‘Trainwreck’ Brings the Laughs, But Offers Little Else (FILM REVIEW)

[rating=6.00]

I’ve never much been a fan of Amy Schumer’s pretty woman with a foul mouth shtick upon which she’s built her career, at least as it pertains to her stand up. I’ve seen a few of her acts, and they were okay, I guess, but her whole “I get drunk and have sex” persona just doesn’t really do it for me. Her sketches, though, as seen on Inside Amy Schumer, perfect her brand of raunchiness and give it the punch it needs to make it both hilarious and meaningful. She’s proven herself to be a writer with no shortage of wit and social commentary, elevating her comedy to new, fantastic heights.

The good news is that you get more of the Schumer’s sketch comedy vibe with Trainwreck, the first feature length movie written by America’s reigning queen of comedy, and it’s quite often hilarious, with jokes that walk the fine line between pure raunch and satire. The bad news is that the movie as a whole just isn’t that good, even despite how often I laughed.

The film follows the life and times of men’s magazine writer Amy (Schumer) and her refusal to settle down into a “normal” routine. No family for this lady, she’s just not that interested and would rather focus on her career as she bounces from one meaningless hook up to the next in her efforts to live as independently as possible. When her editor assigns her to write a story about a well-known sports surgeon (Bill Hader)—who’s developed innovative procedures and has a roster of clients that reads like the lineup for various all-star games—she finds herself not only falling for her subject but also (gasp) becomes willing to try this whole monogamy thing on for size.

It’s your basic rom-com conceit that would easily fall under the radar had it starred anyone else. Added to this, the film’s status is further elevated by the involvement of director Judd Apatow, who’s built his career on playing with audience expectations on what a romantic comedy could and should be. And on a lot of levels, the entire premise works well.

Schumer and Hader are absolutely magical in their shared screen time, exuding the kind of chemistry that makes for great comedic teams. The two play off each other wonderfully, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this film leads to more shared roles for this duo. There’s also a wonderful series of recurring small roles from the likes of Colin Quinn, Dave Attell, Randall Park, and Mike Birbiglia that further add to the comedic chops of this romantic comedy. Hell, even LeBron James is pretty hilarious, holding his own against these big league comics. This could easily lead to more roles if he chooses to pursue them.

Narratively, however, the film is a bit weak and suffers from a case of refusing to sacrifice funny bits for the good of the plot. There’s a lot of bloat in Trainwreck, with scene after scene of pointless meandering that really adds nothing to the overall story. Admittedly, most of these knock humor out of the park and kept me laughing, but after a while it got a little tedious. Yes, yes, we get it…Amy likes to drink and she likes to screw, and it doesn’t make her a bad person. And oh god, not another existential freak out over her impending descent into monogamy.

At just over two hours, the film is about 20 minutes too long, overstaying its welcome just long enough to lessen the enjoyment considerably. After a certain point, you begin to question just what, if any, purpose there was in various subplots and comedic bits. While a lot of these work as an exercise in sketch comedy, a movie is an entirely different beast and narrative needs to remain tantamount. This has become increasingly problematic for Apatow, whose latter work has become a hit or miss mess. It’s as though he’s embraced his role as master of raunchy humor and has completely forgotten how to tighten his narratives for maximum impact.

Still, there’s a lot to like about Trainwreck if you can overlook all the droll and repetitive scenes. It’s a genuinely funny date movie that never wows you but gets the job done. Schumer, while not exactly stretching her wings, has proven herself to be, if nothing else, a competent screenwriter with an eye for capturing the ridiculousness of dating and relationships in a world obsessed with hook ups. I’m interested to see what else she can bring to the table, and I hope this isn’t the last script she pens for the big screen. I just hope that between now and then she learns the importance of sacrificing scenes that don’t add anything to the overall story. Hilarious as it is, it just never adds up to anything particularly special.

Trainwreck is in theaters now.

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