Lately, there have been three kinds of comedies, the stupid comedy is the most common, and the very occasional smart comedy pops up every so often, but the most intriguing kind is the smart-stupid comedy. The smart-stupid comedy is a movie that looks stupid and pretends to be stupid, but is actually very smart. Critics and audiences can very easily detect which of these movies is which, and everyone seems to prefer the smart-stupid brand. Examples from recent years include Office Space, Napoleon Dynamite, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Wedding Crashers, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Clerks II, Borat, Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory, The Simpsons Movie and the new Superbad. Even the Jackass movies -- which I haven't seen -- have their defenders among the intellectual elite.
If you can strike this formula, you're in for box office and critical gold -- and perhaps even an Oscar nomination. Knocked Up (297 screens) has been one of the summer's most enjoyable movies and one its biggest surprises. I almost didn't attend a press screening because it looked like a variation on the dreadful American Pie movies, but the buzz got to me and I went, and I'm glad I did. Judd Apatow's movie isn't much different from the formula of a beautiful girl redeeming a pathetic schlub, but this time it feels as if it came from a genuine place, as if the schlub really felt these things and was expressing his gratitude. For the lowbrows in the audience, Apatow gives his hero a selection of even dorkier roommates with lots of hilarious, shocking things to say and do, but the movie's main drive is pure.