screen-shot-2015-02-11-at-30344-pmpng-c8e0264af02848ad  I hope you guys like LeBron James.

Trainwreck is its title! What!? How droll. But yes, no, I mean… this movie is a trainwreck. It’s one of the worst movies of the year, easily, and one of the worst and lowest effort comedies in Judd Apatow’s entire oeuvre of that shit exactly. I’m writing this review as someone who likes Amy Schumer and her comedy a great deal, but also as someone who has no use for Judd Apatow’s movies whatsoever. I like his work on Girls and I like his TV shows from back in the day, but I think his movies are overlong, boring, indulgent to his conservative values, and often unfriendly to women in spite of the way his scripts tend to use them as catalysts for lifestyle changes on the part of his schlubby, fun, but self-destructive male subjects.

But enough about Apatow. Those of us who care about this movie care about it because of Amy Schumer. She deserves to reach a wider audience with her comedy, with her voice, and so on. This is not a good first try. But I’m not saying that for all the same reasons that many ideological critics are (with their fucking think-pieces), but because above all else, Trainwreck is a lazily put together formula movie we’ve already seen a dozen times. The one interesting departure is that in the Seth Rogen/Jason Segel/Whoever role it’s a woman this time. Judd Apatow always seems interested in showing how men have to grow up and put aside their self-absorption in order to have successful relationships with the distant, often unsympathetic, women he crystallizes more than casts in his movies. If all Apatow and Schumer set out to do with Trainwreck was show that this story is only superficially different when you swap genders, then I suppose that it’s successful for that much. I mean, it’s nice that Apatow can reverse his formula and have a woman be the schlubby, fun, but self-destructive subject with a man as the theoretically unattainable, unchanging, and ultimately sorta remote and unsympathetic crystalline object. Of course, Bill Hader ruins that completely by managing to fill Aaron with a certain amount of warmth, but that is not ordained by the formula at play.

Trainwreck is only superficially concerned with the subject matter and style of Amy Schumer’s well known comedy. Even though she’s sole writer, the movie is more preoccupied with the particular romantic comedy formula Apatow created almost ten years ago and has barely, in cinema anyway, deviated from since. This will cause some whiplash in audiences expecting more of Schumer’s persona. Instead of this, expect LeBron James because, for some reason I cannot fathom, he’s in this movie for 50% of its running time and it’s as bad as it sounds.Trainwreck-645x370

Amy is a bit of a mess when we meet her.

Amy is a thirty-something year old writer at gossipy bullshit women’s magazine run by a totally wasted Tilda Swinton, and yet still engaging whenever she’s around (watch for the We Need to Talk About Kevin renunion with Ezra Miller!). Her life is an odyssey of booze, men, and an awkward family dynamic. Her dad was a philanderer and drunk who told his daughters that “monogamy is not realistic”, a creed that Amy now lives by while her sister Kim (Brie Larson) does the opposite. This dynamic is the emotional core of Amy’s life, and it’s clear that a lot of her self-destructive behavior is down to a stubborn refusal to see how unresolved issues impede her ability to do what’s in her own best interests more often. Already we’re seeing a character whose freewheeling lifestyle is going to wind up being both unsustainable and morally objectionable via the comments made by other characters in the movie as well as the ways Amy internalizes and undergoes changes as a result. This is an Apatow staple, but by no means a misogynistic or slut-shaming agenda as has been claimed on the internet by idiots.

No, Trainwreck’s sins are nothing so interesting as closeted misogyny or whatever politically-incorrect travesty Schumer is being accused of this week. The closest thing this movie gets to ruffling a feather is that her dad may be seen as basically an outlet for all her politically incorrect comic sensibilities. I don’t mind this stuff, personally, as I think context and nuance are underappreciated currencies when taking in comedy, but I also can’t deny the way the movie lends itself to that interpretation. Anyway no, Trainwreck’s sins are that it’s boring and cynical and unfunny. This should be bad enough.


LeBron is everywhere.

