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Universal // Unrated // November 10, 2015
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted November 8, 2015 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
A guy's girl and a girl's guy

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Vanessa Bayer, Judd Apatow, Half the comics in the film
Likes: The other half
Hates: Basketball

The Movie
Most everyone now knows Amy Schumer as the foul-mouthed It Girl of comedy, whether it's for her Comedy Central sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, her stand-up specials or her seemingly ever-present role in popular culture (aided by her friendship with Jennifer Lawrence.) Thus is was no surprise for her to get a starring vehicle of her own in the Judd Apatow-directed Trainwreck, but she also wrote the film, a personal story related to her own experiences in life and family, so it's not simply a distaff version of a Todd Phillips film, with her stand-up persona shoved inside. Her character, also named Amy, has still got the mouth, but she's also got a character to go with it.

Amy is a writer at a men's magazine that specializes in lurid stories about masturbation and bodily fluids, but she's assigned one of the high-gloss stories, covering Aaron (Bill Hader), a sports doctor who does surgeries some of the biggest names in sports. Not knowing much about sports, she takes on the assignment anyway, and finds herself interested in Aaron, a good, if slightly geeky guy, and the doctor is interested in Amy as well. The problem is, Amy has been brought up by her father Gordy (Colin Quinn) to not believe in monogamy. Not one for relationships, Amy self-medicates with booze and weed and has sex with every guy she takes a liking to, and puts everything before Aaron, despite having feelings for him that are strange and new for her.

Early on, the film constructs Amy's character swiftly, in terms of her current behavior, her familial background (including her dad and her married-and-mom sister (Brie Larson)), her job (under her taskmaster boss, an unidentifiable Tilda Swinton) and her friends, like a ditzy fellow writer (Vanessa Bayer) and a homeless man outside her apartment (the great Dave Attell, in the role he was born to play.) Once her world is built, it can be crumbled around her, through self-sabotaging bad choices and otherwise, including her father's illness, which is where, other than in the core relationship, the film's pathos comes in. Though not too heavy-handed in terms of schmaltz, Apatow earns the audience's buy-in, moving between the spheres of Amy's world smoothly, to establish just who she is and who she'd like to be. It's a challenge to make her journey believable, as her character is on an extreme of the societally-acceptable female spectrum, and if the goal is to make her "normal", that's a long road to travel.

Though emotion is a key element of the film, and can take center stage at points, Trainwreck is a comedy at its heart and is often very funny, with Schumer's trademark mindset at its core, with filthy sex talk, jokes about cunnilingus and a disturbing bout of S&M play. It's not all about the dirty stuff though, as the film can be silly as well, with an amusing bit about a motion-capture suit and lots of relationship jokes. Part of what makes it work when it's at its best is the cast, which is all-star quality from the leads down. Schumer is as expected when it comes to the comedy, playing the gender-swapped ideal of the party guy who finds a reason to come down to earth, but her ability to play emotion will surprise anyone who only knows her for her jokes. Hader is, as always, the perfect actor to ground a film, managing to be both hysterical, sweet and real, while also finding great chemistry with Schumer. Quinn isn't much different than the Quinn we've seen for decades now, and that's just what he needed to be, while Bayer is delightful as ever (one scene where she attempts to not smile is amazing) and Larson is fantastic, carrying the emotional weight of the film until Schumer's character is ready, while also giving her a true sisterly foil. (Attell is Attell. There is no bad Attell. There is just Attell.)

Dig into the supporting cast and you've got a ridiculous wealth of talent. You've got Jon Glaser and Randall Park as Amy's co-workers, a perfectly-cast Mike Birbiglia as Amy's brother-in-law, Hollywood legend Norman Lloyd as a friend of Gordy's, and a host of funny folks, including Nikki Glaser, Claudia O'Doherty, Bridget Everett, Kyle Dunigan, Tim Meadows, Keith Robinson and Martina Franklin in small but memorable roles. The cameos can get a bit out of hand, with seemingly unnecessary appearances by SNL's Pete Davidson and Leslie Jones, as well as an odd scene with a trio of celebs who may have been picked at random to be in the movie. Honestly, they could have been any three people with audience recognition, and the scene would have been basically the same with some name changes (nothing against Mr. B. though, who is welcome in any movie.)

