I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 15 years.
If you want laughs and feels in equal doses, writer/director Judd Apatow has been scratching that itch since 2005. His newest movie, The Bubble, began streaming on Netflix on April 1, 2022. Before you see the pandemic parody, revisit Apatow’s filmography, ranked here 1-7.
1) The 40-Year Old Virgin (2005)
The film that made Steve Carrell a superstar and made yelling “Kelly Clarkson!” at the top of your lungs something people did in 2005. (If rumors are true, the movie's success also kept The Office on the air thanks to Carrell’s newfound star power.) The film manages the balance between sweet and profane that Apatow has tried for in most of his films, but never succeeds like he does here. Almost every scene contains comedy gold, with some jokes detonating a scene or two later. *Virgin* gave Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd a launching pad into new phases of their careers and future ubiquitous comedy star Kevin Hart steals his only scene. Plus, we can never hear "The Age Of Aquarius" again without flashing scenes from the end credits. You never forget your first time…seeing this movie.
2) Trainwreck (2015)
The Apatow movie that hits you hardest in the feels thanks to star Amy Schumer’s screenplay. Her semi-autobiographical dramedy has unforeseen touching moments to balance the laughs. Apatow mostly gets out of the way to let Schumer shine, along with a wonderful leading man turn by Bill Hader. Hader has never been this charming, rarely relying on SNL tics to convey a multi-dimensional character. Basketball superstar Lebron James gives a priceless (mostly deadpan) comedic performance as basketball superstar Lebron James. The movie ends a little too tidily, but given what Amy has been through, it doesn’t wreck it.
3) The Bubble (2022)
A movie about the production of a movie during a peak of Covid-19 -- that most people will see from the comfort of their own homes -- is a perfectly sublime experience, even if the movie isn’t perfect. From here on out, the rest of Apatow’s movies will be about 20-30 minutes too long. The Bubble feels too long because so much of the comedy is hit-and-miss. We get a lot of jokes thrown at us, but most of them stick. The movie is at its best when it embraces an anarchic spirit of randomness. When it tries to adhere to a structure, The Bubble loses momentum. The laughs are spread out well enough amongst the ensemble cast, though The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal is wasted with the least funny character. A comedy that weaves the pandemic into its story will take your mind off the pandemic for a couple of hours.
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4) Knocked Up (2007)
You laugh enough, especially with Kristen Wiig in a handful of uncomfortably funny scenes, but the biggest reason Knocked Up never reaches greatness is because you don’t believe for a moment that Katherine Heigl’s Alison and Seth Rogen’s Ben would ever end up together. Except, the movie requires it. Their meet-cute turns into a forced-cute that never feels realistic, but you forgive it anyway because you’re laughing so much. Featuring the standard Apatow troupe, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, and Jay Baruchel could've been in their own movie. Ken Jeong is at his least annoying here…mostly.
5) This Is 40 (2012)
The quasi-sequel to Knocked Up is never as funny, nor never as dramatically compelling as it hopes to be. The result is a perfectly adequate dramedy that you'll like well enough, but you'll never feel like watching it a second time. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are charming leads, but there’s rarely a sense of urgency within the scenes themselves. By 2012, we know the Apatow formula and This Is 40 almost reaches formulaic, but thankfully never gets there. Megan Fox owns her scenes, displaying comedic chops she’s rarely shown elsewhere.
6) Funny People (2009)
The bad first: the glacial two and a half hour running time and some major pacing issues. It’s the only Apatow movie where you check your watch. Fortunately, Funny People has one of Adam Sandler’s best performances as it only hints at the lovable doofus that makes the Sandler persona. George Simmons is one of his most well-rounded characters and makes you wish he stretched more often than he does. The movie gets too saccharine near the end and you never quite buy the final 10 minutes. However, you should enjoy Eminem’s acid cameo, Audrey Plaza’s dry delivery, and try to forget the 30 minutes that could have been trimmed to make this a tighter, better picture.
7) The King Of Staten Island (2020)
A star vehicle for SNL player, Pete Davidson, The King of Staten Island is better than I expected, but I felt its overly long running time. King is a semi-autobiographical dramedy that gives Davidson more shades to play than I thought he was capable of. Davidson’s Scott is a sympathetic enough figure that you genuinely hope succeeds despite his obvious issues. But, at 2 hours 16 minutes, Apatow lets scenes go on way past their expiration date. The King of Staten Island could have been a very good movie at a shade under 2 hours. You’ll have to settle for good.