** 1/2 out of ****
Comedy Central sensation Amy Schumer has her first big screen starring role in Trainwreck, which she also scripted. Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) directed the romantic comedy and, for better and worse, this feels like an Apatow movie.
Schumer stars as Amy, a writer at a New York lifestyle magazine who works her way through a plethora of one-night-stands. Her fear of commitment stems from her alcoholic father (Colin Quinn), who taught her the slogan “monogamy isn’t realistic” when she was only a girl. But things change when she’s hired to write a profile of a sports doctor (Bill Hader), who has a working relationship with a number of pro sports starts (most prominently LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire).
Apatow’s films rely heavily on improvisation. He’s generous in allowing stars and bit players chances to shine. And sometimes, that generosity works. Schumer and Hader have a good chemistry together, Tilda Swinton is hilarious as Schumer’s boss, and Quinn’s frequently funny.
But the film also has its share of moments that fall flat. Amy, like most of Apatow’s protagonists, is charming and obnoxious in almost equal doses. Cleveland Cavs megastar LeBron James proves he’s not only a better basketball player than the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire, but he’s also a lot funnier, too. James earns some big laughs, but in the second hour he largely disappears in favor of Stoudemire, who’s not particularly charismatic or funny on screen. And like all Apatow comedies, Trainwreck could use some judicious cuts. It runs over two hours, and the bloat is unnecessary.
On a final side note: Viewers should pay attention to Norman Lloyd, who plays an elderly friend of Quinn’s at the assisted living center. In their best scene together, the two have a humorous argument about the merits of Babe Ruth. Modern viewers would most likely recognize Lloyd as the mean headmaster in Dead Poets Society (he’s the guy trying to get the boys to stop standing on the desks in the final scene). He is 100 years old. The man worked (as an adult!) with Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Alfred Hitchcock. Of all living actors, Lloyd would quite possibly be the most interesting one to talk to over lunch. Take a moment while watching Trainwreck to savor a character actor with a remarkable career.
Ultimately, there’s laughs to be had in Trainwreck if you’re willing to sit through some dead stretches.