'Bridesmaids': Could it be the Judd Apatow factory's all-time biggest hit?

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Judd Apatow has directed only three movies, but his name — even more than, say, Steven Spielberg’s — is powerfully associated with a great many films that he shepherded but didn’t direct, like Superbad or Pineapple Express. There’s a good reason for that. The Judd Apatow school, or factory, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t always produce great movies, but most of them are worthy, a good number of them are inspired, and his name, as a result, has come to symbolize something potent — and, to me, extraordinarily hopeful — in Hollywood. The name “Judd Apatow” doesn’t just mean movies that make you laugh, or that have a certain colorfully literate raunch factor. It means movies that are raunchy and smart and soulful at the same time — movies that dig into experience, that bring back the art of screenwriting, that are about real characters and real relationships, and that have made comedy (and, indeed, mainstream movies) safe for adults again.

Most of them, not so incidentally, have been hits. And that has made the launch of Bridesmaids out of the Judd Apatow cannon (and into the Apatow canon) an especially noteworthy experiment. For, of course, it’s the first picture to come out under Apatow’s imprimatur that’s devoted to the lives of women. The movie, which stars Kristen Wiig as a cathartically neurotic and frazzled maid of honor, was directed by Paul Feig (the creator of Freaks and Geeks), from a marvelous script by Wiig and Annie Mumolo, and though I have no problem calling it the best mainstream movie I’ve seen so far this year, it’s no insult to the collaborative achievement of Wiig, Mumolo, and Feig to point out that the film has a distinctly recognizable Apatow arc and vibe. It’s there in the funny-but-never-less-than-clever gross-out scenes, in the motley feminine wolfpack (which echoes the hilariously confessional overgrown boys’ clubs of such Apatow films as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Funny People), and in the way that the movie nudges its heroine past a mere troublesome “situation” and into an unvarnished comic identity crisis.

Since Bridesmaids is the first de facto “chick flick” to emerge from the Apatow school, even those of us who thought it would be successful probably wouldn’t have predicted that it would overtake most of Apatow’s previous big-gorilla smashes. But that may be exactly what’s happening. Bridesmaids, as of Monday night, has grossed $89 million, and that, unless there’s a film I’m forgetting (trust me, it would not be the divine Forgetting Sarah Marshall), places it at number four on the all-time Apatow hit list, just ahead of Pineapple Express ($87 million). But Bridesmaids, which is now packing in all sorts of crowds (it’s a girls’-night-out flick, a date movie, and, thanks to word of mouth, a grownups’-night-out movie), has shown no signs of slowing down. If the picture enjoys just one more solid weekend, it threatens to pass the box-office take of number three on the list, The 40-Year-Old Virgin ($109.5 million). And if it gets that far, then number two, Superbad ($121.5 million), looms right up ahead. If it succeeds in surpassing Superbad, that would leave only one Apatow film out in front of it: Knocked Up, which grossed $149 million. That would be a pretty steep hill for Bridesmaids to climb.

But it’s not out of the question. Knocked Up, which I personally always thought was quite overrated (I never bought those two as a couple, even with a surprise pregnancy to bring them together), had the benefit of novelty: Far more than The 40-Year-Old Virgin, it announced that a bold new voice had arrived to shake up and, indeed, remake the romantic-comedy landscape. And that’s at least one reason why people kept going, and going, to see it. Bridesmaids, I would argue, has a comparable degree of novelty, and maybe even more of it, since intelligent (and brilliantly funny) Hollywood movies that slice this deeply into the experience of contemporary women now come around about as often as… awards season. Or maybe stray meteors. More than just original, the movie is delirious fun — in my opinion, one of the two best movies ever to come out under the Apatow shingle, the other one being the superbly antic mind-versus-body teen masterpiece Superbad. I think there’s a very good chance that audiences will keep on going, and going, to Bridesmaids. And if they do, it’s no longer going to look like a Judd Apatow novelty. It’s going to look like the exception that demolished the rule.

So where do you think Bridesmaids will end up on the all-time Apatow hit list? Do you think it has a chance to be number one? And what do you think its success means: for Apatow, for Hollywood, for movies about women, and for women themselves?

Follow Owen on Twitter: @OwenGleiberman

Read more:
Yes, haters, I stand by liking ‘The Hangover Part II.’ But is this really the best that director Todd Phillips can do?
Should there be a ‘Bridesmaids’ sequel?
Move over, Tina Fey! ‘Bridesmaids’ catapults Kristen Wiig from ‘SNL’ star to Hollywood triple threat

Comments (121 total) Add your comment
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  • juice

    I think it will surpass all the others films. It was the best of the bunch also.

