This Is 40 marks not only the return of Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd’s much-loved married couple first seen in 2007’s Knocked Up, but comedy directing maestro Judd Apatow. Released on Valentine’s Day, now seems the perfect time to reflect upon Apatow’s illustrious (and hilarious) career thus far.
This Is 40 (2013 – Director, Producer, Writer)
In this (sort of) Knocked Up spin-off, we are reacquainted with characters Debbie and Pete (played by his real-life wife Mann and go-to actor Rudd) as they both attempt to come to terms with turning 40. Added pressure from their kids (real-life children, Maude and Iris) increases the stress in their relationship. A hilarious and personal profiling of marriage, This Is 40 boasts a cast of fresh comedic talent in the form of Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) Lena Dunham (Girls,) as well as a comedy turn from Megan Fox.
Anchorman (2004 – Producer)
Apatow boasts a producing credit on an innumerable amount of well-loved comedies released throughout this past decade, none more loved than Adam McKay’s modern cult Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. A satire for the ages, Will Ferrell’s Burgundy is one of the most-quoted characters of this century and there’s no doubt that Judd’s influence is present (not to mention the man himself – he cameos as a news station employee!)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005 – Director, Producer, Writer)
Apatow’s big-screen directorial debut stars Steve Carell as a middle-aged man finally on the path towards losing his virginity. It was here where Apatow initially set his famous tone, the guy on his own path to becoming the well-known director he is today. Casting the actors he has recycled many times since – Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, etc – the film’s shoot was famously largely improvised, something that Apatow is known for encouraging.
Knocked Up (2007 – Director, Producer, Writer)
A drunken one-night stand between Seth Rogen’s stoner and Katherine Heigl’s career-girl results in an unplanned pregnancy; and thus the story is set for Knocked Up, Apatow’s critically-acclaimed second stint behind the camera. A charmingly hilarious film, Judd proves that naughty comedy doesn’t have to be gross-out and mindless. The very definition of career-defining.
Superbad (2007 – Producer)
A teen favourite, Superbad is hard not to love; merging puerile jokes with loveable characters ensures that Apatow-produced comedies succeed like no other comedy can. Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are the two teenagers embroiled in under-age drinking, assisted by pal McLovin’ (Christopher Mintz-Plasse,) in order to attend Emma Stone’s wild house party. Perhaps the most Apatow-esque additions come in the form of Seth Rogen and Bill Hader’s offbeat police officers. Superbad was the teen film of the noughties.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008 – Producer)
Written by Jason Segel (from the Apatow-associated Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, The Five-Year Engagement,) Judd co-produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the popular film starring Segel as a puppet-loving music composer who holidays to Hawaii following a break-up with his actress girlfriend (Kristen Bell.) Squeezing the comedy from easily-relatable scenes featuring familiar faces from his films, this film further proved if Judd Apatow’s name is attached, there are several reasons to get excited.
Funny People (2009 – Director, Producer, Writer)
Here was Apatow’s first attempt at merging dramatic elements within the comedy he’d already mastered, casting Adam Sandler as a lonely comedian forced to re-assess his life when diagnosed with leukemia. Keeping his film within the boundary of association ensures Apatow’s comedy always feels raw and never out of place in more serious scenes, heightening the film’s emotional depth. An ambitious attempt from Apatow, Funny People proved another success.
Bridesmaids (2011 – Producer)
Kristen Wiig heads Paul Feig’s sleeper hit comedy of 2011, acclaimed for showing that women can be just as funny as men. Bridesmaids’ popularity is undeniable, with critics and audiences alike lapping up the laughs; learning this has come from the House of Apatow comes as no surprise. The film boasts the stat of being the first Apatow-associated film to receive recognition from Oscar, with Wiig/Annie Mumolo’s Screenplay nominated, as well as Melissa McCarthy for Best Supporting Actress.
Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
Kick-starting the career of so many recognisable names and faces, Freaks and Geeks is undisputedly one of the best TV shows that received an extremely premature chop – NBC took the show off air after a mere 12 episodes, showing the remaining 6 thanks to a fan-led campaign. Created by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, and executive produced by Apatow, Freaks and Geeks featured actors Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and James Franco, as well as cameos (Ben Stiller, Leslie Mann and Rashida Jones, to name a few.) Featuring in countless ‘Best of..’ lists, Freaks and Geeks is an early showcase of the quintessential Apatow elements that are a staple of cinema today.
It is easy to comprehend the fact that the latest HBO comedy sensation, led by Lena Dunham, is executive produced by Judd Apatow. Girls is the show, and if you haven’t yet seen it, you’re in the minority. That rare show which equally pleases critics and fans with each new episode, Dunham’s show is midway through its second season with a third recently commissioned. Apatow’s involvement simply solidifies the fact you should jump on board this gleaming bandwagon.
This Is 40 is released on Valentine’s Day in UK 14th February