Funny People

Movies Reviews Judd Apatow
Funny People

Honeymoon over, the bromance turns sour.

Funny People, like the manchildren that director Judd Apatow pillories, is blissfully unaware of its shortcomings. That’s mostly the fault of discordant subject material; the movie is a ham-fisted amalgam of comedy and drama that only partially succeeds at either. Veteran standup artist George Simmons (Adam Sandler) discovers he has terminal cancer and hires struggling comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) as his protégé and personal assistant. Ira is bedazzled at first by the fast-paced celebrity lifestyle, but later grows disgusted by his mentor’s egotism as George chases “the one that got away.”

Release Date: July 31
Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow
Cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman
Watch the Funny People trailer:

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Funny People is entertaining enough as a pop-psychology treatment of what drives comedians to make other people laugh, but the narrative completely jumps the rails two-thirds through when it shifts to an overwrought melodrama between George and his now-married old flame Laura (Leslie Mann). The movie’s bloated runtime turns grueling in it’s final 45 minutes, compounded by unlikable characters and a disjointed plot. By then there’s been plenty of navel-gazing and ankle-deep existential ruminations, but the sheer insouciance to story and characterization makes it hard to give any kind of damn. “Comedy usually is for funny people,” Sandler quips in the closing minutes. Too bad these comedians don’t act all that funny. Or, for that matter, like people.
This is Apatow’s third directorial outing, and he refuses to relinquish his status as bromance impresario even briefly. For all of Funny People’s avowed assays at mature filmmaking (following the logical progression of 40-Year-Old Virgin to Knocked Up) he still banks heavily on hypersexual homophobia and genitalia-themed humor. Which is to say: his stock in trade. The barrage of dick/vagina jokes infantilizes rather than humanizes their tellers, who come off as unsympathetic and self-possessed malcontents. It’s as though Apatow believes every comic is a malignant narcissist unable to face up to life’s Big Truths until they have a brush with death, and even then only half-sincerely.

The cast doesn’t want for talent: Funny People is bursting with uniformly solid performances from a cornucopia of famous faces. Sandler devours his scenes, flexing his chops as both funnyman and brooding misanthrope, often simultaneously. Sarah Silverman, RZA and perennial creep Andy Dick play bit parts, and a vulgar exchange between Eminem and Ray Romano is one of the movie’s funniest scenes. Jason Schwartzman and the zaftig Jonah Hill are stellar foils to Rogen’s Everyman as his roommates, particularly Schwartzman as the libertine star of the hilariously awful sitcom (and DVD bonus feature goldmine) Yo Teach!

Studio/Run Time: Universal, 146 mins.

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