I don’t like Judd Apatow.
Actually, that’s not fair. I don’t know the guy. He’s probably a nice fella, and he seems to have some cool friends. I do, however, have a problem with his films.
I liked 40 Year Old Virgin, I liked the baby one, and as a nerd on the internet I’m legally obliged to enjoy Freaks and Geeks. But some of his work, mostly his latter stuff, borders on the insufferable.
It’s not that he makes bad films, but rather they’re so God-damn annoying. He makes pretty formulaic romantic comedies (seriously, everything he has made follows the plot of underwhelming life, meet cute, get along, commit halfway through, fall out unnecessarily three quarters in – usually the woman’s fault in his films, too – then everything gets resolved in to a neat bow at the end), but every film is carried with such a self-entitled smugness that even if you like it it’s in spite of itself.
This hit a peak in the 2012 horror movie This is 40. I think I’d go as far as saying that I disliked This Is 40 more than I disliked the Star Wars prequels, and I’ve already spent way too long explaining why I didn’t like them.
This Is 40 was the boring, grating story of two beautiful people (Apatow’s real life best friend and wife, obviously) with money problems and suffering from a mid-life crisis (despite doing awesome jobs and having a massive house, obviously) and their two beautiful children (Apatow’s actual kids, obviously). It’s his style. Aspirational loserdom. You wouldn’t be alone in walking out of the cinema after one of his films saying “having a f*cked up life looks awesome!”.
It’s the “cool” equivalent of seeing a standard rom-com and questioning your own, stable, well-managed relationship and thinking something is missing because you aren’t complete opposites who spend most of your time arguing.
His latest TV programme, the Netflix-exclusive Love, is kind of like that as well.
Here the two main characters Gus and Mickey (ugh, really? Are we not past giving women boys names to make them seem more attitudinal?) have “horrible” jobs that actually look kind of interesting. They are apparently struggling to get by, even though their apartments are huge and she wears what I’m told by my girlfriend are £400 designer shoes. In the pilot Gus, a weird bird-looking geek, goes on such a downward spiral he nearly has a threesome with two beautiful twin sisters.
See the problem? Everything in an Apatow movie/programme is treated like they have the biggest problems in the world, and everyone carries themselves with such a dour, unlikeable attitude, and yet their lives actually look kind of awesome. “Why is life so hard?” seems to be his constant message thrust in to your face like an necessary masturbation joke, but it manages to make you feel like sh*t because their loserdom is so much cooler than yours. F*ck off, Apatow.
Love also has that other Apatow problem in that it’s sooooo long. Just like This Is 40 didn’t need to be two hours and fourteen motherf*cking minutes for a lighthearted comedy of a marital crisis (there should be a rule that says romantic comedies can be no longer than 100 minutes, tops), these episodes don’t need to be 45 minutes long.
All of this would be okay if it were actually a good programme.
In some ways it actually is. It has its moments for sure. Even at his worst, Apatow is good for a laugh or two. I was particularly fond of the “nothing gets a woman drier than a paragraph” line from Episode 3. He does have a way with words, and he tends to cast well enough that his actors have pretty excellent timing.
The problem is that much of the rest of the programme is so intensely unlikeable, with the characters making decisions no rational person would. Almost every character in the programme isn’t as funny as the writers and actors seem to think they are, and neither are the set pieces. Episode 4 opens (opens!) with a 5 minute bit on making theme music for films that doesn’t get a single snigger, let alone laugh. The result is horrible, unfunny people saying horrible, unfunny things. If I wanted to watch that I’d go back and watch The Phantom Menace again (and then probably kill myself).
I can’t say this is an actively bad programme, because that’s not fair. Nor is it fair to say Apatow has never been involved in anything good. As a Producer he’s been involved with some great films, like Bridesmaids and Pineapple Express, as well as writing/directing the aforementioned 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
But with Love I ended up kind of frustrated. There’s a pretty decent programme in there, and if it were shown as 20 minute reruns on E4 you’d probably end up watching it over and over again, kind of like how Friends is now destined to be repeated on eight channels a day until the end of time (or the end up a Judd Apatow movie, whatever comes first). But as it stands it’s all a bit underwhelming.
I guess what I’m saying is I didn’t love it *nyuk nyuk nyuk*
Love Rating: 6 unnecessary masturbation jokes out of 10
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