizza delivery guy with the fake accent disagreed because he only thought he was. And so it is with Judd Apatow. After a weekend of lackluster box office and mediocre reviews flung at Funny People, Hollywood’s now-former golden man-child sporting a few new key scratches on the side panel of his limousine.
Judd Apatow has added Funny People to his IMDB page, an absolute behemoth of length, emotion and moral turpitude containing none of the schmucks you’ve come to love. Meandering, weighty and brimming with business trips to Asia, luxurious swimming pools and lowball offers of fifteen hundred a week, Funny People is a step forward, or maybe back, or maybe to the side, it’s a step somewhere, a step away from Judd Apatow’s Second Life of stereo salesmen and Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts and into a world where people can use the adjective “opulent” without the aww-shucks grin of irony. Personally, I loved it. But then again, what’s really important is I saw it. I saw it because I love Judd Apatow. And not like Matt Dillon and his fake teeth love Mary.
Many critics didn’t love it. Maybe some of you didn’t too. You thought you were in love with Judd Apatow, but really, you were just in love with how The 40 Year-Old Virgin made you feel. You were fixated on Seth Rogen’s friends in Knocked-Up. You couldn’t get over Martin Starr making out with the hot cheerleader in a closet on Freaks & Geeks. I don’t blame you. Most of us are schmucks, slightly overweight, lazy, self-indulgent schmucks trying to fuck, drink and namedrop our way to universal approval, and Judd Apatow gave us that approval, if only inside our own minds.
Most of us could stand to grow up a little bit. And deep down, we know this. We’re fully aware smoking pot by the hour is bad policy, taking the drunk girl home from the bar doesn’t lend itself to fostering a long-term connection and gluttonous competitive food bets amongst friends only lead to vomiting and fights over the last Tums. But we still do this shit because we can’t help ourselves. And Judd Apatow is one of the few directors who seemed to get this about men--about that subclass of men I’ve referred to as the schmuck.
So, just as Ron Burgandy grew up enough to reclaim his job and Veronica Corningstone but not so much as to lose his buffoonish charm, Seth Rogen stopped going clubbing but still invited his sophomoric friends to share the birth of his daughter. These aren’t preachy stories of shelving primal urges to gain acceptance, they’re goofy odes of sacrificing a modicum of immaturity for a new vision of happiness. Jason Segal can still write an opera about Dracula; he just can’t do it in green sweatpants. It’s the schmuck dream.
Funny People is not a movie for everyone. If you ignore children and members of the Wu Tang Clan, there might not be any good-hearted characters. Not one. Seth Rogen screws over Jonah Hill. Adam Sandler screws over Leslie Mann. Leslie Mann screws over Eric Bana. Jason Schwartzman screws over good taste. It’s like a mean-spirited game of tag where everyone ends up bruised and crying while the recess ladies watch on in horror. It has no over-arching plot. There’s a scene where a dog licks peanut butter off people’s noses. Celebrities pop in-and-out like a goddamn episode of Entourage. But I loved it.
Beneath all the money signs and Lexus’, there’s still honesty and heart, unique laughs, fresh debates about pop culture, and a reserved innocence. These people may not be schmucks, but they’re doing their best to figure out how to be happy. I loved Funny People because I love Judd Apatow. My boss, Josh Tyler, he wasn’t so happy with Funny People because he loves Judd Apatow.
The opposite of hatred isn’t love--it’s indifference. And everyone who didn’t bother showing up this weekend because the trailer seemed to serious or they heard from a guy who read a review that said it was good-not-great, those are the Chris Elliott’s, the Woogie’s with the skin conditions who only loved Judd Apatow because of how he made them feel about themselves. Some people hate it when athletes get booed one second and cheered the next. Me? I scream at my television like Don Rickles every time Alfonso Soriano swings at a pitch that bounced in front of home plate.
Maybe I’ll hate Judd Apatow’s next movie. Maybe I’ll love it. I don’t know. But I promise you I will see it. Because he deserves that much. He’s a great director with his own viewpoint, his own vision and pacing. He hasn’t forgotten the schmucks or betrayed them with his opulent life of opulence. He’ll get back to the dreamers, the dudes who won’t miss a James Bond marathon, and the guys who install cable or bus tables at Golden Corral. You just need to give him time. Besides, would The Departed really have been as good if Scorsese made six more Casino knock-offs and a few adequate Goodfellas reworkings? No.
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