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Judd Apatow Is Confused About The Perceived Status Of Big Screen Comedies Following Barbie's Blockbuster Success, And He's Totally Right

 Ryan Gosling as Ken putting on a pair of sunglasses while already wearing sunglasses in the Barbie movie. .
Ryan Gosling as Ken putting on a pair of sunglasses while already wearing sunglasses in the Barbie movie. .

Judd Apatow is one of the most important comedy directors of our generation, with the filmmaker having his name on movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up or Trainwreck, just to name a few. So when he was recently asked about the future of comedy on the big screen, I think he had a completely valid (and optimistic) take on the whole thing. And yes, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is involved.

When Judd Apatow recently spoke to Vulture, the interviewer claimed that the future chances for comedies in theaters “has gotten worse” in recent years, pointing to the director’s recent movies like The King of Staten Island and The Bubble going straight to streaming. Here’s how he responded:

I would say that’s wrong, because the highest-grossing comedy last year made over a billion dollars. Barbie was a comedy, you know?

That’s right, the biggest movie of 2023 was Barbie, which made 1.4 billion at the worldwide box office, breaking major records for Warner Bros and making it to this year’s Oscars. This caused the journalist to push back, claiming that calling Barbie a comedy would be like calling a Marvel movie a comedy. Here’s what Apatow said next:

I don’t think so. It’s not a drama. There are some emotional moments in it, but it’s just wall-to-wall jokes. There’s something about it where I feel like no one wants to give comedy the win there. Like, why can’t we say Barbie is a comedy? What other category would it be?

Certainly a massive draw of Barbie is the fact that it's based on a massive IP, but Judd Apatow is absolutely right in terms of its genre. If one could categorize it into one genre, it would absolutely be comedy! That’s different from a movie, let’s say like Deadpool, which is full of comedy, but would be first categorized as a superhero flick. Barbie is based on a famous property, but the movie absolutely deserves the comedy win!

When speaking further about the future of comedies on the big screen, Judd Apatow shared that he thinks the genre simply just needs “another hit or two” to return in a bigger way to theaters on a regular basis. The director maintained that Hollywood executives tend to see successes and decide to greenlight more of the same kind of thing. Apatow shared he finds that Hollywood will “chase anything that does well” and “generally are averse to risk taking.”

With that in mind, we’re already seeing an influx of movies based on toys on the way from Hollywood. Plus, Margot Robbie is going to make a Sims movie next. But Apatow also believes Barbie could inspire more comedies to hit theaters, that is if more people perceived it as such. We named Barbie the best comedy of 2023, but it was among a rather healthy mix of entries from the genre last year like Theater Camp, Joy Ride, Bottoms and No Hard Feelings – all of which went to theaters.

But, of course, none of them beat the phenomenon that was Barbie. In the end, it all comes down to what people put their money into! If you want to see more of a certain kind of movie, go and see it in theaters!