Trainwreck —a standard rom-com with cosmetic changes

Mike D’Angelo

Two and a half stars

Trainwreck Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson. Directed by Judd Apatow. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Trainwreck stars stand-up/sketch comic Amy Schumer as Amy Townsend, a hard-drinking, fun-loving entertainment journalist who unapologetically enjoys casual sex and hates intimacy. Early scenes focus on Amy’s efforts to ensure that she never has to spend the night with one of her conquests, emphasizing her distaste for post-coital snuggling and spooning. Eventually, of course, the plot requires her to fall in love, and the man who wins her heart, sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), does things like blurt out “I love you” at the wrong moment and engage in anxious post-mortems with his best friend (LeBron James, playing himself) following every date. In other words, Trainwreck is a perfectly ordinary romantic comedy that has simply swapped the genre’s standard gender clichés—an approach that would be hilarious and refreshing in a five-minute sketch on Inside Amy Schumer, but has trouble sustaining a two-hour feature.

Granted, simplistic comic ideas that get laboriously overextended are director Judd Apatow’s stock in trade. Trainwreck was written entirely by Schumer, but it nonetheless plays a lot like Funny People and This Is 40—just sort of meandering around, tossing random raunchy jokes into what’s essentially an earnest paean to family values. Making Aaron a doctor who specializes in treating star athletes also provides numerous opportunities for the sort of self-effacing cameos Apatow favors. (King James has fun pretending he’s a cheapskate who insists on precisely divvying up the check at a restaurant.) It’s mildly refreshing to see a female-driven version of the template, but given what a roll Schumer’s been on lately with her Comedy Central show, it’s also dispiriting to see her perform cosmetic post-feminist surgery on material that’s otherwise remarkably conventional. Only the finale, which shouldn’t be spoiled, achieves the button-pushing, genuinely subversive catharsis of her best TV work.

Trainwreck does have its scattered pleasures. Tilda Swinton again renders herself almost unrecognizable (see Snowpiercer) as the editor of the men’s magazine for which Amy works, taking corporate boorishness to hilarious extremes. A one-on-one basketball game between Aaron and LeBron is as absurd as you’d expect. But too much of the film embraces formula without even making a token effort to tweak it. The source of the inevitable late-second-act rift between Amy and Aaron isn’t dumb or contrived enough to qualify as a parody of rom-com structure—it’s just standard-issue mediocrity. Nor can one credibly claim that it was part of the plan to have Hader be so genially bland (just a year after his magnificent turn in The Skeleton Twins), even if he’s playing what would normally be the comparatively bland female role. The movie tries to think outside the box, but all it manages to do, in the end, is paint the box a different color.

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