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Back when Knocked Up was riding high atop the box office, there was a bit of a backlash against the popular success of Judd Apatow movies. (Then Katherine Heigl came along and complained of the same sexist suspicions she had ignored when agreeing to do the movie in the first place -- but that's another matter.) That all seems to have died away after Funny People, which wasn't quite a hit and saw the writer-director making strides toward finding deeper meaning within his material.
Now, a critic for the twice-yearly publication n+1 has accused Apatow of "dicking around" -- actually, making too many dick jokes in a movie about comedians, which is rather ridiculous for anyone who has ever been to a comedy club. Normally, no one would give a damn about this story, but then Apatow made the strange move of responding to the guy and makes a great case for why we should just let him do his thing.
"The women laugh and coo as the men emerge, docile clowns consoled by a friendly gaggle of children to whom they can pass on their dick jokes. This is Judd Apatow’s vision of America, as realized in three self-help fables—from the unmediated crudity of The 40 Year Old Virgin, through the mock cryptoconservatism of Knocked Up, to the pseudosolemnity of Funny People. Over the last half-decade it has really struck a chord.
"Clips of movies starring the fictional Sandler—one resembles Look Who’s Talking, except Sandler’s head is placed on a baby’s body; in the other he plays a merman (a woman Sandler beds screams “Fuck me like Merman! C’mon! Do Merman! Do the Merman call!” and he obliges)—imply that Hollywood movies are stupid as a rule but that Funny People itself is operating at a higher level. Yet for all its self-consciousness Funny People relies at every turn on the basest level of humor, and when the solemnity of the leukemia plotline is shaken off it descends quickly to a repertoire of plot-forwarding antics..."
"Maybe I'm just dense, but I can't tell if he likes the movies or not. Maybe because when I was reading his article I was watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Go Danielle!
"There certainly are a lot of dick jokes in Funny People but there is no way to portray comedians without having them tell a lot of those types of jokes. If I was a hundred percent accurate I would have doubled the dick joke count. The only thing more troubling than making jokes about the male penis would be to be serious and honor the male penis.
"I am sure I do have all sorts of problems and shortcomings he can read into the work, but that is the fun in making it. I don't know what it all adds up to. I just express myself. Maybe one day I will be able to judge it myself but I am too in the middle of it to do it now."
Do you agree with n+1? What do you think of Apatow's movies now that you've had time to digest this, Knocked Up and the rest of his career. Remember that he is, after all, the guy who gave us Freaks and Geeks.