Movie News & Reviews

‘Trainwreck’ puts Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in the driver’s seat: 2.5 stars

Amy (Amy Schumer) knows her budding romance with a doctor (Bill Hader) is corny, but she falls for him anyway.
Amy (Amy Schumer) knows her budding romance with a doctor (Bill Hader) is corny, but she falls for him anyway. Universal Pictures

“Trainwreck” functions more as a gravy train for Amy Schumer.

For her first big-screen lead, the Comedy Central star has penned a perfect vehicle to show off her brazen personality and wicked tongue. She is memorable and appealing in this robust character comedy from director Judd Apatow (“This Is 40”). If only Apatow showed as much interest in Schumer as in the celebrity-packed supporting cast.

Schumer plays Amy, a New York journalist at a vapid men’s magazine called S’Nuff. Her weekends are filled with hangovers, meaningless sex and self-loathing. Yet she still finds time to berate her younger, cuter, nicer sister (Brie Larson) for settling down with a husband and stepson.

“Maybe you should consider changing your ways,” sister Kim tells her.

Amy is assigned to write a story on Aaron (Bill Hader), a friendly orthopedic surgeon whose celebrity clients include LeBron James and Tony Romo. Despite her complete disinterest in sports, Amy makes the shocked discovery she actually likes him — and it’s reciprocated.

That’s a lot to handle for a woman with commitment issues so deep she will do anything to avoid spending the night with a man after sex. (She scolds Aaron for wanting to spoon: “If I stay here, can we sleep in a realistic position?”)

Will Amy embrace this relationship or sabotage it like all the others?

It’s startling to learn this is Schumer’s first leading role because it feels like she has been honing her on-camera skills for decades, mastering a range of tricky emotions in various encounters.

[ Watch Amy Schumer’s 5 funniest moments ]

At work Amy must keep her mouthiness in check when dealing with a “Devil Wears Prada”-esque editor (an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton), who condescendingly compliments her as “prettyish” when not threatening to fire her.

At night Amy must wade through a batch of idiot dates, such as a meathead muscleman (wrestler John Cena) whose idea of talking dirty is listing GNC supplements.

On the homefront she’s handling her MS-suffering dad (Colin Quinn in his best-ever performance). He’s a rascal of epic proportions, and Amy clearly emulates his home-wrecking philosophy that “monogamy isn’t realistic.”

Both “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” are flush with sharp supporting roles or cameos created by Apatow. Here, he takes the concept too far. For every current “SNL” star who contributes a quirky walk-on, there’s an athlete detracting from the main story, inflating the running time past the two-hour mark.

In the film’s hokiest moment, LeBron organizes a relationship intervention for Aaron that is attended by his famous patients. It boasts more name-dropping than a season of “Entourage.”

At least Hader is strong as always. As in last year’s “The Skeleton Twins,” his character is realistic and devoid of comic shtick. But he must carry too many scenes opposite athletes, which means less screen time with Schumer. They’re simply too good together to keep them apart so much.

Viewers root for Amy and Aaron because the two bring out the best in each other. Amy needs a smart, nice guy with talents totally different from hers; Aaron requires someone socially savvy who can take charge in ways he can’t. The ideal yin-yang couple.

Not sure that symbiotic relationship applies to Schumer and Apatow.

Schumer’s jagged-edged humor gets hammered into the same family circle of Apatow’s previous films. For all its potty-lipped raunchiness, “Trainwreck” suggests that an outsider’s only shot at redemption is to end up in a domestic union. Fidelity. Marriage. Kids. Same old Apatow.

If that’s truly Schumer’s outlook as well, it sure runs counter to the roguish persona she’s cultivated. “Trainwreck” may be Schumer’s career breakout, but it’s Apatow’s movie.

‘TRAINWRECK’

1/2

Rated R | Time: 2:05

Related stories from Kansas City Star

  Comments