Most of the film, though obviously heightened in some ways, trafficks in reality (despite some random voiceover that felt out of place.) Nothing about what happens for most of the movie is tremendously unbelievable when dealing with people moving in circles that feature sports celebrities. And that's why the ending, which includes a set-piece that feels like it came out of a book on romantic comedies, comes off as so disappointing, from the "when exactly did the planning for this take place?" aspect, to the feeling that it seems very out of character for everyone involved and out of tone with the rest of the film. Is the concept for what happens entertaining? Certainly. On its own, it's completely fun and enjoyable. But as the payoff for two hours of story that's asked us to invest emotionally in these characters, it falls short.

One of the more surprising aspects of Trainwreck is the appeal of the athletes in featured and cameo roles, including NFL quarterback Tony Romo and NBA player Amar'e Stoudemire, neither of whom embarrass themselves while playing themselves. However, it's NBA superstar Lebron James and professional wrestler John Cena who are the big revelations, as both are quite funny playing against type. Though also playing himself, James's role as Aaron's best friend is sweet, goofy and human, playing down his fame and playing up a quirkiness that's endearing, especially when he's so engaged in his pal's love life. His presence also amplifies some of Hader's comedy simply by standing in sharp physical contrast to him (like when they eat lunch together or play one-on-one basketball.)

Similarly, Cena, playing Amy's erstwhile boyfriend Steven, a gym rat who seems to be struggling with an unacknowledged level of homosexual tendencies, is hilarious, creating an almost split-personality between his musclebound physique and his emotional side. His willingness to play with the uber-masculine image he owns as a star WWE wrestler results in some memorable moments, including one of the most awkward sex scenes ever filmed and a run of threats that are more confusing than concerning. Though played for laughs, he's also a reasonable complete character, and his likability helps sell the idea that Amy is not a good person. Whether it's some innate performance abilities in these sporting fellows of Apatow's skill at getting the best out of people, they work when many would think otherwise.

This release includes both the theatrical cut of the film and an unrated version that runs about four minutes longer. The extensions come in existing scenes, adding in some jokes that weren't quite audience friendly, including a Holocaust sight gag, and they don't change the movie in any real material way.

The Discs
This release arrives on one Blu-ray and one DVD, packed into a standard-width dual-hubbed Blu-ray keepcase (with a slipcase that repeats the cover art.) The disc's static menu (with that standard Universal curve menu) offers a choice to watch the film, select scenes, adjust the setup and check out the special feature. Audio options include DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS Digital Surround 5.1 Spanish and French and a Descriptive Video Service track, while subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French.

The Quality
The 2.40:1, 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer is very natural-looking, which is the right fit for the movie, which was shot on film. Colors are appropriately saturated (never burning too bright), with quality fleshtones and good black levels throughout. It's not the sharpest-looking film, with a good deal of evenly-applied grain, particularly in darker interior scenes. However ,the level of detail is reasonably high. The end result is a cinematic look that's free of any digital distraction.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track isn't particularly acrobatic, considering the film is dialogue-driven, but the soundstage is established well, with the surrounds offering up atmospheric effects and handling some dialogue placement. Everything is crisp and well-mixed, and has appropriate levels, but don't expect much out of the low-end, outside of some support for the soundtrack, which is important for a number of scenes featuring boisterous music.

The Extras
There are a ton of extras to enjoy on this disc. It all starts with a feature-length commentary, recorded before the film was released, featuring Apatow, Schumer and associate producer Kim Caramele (Schumer's sister.) There's talk of casting, improv, writing, an alternate ending and the quality of Schumer's "lay-down boobs", as well as the connections between Schumer's real life and her character. It's a freewheeling track full of observations and recollections from Schumer and Apatow (with Caramele responding here and there), which makes for a smooth-flowing commentary that will be worth listening to for anyone who enjoys the film.

