Back in college, I was a big fan of listening to director’s commentaries. I had only recently been introduced to the world of DVDs with their tons and tons of extra features. The commentaries became a favorite because I could listen to them while working on a paper or while making the drive from home to school on my portable DVD player. After that I kind of fell off the wagon, but a couple weeks ago I hopped back on with a triple feature of commentaries all related to Judd Apatow. Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Knocked Up (2007) were all on the docket and they were all hilarious.
In college, my favorite commentaries were for Kevin Smith movies where he would cram as many people involved in the movie as possible to sit around and offer their two cents. That’s why I like the Superbad one so much. I can’t seem to find a full list online anymore, but I know it included Jonah Hill, director Greg Mottola and Producer Apatow in New York (along with Apatow’s oldest daughter Maude who wasn’t listening in on headphones, but was still in the room which meant Hill couldn’t swear) while the rest were in California. “The rest” included Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and co-writer Evan Goldberg. As someone interested in the creation of films, I found this commentary very interesting, though I got a lot of the same information from the podcast Rogen and Goldberg did for Creative Screenwriting Magazine (which you can listen to here or download from iTunes). You of course get all kinds of behind the scenes information, great stories and shout outs to people and things you might have missed. It’s especially fun listening to Hill try and not curse like a sailor. He does slip a few times and gets admonished by Apatow. There’s also a part where Apatow leaves with his daughter and Hill starts yelling at him about being professional. I’m guessing it’s another big gag, but it still left me feeling confused and awkward. Good stuff.
The Forgetting Sarah Marshall commentary was another big group affair with director Nick Stoller, writer and star Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, executive producer Rodney Rothman, producer Shauna Robertosn and Jack McBrayer live from New York. Apatow wasn’t on the commentary, but his company did make the movie, so it still counts. Seeing as how FSM was my favorite comedy of 2008, it’s probably not a big surprise how much I liked the commentary. I like when the people who worked on a movie together seem like they really like each other. Kind of like in the Ocean’s 11 movies. It really seems like those guys have a great time together, which makes the movie even more fun to watch. Like with Superbad, there’s lots of interesting tidbits, with Segel commenting on how specific scenes were taken from his life and how the Dracula musical was something he actually wrote seriously. Sure, a lot of this information can now be read on IMDb, but I’d always rather hear it from the horse’s mouth than just read something on a forum that hundreds of thousands of people can and do contribute to. I guess it’s the reporter in me.
The Knocked Up commentary was a much different animal as it only had three people involved: writer and director Apatow, star Seth Rogen and…Bill Hader? Sure Hader has a bit part in the movie, but he’s basically there to do impressions, toss out mini-factoids and ask questions. Hader explains how he met the Knocked Up gang (the friends in the movie are friends in real life and often hang out together) and also explains that he worked in the same building they shoot his scenes as a film editor. He apparently used to be a librarian on The Surreal Life and a PA on The Scorpion King and a documentary about Star Wars. Like with the others you get plenty of information about the origins of the story, what events were taken from real life, specifics about some of the actors (Ken Jeong was an actual doctor before his turn as the doctor and his eventual role on the excellent Community) and that sort of thing. I especially liked hearing about him working with his wife Leslie Mann and their two daughters. I think she’s hilarious and am really looking forward to seeing Funny People, which will hopefully be coming in my queue this week.