Amy meets Aaron (Bill Hader), a sports surgeon and best friend of LeBron James (LeBron James). Aaron is a nice guy, but he’s pretty boring except for LeBron James. Amy doesn’t like sports, but her boss thinks this will create some passion in a planned interview with Aaron about his revolutionary surgical techniques. At the point we meet Aaron, the movie suddenly becomes as much about him and LeBron James as it was about Amy. This is weird because Aaron, nice as he is, has no conflict or journey to go through. Even the most obvious question (will he be able to accept the flawed Amy?) is barely observed in the movie and would be a pretty fucked up character focus anyway, I guess. Doesn’t stop Apatow from making all his “love interest” characters function on the same exact formula. Instead, the movie is happy to just put this girl in front of him and have him declare his love right around the time that is most guaranteed to wring some limp drama out of what has to be one of the most low-key and therefore realistic relationships in cinema history. That’s the one nice thing I’ll say about it, actually. Amy and Aaron feel like a real couple if you can ignore the really contrived “omfg New York City” locations they are constantly staged in.

When Amy’s father dies, she lionizes him before an audience of people, and really it feels like she’s also talking about herself, because she desperately wants to be accepted and loved in spite of her flaws… deep down! She goes on about what a great dad he was and how he was her favorite, qualities of their relationship that are never seen in the film and only conveyed by the ease with which she absorbs his insensitive prattle until excusing herself. This is the time when Aaron says he loves her, but the movie makes a rare unexpected choice in not having their relationship end right here for the obligatory third act “down” section. Instead, it meanders on for a while until it’s Amy and not Aaron who fucks it up by… taking a work call in the middle of a big acceptance speech Aaron makes. Up on his pedestal, Aaron gets mad at Amy for taking a very important call and they call it quits. Amy’s moment of realization that Aaron is the one from her comes from a Minecraft speech delivered by Alistair, her sister’s step-son (their relationship is one of the few things about the movie that works and that feels like honest Amy Schumer).


I think Amy Schumer must be friends with LeBron James in real life.

Trainwreck is the kind of movie that always does the most obvious, obligatory thing at the time where you’re most likely to expect it. As an example, there’s a Big Romantic Gesture that Amy makes at the 11th hour to win Aaron back. The gesture includes a reference to something they disagreed with to show how she has evolved as a person since then. The gesture is also threatened by completely arbitrary “oh no she’s running late”, which is a thing that we’re shown without reason or context as if the movie just expects us to go along until the big finish. And we do, and it’s bad, and then the movie abruptly ends.

Little of this structural stuff would matter much if the movie was funny, but it mostly isn’t. There are a couple of chuckles when Schumer threatens to actually turn the movie into something more like her comedy, but this stuff is fleeting and isolated. Mostly we get rapid-fire self-deprecation and obsolete pop culture references delivered from the mouths of stunt-casted celebrities like John Cena (who actually kills in this movie, but most of his best stuff is in the trailers) and LeBron Fucking James. Schumer references Game of Thrones apropos of nothing at least twice. There’s definitely an audience for this stuff, but these are the same people who probably liked Anchorman 2 and will go see Adam Sandler movies without a shred of irony. I don’t mean to be elitist, but I do want to make a distinction between what happens when you watch something like Trainwreck while thinking critically, and when you just go along with it and laugh along with it because it’s so ultra safe and familiar.

Ultimately, being safe is only a condemnation of the movie if you have preconceived notions about what kind of movie Schumer was going to make. She doesn’t owe us a feature length comedy skit derived from her show, or her stand-up. At the same time, it’s jarring to watch a movie where the very things that make her beloved, let alone famous, are scant at best. Safe isn’t necessarily bad, but I think there’s a lot of people for whom it will, in this context, amount to that. If it were the only issue, I still think it’s possible that Trainwreck could have been salvaged somewhere else. But everywhere you look, there’s a movie that feels like its writer and director set out to make a formula movie and settled for doing it poorly and lazily. Everywhere you look, there is only LeBron James.


LeBron who?