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Every Judd Apatow Project, Ranked

When Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy premiered 20 years ago, it wasn’t necessarily a game-changer for Will Ferrell in terms of his movie stardom. Ferrell was already on the Hollywood fast track with the prior successes of Old School and Elf the previous year. However, for producer Judd Apatow, Anchorman marked an important milestone. Though Apatow had been involved in the entertainment industry for over a decade, primarily working on TV shows, Anchorman was his first hit movie as a producer. This film was key in kickstarting a 10-year period where Apatow became an influential comedy figure, helping several actors and comedians find their cinematic and TV voices.

The Apatow Project often skirts between meta and navel-gazing, as it centers around characters struggling to become functional adults while existing on the fringes of creative industries. This could be why his producer’s stamp feels so auteur-like, even on projects far removed from his personal experiences. Some of Apatow’s best works feature characters who aren’t performers or comedians but still place significant importance on comedy and performance.

Among comedy enthusiasts, the film Celtic Pride may be best known for being the only Judd Apatow-related movie that Bill Murray had seen by 2010. This might have been why Murray avoided Apatow’s calls. Written by Apatow and future Weekend Update anchor Colin Quinn, it follows two obsessive Celtics fans who kidnap a star player from an opposing team. This film has a spec-script-gone-wild feel, focusing more on loser bros rather than characters figuring out how to grow up.

In 2022, Apatow co-wrote, directed, and produced The Bubble, inspired by quarantine life. Though its premise and eclectic cast held promise, the movie ended up being Apatow’s worst feature film as a director. While containing some laughs, it ultimately lacked a strong narrative and sufficient humor throughout its overwhelming 126-minute runtime.

Apatow dabbled in several online projects, such as the Internet Ephemera series, which included YouTube videos like Vanity Fair: The 1990s, I Am Harry Potter, and The Hills with James Franco and Mila Kunis. These videos are funny but not particularly emblematic of Apatow’s work. They show him playing the straight man to the main comedian and serve merely as enjoyable distractions.

In 2015, a Judd Apatow spec script for The Simpsons from 22 years prior was produced. While thematically compatible with Apatow’s tales of male regression, the episode wasn’t particularly strong and failed to capture the grounded feel of the show’s earlier seasons.

Released in 2008, Drillbit Taylor was a dud that followed the success of Superbad the previous year, despite sharing a writer in Seth Rogen. This film tried to replicate the high school misfit formula but failed in humor and charm. It tells the mean-spirited story of teens who hire a homeless guy to be their bodyguard.

In 2013, Apatow lent his producing power to John Carney’s Begin Again, a follow-up to the well-loved indie Once. Despite an earnest plot involving music-making and a solid cast, the movie fell flat compared to Carney’s other works.

May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers is a 2017 documentary co-directed and produced by Apatow. While it captures a specific moment in the band’s career, its lack of conflict makes it less engaging to those who aren’t already fans.

Throughout the 1990s, Apatow saw many TV projects and pilots fail, including North Hollywood, Class Clowns, and The TV Wheel. These attempts provided glimpses into an alternate history of TV, featuring famous actors in pre-stardom roles. Although none of these projects reached success, they helped shape Apatow’s career.

In 2017, Apatow released his stand-up special, Judd Apatow: The Return. While the material was solid and brought laughs, it felt more like an exercise rather than a passionate return to stand-up comedy.

Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain (2023) is a Goonies spoof produced by Apatow. Despite some laughs, it feels dragged out, as the plot could have been easily condensed into a shorter digital sketch.

In 1995, Apatow co-wrote and executive produced Heavyweights, a kid-targeted Disney comedy. The film is an early example of Apatow’s style with its underdog characters but is ultimately disorganized and lacking big laughs.

The TV Set (2006), a satire of Hollywood life written and directed by Jake Kasdan, failed to stand out despite its predictable and cynical humor.

Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday (2016) marked the final onscreen appearance of Paul Reubens as Pee-Wee Herman. This Netflix movie is a quirky and ambiguous comedy, co-written by Apatow’s frequent collaborators.

Apatow’s lesser-known projects include Kicking and Screaming (2005), featuring Will Ferrell. This family-friendly sports comedy about kids’ soccer struggles doesn’t bring many laughs but provided Apatow with valuable production experience.

Funny or Die Presents (2010-2011) brought the sketch-comedy website to HBO, featuring a variety of comic acts in a potpourri of sketches that sometimes fell flat.

The 2005 remake of Fun with Dick and Jane saw Apatow and Nicholas Stoller credited as screenwriters. Although the film is a minor Jim Carrey vehicle that leans towards Stoller’s style, it remains amusing.

Apatow’s Mets fandom led him to co-direct ESPN’s 30 for 30 episode Doc and Darryl, a poignant look at the tumultuous careers of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight “Doc” Gooden. The documentary highlights their struggles with addiction and, poignantly, their personal challenges.

Additionally, Apatow has produced stand-up specials for numerous comedians, showcasing his talent for turning sets into well-received shows.

Bros (2022) saw Billy Eichner lead a groundbreaking rom-com featuring LGBTQ+ actors, yet it failed to connect broadly despite positive representation and progressive themes.

Juliet, Naked (2018), another adaptation of Nick Hornby’s work, is more Hornby than Apatow. Featuring Chris O’Dowd and Rose Byrne, the film tells the story of a music-obsessed couple and their love for a reclusive musician.

In 2020, The King of Staten Island offered a semi-autobiographical dramedy starring Pete Davidson. Despite its serious themes of mental illness and grief, the movie could have benefited from a tighter runtime and is often seen as inferior to Davidson’s Bupkis.

Apatow’s support of Harold Ramis brought Year One (2009), a hit-and-miss comedy featuring Jack Black and Michael Cera as cavemen. While not particularly strong, it remains an entertaining novelty.

Source: Particle News