I think some people are going to be disappointed with this film. You’ve been led to believe that Judd Apatow is our contemporary master of comedy. The fact that he’s only actually directed two of the many films vaguely associated with his name may have escaped you. The presence of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Adam Sandler, and Jason Schwartzman in the cast will further lull you into a sense of complacency. But what’s on the screen is, in essence, the kind of serious adult drama that Hollywood doesn’t make anymore with Apatow leveraging his clout and cast and reputation into putting together a film that otherwise could never get a wide distribution deal.
It’s not that the movie isn’t funny, it is. But it’s not the funniest movie out there. And a lot of the humor enters the picture because it’s a movie about comedians so you see them performing their jokes-as-jokes, many of which are pretty funny. And the need to work the humor in this way, combined with a complicated dual plot, produces a long film that, at the end of the day, while amusing isn’t going to become anyone’s go-to choice for a movie to pop into the DVD player after smoking some pot and ordering a pizza. Instead, it’s a legitimately good movie with interestingly unheroic characters and a real story. It also follows Knocked Up by offering a bracingly conservative vision of family life and obligation. It’s not a point of view I agree with, but it’s well articulated and done so in a way that’s divorced from the hypocrisy and petty moralizing of mainstream social conservatism.