Funny People Directed by: Judd Apatow Cast: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana Running Time: 2 hrs 20 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 31, 2009
Plot: A big shot actor/comedian (Sandler) finds out he has a rare form of leukemia. He hires a young comedian (Rogen) to write jokes for him and be his assistant while trying to deal with a slim chance of living.
Who’s It For? If you've followed Apatow, Rogen and Hill in the past, you know what to expect. It's funny one-liners throughout. There's a little more drama than usual, but not as much as you'd think when you know Sandler is fighting for his life. If you're thinking this is a broad Sandler comedy, look elsewhere.
Expectations: I'm a huge fan of Aaptow and constantly forget that he had nothing to do with Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man because they are quality knock-offs, of the new kind of comedy Apatow has created/reinvented. I was looking forward to Funny People, but I was worried about the running time. It seemed this would be another version of Tom Hanks' Punchline which has really grown on me over the years.
Actors: Adam Sandler as George Simmons: It's a great role for Sandler. He is George. Literally, in the beginning, they take real footage from Sandler's past and give it to the character George. It must be odd to play a version of yourself, with fake films like Merman that seem taloir made for something Sandler actually would do. I love the dynamics of working jokes with Rogen, though I eventually get a little annoyed with Sandler's lack of growth. George doesn't evolve as much as it seems he should. Score: 8
Seth Rogen as Ira Wright: Rogen is addictive. I don't know what it is. His laugh bugs me a little, and Leo (Hill) properly points out his weight change, but none-the-less I constantly want to go on movie journeys with him. Ira is goofy, and has an unbelievable wide-eyed grin when George takes him under his wing. Wouldn't you? Working in a deli doesn't compare to flying on a private jet and hanging out with James Taylor. I should know ... no I shouldn't. Ira is a solid human being, who makes missteps but actually feels guilt. It's not everyday that happens with a leading man. And job well done on squeezing in a "Mr. Belvedere" joke. Score: 9
Jonah Hill and Leo: As George points out, Leo is the fat look-alike to Ira. Ira and Leo fight like brothers and eventually actually have something to fight about with Ira trying to hog George's attention. Leo also has some quality stand-up jokes involving the penis, which seems to be a theme throughout. Score: 8
Jason Schwartzman as Mark: "Yo Teach...!" That's the fake sitcom with Mark in the lead role. Schwartzman has played the unaware elitist before, and he once again nails it. Less is more, and he makes the most of his screen time. It would have been nice to see a glimpse of what he was like before his "fame." We'll just have to believe it more like when he opens up about his grandfather's death. Score: 7
Leslie Mann as Laura: It's not her fault. She's the one who got away from George's past. And when his fight with leukemia takes a turn for the better, he chases after her. She's fun, she's funny, but the film takes a direction I didn't love. Suddenly Ira is left watching the kids and the married Laura and George run off together. When they get back, Ira wants to know where they've been, and I want to know where my movie, with the plot of a comedic king taking a young stand-up along for the ride has gone to. With that being said, I loved every odd accent and voice change she put on as Laura. Score: 6
Eric Bana as Clarke: It's good to see Bana doing comedy, but he's saddled a little bit with being the prick husband. He's finally using his real accent and when he's talking over excited about Aussie-football it's painfully real. But it's also the type of scene that makes you roll your eyes as that type of person instead of laugh out loud. And Clarke should just crush George in a fight, no matter what life lessons he'll later learn. Score: 6
Talking: Every scene where they examine jokes, do stand-up, or talk about dicks work really well. With Apatow comes a lot of swearing, and the focus here seems to be on the penis. It really works, because that's exactly what I would assume Sandler would joke about. I laughed throughout. Score: 9
Sights: I know I will forget some but Andy Dick, Dave Attell, Norm MacDonald, Ray Romano and Sarah Silverman all show up but there's two that really stand out. First, Paul Rudd is surrounded by tons of old-school comedians at a lunch with George. Wow, he's aged. Plus, he hasn't done anything for years. The question is, why? Also, of all the people, I wouldn't have guessed Eminem could get the most laughs. He calls out Romano and tells George the best thing for him would be death. It's gold. Score: 8
Sounds: Ira has no taste when he plays "Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing, but then he totally redeems himself with Warren Zevon's "Keep Me In Your Heart." Jason Schwatzman adds to the songs, and while I think Coconut Records is great, nothing he does here really stands out. Neil Diamond's "All About We," gets some play as well as James Taylor (in the flesh). Score: 6
Best Scene: Eminem was good, but I was happiest when Ira and George were getting along and making each other laugh. Good God, that's a lame sentence. Very effeminate. I'm going to go put on a wife beater and kick my dog. That will quickly recapture my manhood. Austin, if you're reading this, don't worry, I'd never really kick you.
Ending: It could have ended a couple of times. I'm glad it was about the jokes (and the writing of said jokes) in the end.
Questions: Was Apatow's goal to show limited growth, but still the potential of growth? If so, nailed it. His kids are cute, but I wonder if there will be a day when they overstay their welcome in his films. So far, the answer is no. Come on, like the peanut butter game isn't something you'd consider?
Rewatchability: Even though I worry I will feel the length a little on second viewing, I still would watch, especially to pick up some of the jokes I might have missed from laughing over them.
Get ready for it, this is going to shock you ... Funny People ... yeah, it's funny. In fact, it's not too far off from Apatow's other films. There's still plenty of dirty jokes and guys hanging out. The film takes a pretty big shift from being from focusing on George, his disease, and his new partner in crime Ira. Suddenly it's a romance, about chasing after the one who got away. It's not bad, I just really liked the other plot better.
Sandler shines, and it really seems he was born to play George, or George was written because Sandler exists. One or the other. This film helps to forget how painfully bad Sandler can be in other money-making roles. But this film also proves Sandler has great self-awareness of those films and lets us laugh with him, at him and on occasion feel for a rich, spoiled superstar. I don't mind following a self-absorbed character, even when he's saddled with something as basic as leukemia. Mainly because Apatow, Sandler, Rogen and everyone else make sure we laugh a lot.
Final Score: 8/10