The subject of gender has become red meat for Rockville Centre-raised Amy Schumer, whose Comedy Central show, "Inside Amy Schumer," has savagely skewered workplace sexism, hip-hop misogyny and sexting rituals. Her skits aren't just outrageous, they're also outraged, mostly by the double standards and hypocrisy of a male-dominated world. Any comedian who can tackle football's rape problem, as Schumer did with a "Friday Night Lights" spoof earlier this year, should have a field day with the hidebound Hollywood genre known as the romantic comedy.
Schumer's "Trainwreck" doesn't flip the rom-com on its head but merely gives it an awkward shove. Schumer wrote the script and also stars as Amy Townsend, a bed-hopping journalist who falls for her latest profile subject, a kindly sports doctor named Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). That premise strikes a blow for equal rights: For once, a woman gets to play the slovenly screw-up and a man plays the perfect saint. In most other respects, however, "Trainwreck" sticks closely to the rom-com tradition.
For starters, it's a slapdash affair with too many characters, extraneous scenes and jokes that miss as often as they hit -- all hallmarks of this movie's director, Syosset-raised Judd Apatow. The opening act is the funniest, a portrait of Amy as an overgrown party girl who takes after her womanizing father (an endearing Colin Quinn) and scoffs at her happily-married sister (Brie Larson). Amy is dating a doting meathead, Steve (John Cena, showing solid comedic timing along with his physique), who has no idea that she kicks a new conquest out of bed each morning. Amy works at a lowbrow men's magazine whose abusive editor is played by a marvelous Tilda Swinton.
The film weakens once we meet Aaron. This is the kind of non-role that women have been playing for years -- the uninteresting love interest -- so perhaps turnabout is fair play. With few opportunities to crack wise or cut loose, however, Hader generates zero chemistry with Schumer. Aaron serves mostly as an excuse for Apatow to give small roles to sports figures like LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire, both spottily effective.
Overall, "Trainwreck" feels less like a reinvention and more like business as usual. Despite Schumer's subversive instincts, the romantic comedy remains unchanged.
JUDD APATOW FINDS COMEDY IN LOVE
"Trainwreck," the latest comedy from Judd Apatow, marks the Syosset-born filmmaker's fifth time behind the camera. Here are the four other feature films directed by Apatow, which explore the comic possibilities of trying to make some unlikely relationships work.
THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2005) -- As the title character, Steve Carell is reluctant to dive into the dating pool with a single mom (Catherine Keener). The box-office smash made Apatow Hollywood's new wonder man, and it didn't hurt Kelly Clarkson, who got quite the shoutout from Carell during his waxing scene.
KNOCKED UP (2007) -- A successful media personality (Katherine Heigl) and a mega-slacker (Seth Rogen) try to make a go of it after she becomes pregnant following their one-night stand. Apatow has said parts of the film were based on the birth of his daughter Maude.
FUNNY PEOPLE (2009) -- A seasoned, terminally ill comic (Adam Sandler) takes a green performer (Seth Rogen) under his wing in this bromantic comedy-drama. This was one of Apatow's darker films, which may explain its mediocre box office take ($51.8 million).
THIS IS 40 (2012) -- Life doesn't seem to begin at 40 for Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as marrieds with failing businesses, bratty kids and a less than stellar sex life. If those aren't the ingredients for an Apatow comedy about middle age, what is?
-- Daniel Bubbeo