Between hosting wine and cheese parties for ex-Weathermen and fussing over the arugula stand at Whole Foods, the elitists here at Ruthless sometimes find ourselves standing with the common illiterates who form the fabric of this country. And while I was mildly entertained by both of the two Apatow factory films I had seen, this time I was hooting and roaring uncontrollably with an audience that looked like the focus group set up for the new Big Lots ad campaign. In fact, I might have laughed more than they, as m’lady and I were the only ones able to catch such esoteric references as The Buena Vista Social Club.
Before giving too much credit to Apatow, however, let’s point out that Jason Segel stars and wrote the script. While his sole aim in doing so may have been to show the world his very respectable dong, he delivers a great performance and the dialogue is the among funniest in years. The direction and acting are solid all around.
If anything, this film succeeds because it avoids the normal Apatow pitfalls. While I’m not as critical of Knocked Up’s handling of a——n as Matt Cale is, there’s no doubt that the film was playing the middle, carefully crafted not to offend anyone too much. The 40 Year Old Virgin stays with me, but because of the bag of sand line, not the idea that there’s a true love waiting for everybody and sex will be easy for someone who’s never touched a tit. Apatow’s main contribution here seems to be the obligatory Jewfro character and about seven other funny, fat guys.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall has it’s sweet moments, but it doesn’t dodge the truths that the other two films seem to back away from at the last moment. The character who turns out to be a selfish bitch, remains one. The dream girl turns out to be as difficult as any other ho. The clownish rival isn’t a total idiot, just a man who has heard nothing but “yes” and “brilliant!” for years, and has become a distortion of the witty, smart person he is at bottom. None of this is established with scenes to reveal “the real them,” it’s simply evident from the writing and acting. The good characters both are the spring board to superior comedy and round the film out into a good story. But, really, the jokes could have stood on their own. The only thing I refuse to do spoilers on is good jokes, but that pearl necklace bit from the previews is repeatedly matched, if not surpassed. The satires on pop culture are on par with second tier “Simpsons” episodes. All of this in a romantic comedy, albeit one from the perspective of the male/planet earth. Better still, when this film turns a $250 million profit, Segal should be given carte blanche for at least a decade.