Christmas Day brought me to a showing of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It was just fine: funny enough to merit a high ranking on the Netflix queue when it is released but not crying for a run to the theater. Having seen Superbad the day before, my expectations were irrationally high. But despite some funny material, Walk Hard got me worrying about the Judd Apatow comedy monolith currently enveloping Hollywood. Apatow is branding everything in sight. The trailers preceding Dewey Cox included three movies from “The Creators of The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad” or some derivation thereof. All looked OK, none looked up to snuff with his earlier, signature material.
In the case of several movies in the Apatow pipeline, the man himself served merely as producer, with no hand in writing or direction. I don’t begrudge Apatow his success—I could watch 40 Year Old... and Knocked Up on an interminable loop and be happy as a clam and Superbad (which he also had no creative control over, but produced) was a riot. He’s also been playing the game for over a decade with several critically acclaimed but little-seen “cult” projects (“Undeclared” and “Freaks and Geeks”) under his belt. Understandably, he is relishing his newfound fame and, I’m sure, fortune. But as New York’s Undulating Curve of Shifting Expectations tells us, success often begets backlash. The dilution of the Apatow brand from clever, raunchy comedies with a heart to broad slapstick or lazy parody would be a lightning-quick reversal of fortune and sadly tarnish the reputation of the man deservedly deemed the next great hope of comedy.