    • Mike

      It may surpass some of the others in terms of the money it grosses, but it will still be a distant fifth behind Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad when it comes to novelty and pop-culture rankings.

      Just saying.

      • Gina

        Nobody rewatches any of those movies except “40 Year Old Virgin” even now.

      • Laura

        I rewatch Superbad – too much good stuff to only watch once.

      • Captain

        I’ll give you Knocked Up, Superbad and 40 Year Old Virgin but I think Bridesmaids will have a greater pop culture impact than Forgetting Sarah Marshall (even though I love that movie).

      • Kat

        I watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall EVERY time I come across it on TV. That movie is hilarious.

      • barnhillism

        I’ve seen Bridesmaids four times in theaters (don’t judge). And I remember laughing harder during Bridesmaids than any other Apatow movie; during the dress fitting and airplane scenes, I was doubled over with laughter. It’s honestly the best comedy I’ve seen in awhile.

      • Kate

        Personally, I think Knocked Up is overrated. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is amazing, and I watch it every time it’s on TV. Superbad was awesome the first time, but I have never gone out of my way to re-watch it. Bridesmaids is hilarious and definitely worthy of a re-watch but I won’t be seeing it again in the theater (waaayyy too expensive).

      • LP

        “Bridesmaids” is going to end up being “Hangover” overrated. It’s funny and all(sometimes very funny), but I agree with Mike, it’s the weakest in that line-up. It’s also well behind “Pineapple Express” and right on the heals of “Get Him to the Greek”. It might be better than “Drillbit Taylor” though.

      • Christian

        me and my friedns have seen bridesmaids 3 times and the film gets funnier and funnier the more we watch it. I don’t know about you but me and my friends all quote this movie on a daily basis..i have yet to do this with any other films he has been a part of.

      • Ryan

        Forgetting Sarah Marshall and it’s ‘sort of’ sequel Get Him to the Greek are the two that only get better every time I see them. Also I Love You Man gets better every time. The rest get worse, especially Super Bad, Knocked Up, and 40 Year Old Virgin.

      • Jane

        Agreed. Hated Knocked Up, won’t watch Sarah Marshall because Kristen Bell makes me want to vomit and Superbad was okay, but I don’t need to see it again. 40 year Old Virgin is in my collection and as soon as Bridesmaids comes out, I’ll keep it in constant rotation.

    • tn

      I think it’s high on the list. The fact that this movie is doing gangbusters makes me distrust hollwood a little less. I think the worst apatow movie by far is Funny People. I hated that movie hard.

    • tom

      oh things will go your way….hold on for one more day……loved it!

    • Digital Guy

      Yes it will pass Knocked Up and there should be a sequel. Kristen Wiig’s marriage to the Cop.

  • Woot

    It will easily overtake 40 Year old virgin, and will probably out gross Superbad, but I highly doubt it can overtake Knocked Up. Yes, the movie is showing that it has legs, but I just don’t see it breaking 150. Still this was the best comedy I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m glad it’s doing well.

    • mia

      I’d LOVE to see “Bridesmaids” outdo “Knocked Up,” but I think the expensively produced and marketed summer blockbuster monsters are going to prevent that from happening.

      • bocoe

        I would love to see Bridesmaids out do the lame Hangover II.

      • Olive

        Agree bocoe

      • Allan

        bridesmaids continues about 1.2 million a day and is at 141 now, only about 7 million shy of passing knocked up. It will out-gross knocked up for sure by next week

    • RyanD

      I wouldn’t rule it out though just yet – the film hasn’t been released internationally. If it gains the right momentum in Europe and Asia too, it could top the list.

    • Woot

      All those numbers were solely domestic. Knocked up Grossed 219 million worldwide

    • tom

      hold on for one more day! loved it!

  • Allison

    Oh my God, I hope “Bridesmaids” does better than “Knocked Up.” KU was funny, but I didn’t buy Katherine and Seth as a couple either.

    • maiv

      I don’t think many people bought them as a couple lol but I am excited that Bridesmaids is doing so well

    • Captain

      I think that was kind of the point. They were two people who had no business or reason being a couple but a baby brought them together.

  • outside agitator

    Superbad was 45 minutes too long. a loooong 45 minutes. That’s what’s made me shy about Bridesmaids.

    • Pat

      I could rewatch the first 45 minutes or so of Superbad on a loop forever, but after McLovin gets arrested, it seems VERY drawn out and loooooooooong.