Almost as lengthy is the 11-part series of "Behind the Scenes" documentaries, which checks in at a feature-length 90-minutes. Starting with an overview of the production, including the project's origins, table read, auditions and rehearsals, and moving on to document the making of several of the film's big sequences, these featurettes offer a lot of enjoyable insight into Trainwreck, while also serving as profiles of the actors and their experience on the film. Along with a chance to see the entire dance sequence created, from auditions on up, the best part here has to be the highlight on Lloyd, which includes a conversation between him and Method Man, an appreciation for his performance and the raw footage from a scene presented in the movie as part of a montage, which lets you hear him tell Schumer the story of how he met his wife. There's a bit more of him in "Secrets of the Wu" (2:21) which sees him again chatting with Method Man, who explains the backstory of his rap group. The culture clash and the older gentleman's enthusiasm make for an amusing moment to watch.

There are 17 deleted scenes to watch (separately or in a 45:44 block.) There's a lot of good stuff worth watching here, including some ridiculous scenes with Bayer, cut cameos by Ryan Phillippe, ESPN personality Kenny Mayne and Jim Norton, more creepiness from Jon Glaser, three fantasy scenes that didn't make it into the movie, and more with the athletes, as well as an excised wrap-up for Cena's character (featuring a cameo by comic Ali Wong.)

There's even more that was cut from the film in the 12 Extended/Alternate Scenes (running 49:06 in all.) John Cena's sex terms. More of Cena in bed. James forgot his glasses. Lunch with Lebron. insane baby shower conversation.

The Dogwalker is a black-and-white film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei, seen in pieces during the movie, and it's presented here in either two parts (as it was presented in the movie) or with a play-all option (4:09). Made up of a pair of somewhat ridiculous conversations about dogs, which serve as a stand-in for discussion of relationships, there's no real plot to concern yourself in this parody of indie filmmaking.

A two-part gag reel runs 12:42 in total, though it seems like it could have been twice as long based on how frequently the cast screwed up or how often planes flew over the set. There's a lot to love about these gags, whether it's Hader's infectious laugh, James' tear-inducing laughter over a scene with Matthew Broderick or Cena's Harry Carey imitation.

"Line-O-Rama," a reel of alt takes by Schumer, Quinn, Attell and Norman Lloyd from several points in the film, is also two parts (8:11 in all), and though they aren't tremendously hysterical, they are a testimonial to the performers' quick wit. It does however also feature a ridiculous run of lines from Cena that go a tad against type, making them a must-see.

"Directing Athletes: A Blood Sport" (9:54) focuses on Apatow's work with the many sports figures in the film, and how to get them to their best work, taking on the role of a coach. Most of it is a goof, as Apatow goes hard-ass on James, Romo and Stoudamire, mixing motivation and insults, but it's fun to watch, with a mix of faux on-set footage and interviews with Apatow, the athletes, Mayne and Albert.

The main extras wrap with another multi-part series, "Trainwreck Comedy Tour," showing 23 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of six stops from the nationwide promo effort/tour featuring comics in the movie, including Schumer, Attell, Quinn, Birbiglia, Bayer and Apatow, along with an appearance by Lloyd. Like any road documentary, it's great to spend some time with these very funny people away from the stage, as well as get to see some of what happened on the tour, like a small-scale battle between Apatow and Birbiglia, waged on the pages of a fan's autographed copy of Sick in the Head. On top of all of this, we also get the 53-minute audio of the Comedy Central Radio Town Hall that aired on SiriusXM Radio, with Apatow, Schumer, Quinn, Bayer, Attell and Birbiglia. After some concern about sound, they dive into a somewhat wide-ranging and friendly Q&A, focusing less on the film than on the comics present, who answer questions about topics like influences and women in comedy. Sometimes it gets a little mixed up, as answers don't exactly connect to questions, but it's a consistently fun listen.

Also included is the film's red-band trailer (3:03), as well as a code for a stream or download of the film.

The Bottom Line
Feeling a bit like a Cannonball Run, thanks to the pile of funny and famous people involved, more spectacle than comedy gold, Trainwreck leverages the good will its cast engenders to remain entertaining throughout, as it attempts to balance comedy with drama, making a simply good movie in the end, though the finale leaves something to be desired. The same cannot be said for the Blu-ray, which, in addition to quality sound and picture, gives you more bonus content than you could ever expect from a comedy. Even if the movie wasn't that good, there's so much here worth checking out that it would have be worth a look anyway.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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