Posted on July 16, 2015 at 10:00 am

Judd Apatow has made a bunch of raunchy comedies about man-children who have to learn to grow up and embrace the joys of intimacy and responsibility, and one raunchy comedy (“This is 40”) about a couple who have to learn to grow up and embrace the joys of intimacy and responsibility. Guess what his new movie is about? Yes, this time it’s a woman who has to learn to grow up and embrace the joys of intimacy and responsibility.

Copyright 2015 Universal
Copyright 2015 Universal

It stars Amy Schumer, who wrote the script based on her stand-up character, a potty-mouthed single woman who is unabashedly sexual, an empowered feminist, but often self-deprecating. The film begins with Schumer’s character Amy as a child, with her sister, as their father (Colin Quinn) tells them why he is divorcing their mother. “Monogamy isn’t realistic,” he tells them, and they repeat it after him obediently, if not quite comprehendingly.

Fast forward 23 years and Amy is now, she tells us, very happy with her life. She has a great job as a writer for a men’s magazine that hands out article assignments like “Are you gay or is she just boring?” and whether garlic affects the way a man…tastes. She has a series of one-night stands that she enjoys (except when she wakes up not knowing where she is and quite distressed to find that it is Staten Island). She has no problem tricking a man into taking care of her needs and then pretending to be asleep so she does not have to reciprocate — why not? She is never going to see him again. She likes to feel “in control.” And she even has a sort-of regular boyfriend, who has extremely impressive muscles but perhaps a not fully-thought-through sexual orientation (a very funny John Cena).

Amy cannot imagine why anyone would consider her life of drinking and countless men anything but ideal, especially her happily married sister Kim, named for real-life Amy’s sister and writing partner, and played with wry perfection by the indispensible Brie Larson.

And then Amy is assigned to write a story about a sports surgeon (“SNL” alum Bill Hader as Aaron) and she discovers what it feels like to begin to care about someone and worry about whether he feels the same way, which completely freaks her out. Plus, she thinks that “sports are stupid and anyone who likes them is just a lesser intellect.” (Is this a reference to the first Tracy-Hepburn movie, “Woman of the Year,” where a political reporter meets a sports writer because she insulted athletes and their fans?)  Romantic comedy ensues.

Schumer is very funny and an exceptionally appealing comic actress who can make “thank you” into five different hilarious punchlines. As a scriptwriter, she has not quite made the transition from skits to storylines, and gets little help there from Apatow, who has to learn how to cut a movie. There may be a comedy that deserves more than two hours, but this is not it. It is 20-30 minutes too long, with a number of diversions that drag on the pacing. The characters watch a black and white romantic film about a dog walker starring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei that never goes anywhere. And the conclusion is disappointingly formulaic.

There are individual moments, though, that are genuine breakthroughs and wildly funny. Some of the best are small, almost throwaway moments. On that trip back from Staten Island, Amy impulsively throws her arms in the air at the prow of the boat, emulating the spirit of Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl” and Kate Winslet in “Titanic.” And the supporting cast is exceptional, including Brie Larson (“Room”) as Amy’s sister. Aaron’s best friend is Lebron James, playing a take on himself (the real Lebron’s basketball skills, the movie Lebron’s cheapness and affection for “Downton Abbey”). He is a romantic comedy best friend for the ages. There’s a cheeky riff on the inevitable New York City movie falling-in-love montage. Tilda Swinton is a hoot (and unrecognizable) as Amy’s boss.

And there is a brief serious speech that is is unexpectedly moving. As movie Amy learns to believe in the possibility of romance, real Amy just might make us believe again in the possibility of romantic comedies.

Parents should know that this film includes very raunchy sexual humor including explicit sexual references and situations and some nudity, very strong language, references to substance abuse, drinking, marijuana, and cocaine, some graphic scenes of an operation, and a sad death.

Family discussion: Why did Amy and Kim respond so differently to the way they grew up? Was Amy’s eulogy fair? What do we learn from the way Amy describes her work for the magazine to Aaron?

If you like this, try: “The Hangover” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin”

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