  • Marten

    I did not see this movie because of Apatow. I saw it because it looked hilarious, and it turned out it was.

    • Liv

      I agree. I was really on the fence about Bridesmaids because of Apatow. My friends really had to twist my arm. It was really funny. I could have done without the food poisoning scene.

  • LOL

    Bridesmaids > Hangover 2

    • Olive

      Yes!

    • TQB

      Without question. Funnier, smarter – an all around better movie.

    • DGH

      Opinons are great but don’t confuse facts with opinions.

      • TQB

        I didn’t. Did you?

      • Will

        fine DGH, I’m sure everyone here would like to to give us at least one fact as to why Hangover II is better than Bridesmaids (besides box office, you can do better than that)

  • RayT

    I hope this movie is sucessful because I want to see more women like Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph in movies. Women like Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler, Wanda Sykes, Molly Shannon, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, and Kathy Griffin are smart, funny, and true comedians. They are a way better representation of real women than airheads like Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigl who are walking cliches.

    • mia

      I agree. Kate Hudson and Katharine Heigl need to go away. As to your list of funny women, I’d like to add Cheri Oteri (based upon her hilarious guest spot on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”). The fact that Rob Sneider has had a big movie career and Sarah Silverman has not is an absolute crime.

      • RayT

        Love, love, love Cheri Oteri! She should have her own sitcom.

      • spud

        You can add Jennifer Aniston to that list to go away. She is fun to look at, but everyone’s attempts to make her a leading lady are getting pathetic.

      • barnhillism

        I don’t know, spud. Aniston has the potential to be a great actress (Friends anyone?). She just doesn’t get the right parts.

      • @barnhillism

        Just because you really liked Friends and loved her character doesn’t mean she was EVER a great actress on Friends. But I thought she was terrific in The Good Girl and Friends With Money. I wish she’d do more independent dramedies. That’s her niche, I’m telling you.

    • trish

      Melissa McCarthy needs to be on that list…. she was the scene stealer

      • dan

        She deserves a nom for Best Supporting Actress at next year’s Oscars. Comedy performances don’t usually win Academy Awards for the lead actors, but for supporting she has a great chance. The movie wouldn’t be the same without her.

      • Woot

        Doubt she will get an oscar nom. High chance Kristen Wiig will get golden globe nom though.

      • jacksland14

        holy cow, yes! i want megan to be my best friend…

      • Barbara

        The performance I remember most from the movie was Melissa McCarthy’s. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her to see what she was up to next!

        I’ll have to go back to watch it again for a closer look at what everyone else did.

    • rpbns

      You had me until Kathy Griffin.

    • barnhillism

      I agree, RayT. I was so happy to see Wiig and Rudolph as the leading ladies. Really all of the women were fantastic, especially Melissa McCarthy. I would also add Emma Stone to the list. Great comedic timing and, though Easy A wasn’t the best comedy, she blew my mind.

    • Mark k

      I agree with all of your funny women list. What can be done about getting actually funny,clever,smart women on the big screen? Kate Hudson? You had your chance,Babe. Heigl? YAAAWWWN!All the people you mentioned should get together and have a serious brainstorming session.What I hate is how Hollywood will now try to copy Bridesmaids.

  • Owen is a Douche

    Please tell me I’m not delusional and Owen, “film critic”, actually used to the word “overrated” to describe Knocked Up.

    • You’re a douche

      And you drink your water out of a douchebag.lol

    • Brigette

      It’s okay, Mr. Douche. I would never use “overrated” to describe Knocked Up either.

  • Shut moron (above). Owen’s a pop-culture sage

    Ignore the douchebag up there.

    This is a thoughtful AWESOME reflection of the Apatow revolution. Yes, I can say that because it takes the subversive indie vibe usually found in Kevin Smith films and mainstreams it in a way that raises the bar of comedies everywhere! Awesome read.

    • @barnhillism

      Not to mention him being a lot more clever and creative than Kevin Smith……………

  • Dave

    I really hope Bridesmaids keeps on trucking and becomes a huge hit. It certainly deserves it. It’s so much better and smarter than the slew of crappy romantic comedies and chick flicks that have been coming out lately. As a guy whose girlfriend likes to see chick flicks, I would never complain if they were all this good.
    I can pretty much always count on Judd Apatow movies to deliver the goods. Most of my favorite comedies over the past decade are from his factory.

    • Justin

      Same here. With the exception of Funny People, every movie that’s come from his factory, whether directed or produced, I really liked, including Knocked Up.

