Sunday, April 20, 2008
Judd Apatow's Dick Flicks
I've been waiting around for the marketing guy - I assume it was a guy - who coined the loathsome expression, Chick Flick, to come up with a comparable companion term for male-oriented films.
Now that Judd Apatow has successfully created a cottage industry making romantic comedies about lovelorn, but still manly men, the time has come. I'm tired of waiting. I'm stepping in and arbitrarily declaring that such Apatow-made and/or -sanctioned hits as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," "Superbad," "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" and the latest, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," officially constitute a new sub-genre - ta-da! - the Dick Flick.
Remarkably, none of these films has been bad. They've ranged from excellent ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") to fine-but-overrated ("Knocked Up") to smoothly, if uneventfully first-rate ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"). Apatow, a genuine auteur, has his formula down to a science. His movies have offered us a gallery of guys who don't talk like guys at all, but rather like glib, highly efficient comedy writers, and do so in a way that's alternately entertaining and instructive but never intimidating. Apatow's universe is populated with guys the way they should be but rarely ever are in real life. Laugh and learn, each film seems to advise.
This is especially true of the shrewdly seductive "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," directed by Nicholas Stoller and anchored by an appealing (and wholly unexpected) screen presence named Jason Segel, who is something of a watered-down, less smarmy Vince Vaughn. (Nothing against Vince Vaughn here; he's terrific.) As a brokenhearted guy trying to shake the title character, Segel makes jokes that are wistful but never mean-spirited, cries often, curses only occasionally and gamely exposes his large, fleshy body in the bookend scenes that open and close the film.
Male frontal nudity apparently is Apatow's cause celebré. He thinks it's long overdue for the much-protected, far-too-respected men on screen to be as exploited as much and as often as women have been since the year One. I agree. My problem is that I'm not sure that Apatow is the man to do it, considering that his target audience - 20-something guys - is the least likely to be interested in seeing other men nekkid. Too threatening.
Plus the actors who make up Apatow's resident company aren't exactly fantasy figures. That is, they're not the movie hunks that the few women in his audience would be interested in seeing undressed.
Right now, all Apatow has succeeded in proving is that, unlike the female form, the male body is more utilitarian than beautiful.
But at least it's a start.
Note in Passing: One Apatow talent that has been just about completely overlooked by the media is his keen eye for women. To date, his films have given us such appealing women as Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Banks, Jenna Fischer, Katherine Heigl, Leslie Mann, Amy Adams, Leslie Bibb and, in "Sarah Marshall," Kristen Bell and the wildly attractive Mila Kunis, who has the dark good looks of a young Catherine Zeta-Jones, as well as Zeta-Jones' soft, sonorous voice. Thank you, Mr. Apatow.
(Artwork: Affable auteur Judd Apatow bares it all for manhood)
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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com