People think Amy Schumer is very funny, and the fact of the matter is that Amy Schumer is very, very funny.
So the fact that her first leading film role — the self-penned and Judd Apatow-directed “Trainwreck” — has superfluous laughs is no surprise.
What really is telling of Schumer’s true level of talent is the well-earned emotional heft she borrows from her own life for the romantic comedy that sees a fictional Amy — a boozing, maneater magazine writer — struggle with letting go of alcohol and myriad hookups after falling for the subject of one of her articles, big-deal sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader, “The Skeleton Twins”).
Like most of her work, Schumer’s bawdiness earns its R rating and feels constrained only by running time and the R rating, but it’s well-grounded and never seems gratuitous thanks to Amy’s wild and crazy ways being a product of her father Gordon (played by Colin Quinn) and his rambunctious philosophies he’s imparted.
The counterpoint to Amy’s promiscuous programming is her relatively straight-laced sister Kim (Brie Larson), who’s settled down and raising an unbearably sweet stepson — all of which is considered anathema to Amy as she beds a procession of guys with a patented plan to avoid sleeping over and getting attached.
Hader is not the prototypical male lead insomuch as Schumer isn’t thought of as a typical female lead, but both excel in their respective parts, and not because of their ability to sell over-the-top comedic moments. Hader, who’s made a career from outrageous impressions, nails perhaps the best moment of the flick with the straight man act: A look of terror mingling with intrigue when Amy brazenly announces she’s coming home with him after a fairly platonic dinner.
Even LeBron James manages to turn in quality scenes playing himself as an overprotective confidante of Conners, at turns giddy over hearing of his romantic exploits and persnickety over splitting the check while they grab lunch.
Schumer and Apatow craft a fairly conventional romantic comedy and take small measures to acknowledge as much, undercutting scenes of Aaron and Amy enjoying their outings with quips about them being “the whitest couple in America” and Amy’s underlying desire to see it all collapse in on itself.
If you’re half as fun-loving and nonchalant as the on-screen Amy, it probably won’t bother you that Aaron’s supposed to be an award-winning humanitarian working with Doctors Without Borders, yet we generally only see him either with Amy or shooting hoops with James. It’s a minor hole in the story, but it plays a big part in punctuating the odd couple differences between the two, which fuels Amy’s crisis of conscience as she tries to decide what to do with her not-so-manic, decidedly un-pixie dream guy.
The same holds true for the specious subplot of whether Amy will get promoted to executive editor of the men’s mag she’s writing for — the only redeeming quality to these scenes is the repeated screen-gracing by Tilda Swinton as Amy’s tanned editor in chief.
Getting much more into detail about specifics will ruin many of the film’s well-crafted laughs, but count on a number of scenes from pro wrestler John Cena (as Amy’s hunky, kinda, sort-of steady guy) and a few assorted cameo players to provide color to a sometimes all-too-straightforward tale of will-they-or-won’t-they between Schumer and Hader.
Apatow certainly earned a reputation for duct-taping sentimentality onto a lot of his films, but “Trainwreck” feels like a truly cohesive balance between the lurid comedy and family drama Schumer mined from her own life.
So, yeah, Amy Schumer’s funny — but she’s also a hell of a writer and performer to boot, and surrounded by the right folks, she’s a damn fine storyteller.
“Trainwreck” is rated R. Running time: Two hours, 5 minutes. Three and a half stars out of five.