    • Liv

      Do people just use the word “smarter” when they want people to like something? Bridesmaids wasn’t smarter than any of the romatic comedies out there. I am not at all hating on Bridesmaids, I really enjoyed it but smarter is not the word to use here.

      • Amy

        I disagree. “Smart” is a word that can be used to describe Bridesmaids. I think it was smart because it had fully-realized characters and strong character development. It felt real. Go watch a romantic comedy like The Ugly Truth or a number of other chick flicks. Are you going to try and say that Bridesmaids is not smarter than The Ugly Truth?

      • SG

        Have you even seen it? I agree with Amy — it was smart because the women were three-dimensional fully-formed human beings as opposed to “bimbos, “sluts”, Sandra Bullock types, virginal good girl types, or any of the other tired stock character stereotypes that women are given in Hollywood.

        It was also smart in that the “fat girl” wasn’t seen as a joke, and her weight was never the butt of any snide comments. Instead, she was a kick-ass wild card who gave the main character some crucial advice while stealing scenes by partying hard. If portraying a larger woman as a human being, and an awesome one at that, isn’t smart, I don’t know what is.

  • Dave

    And thanks for writing this article, Owen. I completely agree with you.

  • Justin

    I’ll definitely be seeing this film soon, mostly for Judd Apatow (Funny People is the only movie of his I didn’t like), but also because of word-of-mouth. Heard many good things about Bridesmaids.

    • @barnhillism

      Okay, you’re going to see it because of Apatow? You do realize he didn’t direct or write it? How about seeing it because you’ve heard about how awesome it is?

      • Justin

        I said I heard many good things about it. Didn’t you read the whole comment? Besides, I know he didn’t direct or write it, but he helped produce it, you know, because he’s a “producer”. Geez!

  • Jason S.

    You forgot one thing about the Apatow flicks that makes them distinguishable is Apatow uses a growing group of unknown actors and doesn’t stack his films with say Tom Cruise or Jennifer aniston. Instead giving lead roles to Freaks and Geeks alums Rogen, Segel, Starr and making stars of them. He did the same to Carell and Heigl, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Judah Hill.

  • Lucy

    My friend and i went to see it as a girl’s night out movie and loved seeing a Funny movie without all of the nudity. We could tell women helped write it. Most women don’t care to see nudity like that in their movies. We loved the hilarious beginning with the sex situations but were pleasantly surprised to not have to see b**bs everywhere.

    • bootsycolumbia

      Sorry to nitpick, but women wrote the script, they didn’t “help” write the script. I know Apatow had his hand in the script (the bathroom humor had to have come from him), but the main script was by two women, Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo.

      • Lucy

        Thanks for the clarification. Not offended at all. I didn’t research it, or read too much about it before we went to see it. I was just saying it was obvious that women had some control in the movie I wasn’t sure how much. I didn’t mean to take any credit away from the ladies.

    • Pittner

      What nudity are you talking about? You speak as if there are balls and breasts hanging out during the whole movie. Lighten up.

      • Carol

        ???

        She said “My friend and I…loved seeing a funny movie without all of the nudity.”

    • annabelle

      Eh, this woman isn’t bothered a bit by nudity in movies. I don’t care if everybody’s naked, so long as the movies is GOOD. I certainly do mind bad movies, and this wasn’t one. I liked Bridesmaids because it was funny and well-written, and I laughed throughout the entire thing.

      And as a bonus, it was a lot of fun to see a movie in which every major character, save one, was played by a woman. There were all sorts of women in this movie instead of 1-2 token characters. That made it more fresh and original, frankly, than a lot of comedies out there.

  • bocoe

    I saw The Bridesmaids on Memorial Day. The theater was three fourths filled. I don’t recall a recent movie where the audience was one mass of out loud guffaws and belly laughs. I enjoyed the movie far more than The Hangover II.

    • Olive

      Dude! The theater I was in was also roaring guffaws and belly laughs. The audience was also very mixed in age, race, and sex. Bridesmaids rules!

    • wino

      same here, same movie a few weeks ago to an almost packed house and i dont recall a movie in recent memory that had everyone laughing out loud, nonstop.

    • Jesse

      didnt get around to seeing it till sunday…matinee was packed and i too cant remember a movie where the entire audience was dying laughing to the point of tears (dress fitting scene) myself included…maybe the 1st meet the parents if i recall for me

    • Will

      my theater was roaring too. I was keeling over from laughing so hard, it felt like my stomach was going to turn. I saw it again on a different day so I could hear the rest of the jokes I missed because everyone was laughing so hard

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