How impressive is 50/50, a movie that could easily have wallowed in the weepiest clichés and pressed all the tear-jerking buttons, but foregoes them for something subtler and more honestly moving. Here, improbably, we have a comedy about a young man, fit and fastidiously health-conscious, floored by a cancer diagnosis and faced with even odds to survive.
Imagine E.T. recast as a low-rent comedy, conceived by the cheerfully profane Shaun of the Dead co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and you should have some idea what to expect from Paul, their first big-screen collaboration as screenwriters.
Absent the subversive touch of Edgar Wright, who directed and co-wrote Shaun (2004) and the pair’s buddy-cop parody Hot Fuzz (2007), Paul is a slighter diversion, as much a loving homage to geek culture as a gentle send-up of the genre’s lesser entries, including 1988’s Mac and Me.
Judd Apatow is no stranger to labels.
Roger Ebert, Variety and ABC’s Nightline have independently declared him Hollywood’s new King of Comedy. The editors of Vanity Fair and the Los Angeles Times downgraded him to Mayor, though their praise was otherwise no less effusive. And Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton, never one to withhold a compliment, recently branded Apatow a “genius.”
But believe it or not, there was a time when the Syosset, New York, native, then in his early 20s, struggled to sustain a career as a stand-up comedian. Although he conceded that battle, choosing instead to write for fellow stand-ups like Roseanne Barr, his passion for the craft remained undiminished.
Charlyne Yi (Knocked Up) does not believe in love, or so she says. At the very least, she doesn’t believe in fairy-tale love or the Hollywood mythology of romance, and her own experiences have turned her into yet a skeptic. Paper Heart, the new comedy from first-time feature director Nicholas Jasenovec, follows Yi as she embarks on a quest across America to make a documentary about the one subject she doesn’t fully understand.
“Comedy usually is for funny people.” So proclaims George Simmons, the world-famous stand-up and movie star whose premature death sentence – he is diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of leukemia – provides the dramatic thrust for roughly half of Judd Apatow’s maudlin, wildly self-indulgent comedy Funny People.
George (Adam Sandler) is right, of course. As if to prove the point, Apatow has assembled a cast of gifted comic actors, including Sandler, longtime protégé Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann and Eric Bana, the Munich star who rose to prominence in his native Australia with his own sketch-comedy show. The resulting slog, clocking in a nearly two-and-a-half hours, is far less amusing than the sum of their talents.
Those expecting another hormonally charged, cheerfully outlandish sex comedy from Superbad director Greg Mottola may be surprised to discover that Adventureland, despite a deliberately misleading ad campaign, is nothing of the sort. It is a far more grounded, even somber affair, populated by thoughtful, unaffected characters whose misadventures ring invariably true. It is also one of the year’s best films.
Fresh off the success of his recently renewed HBO series Eastbound & Down, which cast Danny McBride as a degenerate ex-baseball star whose boozing and athletic decline earned him a one-way ticket out of the game, director Jody Hill returns with yet another portrait of an unlovable loser in the mall cop-meets-Taxi Driver fantasy Observe and Report.
For Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, friends whose acting careers have been entwined since they first worked together in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, life professionally has rarely looked brighter.
Proclaimed two of comedy’s new legends in a recent issue of Vanity Fair, Rudd, 39, and Segel, 29, have shared the screen twice in the past, as supporting players in Knocked Up and more recently as mismatched surfing partners in last year’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which Segel wrote. But never before have they shared top billing, as they do in I Love You, Man, a platonic romance about a pair of incipient bosom buddies.