Funny People Directed by: Judd Apatow Cast: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill Running Time: 2 hrs 20 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 31st, 2009
Plot: An actor/comedian (Sandler) enlists the help of a young talent (Rogen) to write jokes for him on what may be his last comedy tour ever.
Who’s It For? Anyone who has been hooked into the Apatow Universe by whatever Funny movie he previously helped create will certainly enjoy this one.
Expectations: Considering Apatow's high track record, I was hopeful that this was going to be as humorous as it was touching, while also giving an honest look at the current state of comedy.
Adam Sandler as George Simmons: Helping to create the aura of honesty within Funny People, Simmons is vastly self-reflective of Sandler's career path (Simmons even made comedy albums in his earlier days). But though he is given a solid blueprint to work with, Apatow fails in fully constructing this character. It is unclear whether Simmons' spite for the world comes from exhaustive fame or just his natural self. Still, Sandler is able to play both sides of this pivotal role. Sometimes he is able to recreate comedy not seen since his Happy Gilmore days, while also playing in tune with the more serious work he did in Punch Drunk Love. Score: 7
Seth Rogen as Ira Wright: Rogen might be getting a bit too cozy with this type of character, but he still succeeds in making us laugh with it. However, Ira is a bit more endearing and motivated than the frat-like roles of Rogen's past. Especially compared to mentor George Simmons, he's more emotional and naive, almost childlike. This also marks the introduction of the new slim (and slightly more sexy) Seth Rogen 2.0. Score: 7
Leslie Mann as Laura: Her character is amusing as a failed 90's actress, (she was an extra on "Melrose Place") but Mann is the cause for much of the dead weight that Funny People does not benefit from. She doesn't have an existence in the film outside of being "the one that got away" for George, spending much of the film's extensive running time off-screen and completely out of mind. Outside of her amusing impersonation of Clarke, she never feels as important as Simmons and the rest of Funny People try to indicate. Score: 5
Eric Bana as Clarke: A smaller role than you'd expect, he only arrives during the weak third act. In Judd Apatow's previous film, Knocked Up, Rogen is famous for saying "If any of us get laid tonight, it's because of Eric Bana in Munich." Perhaps Apatow took his thanks a bit too seriously. Score: 4
Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill as Mark Taylor Jackson and Leo: The two are hilarious as Rogen's roommates, each living in their own egos as rising "stars" in Los Angeles. Schwartzman is the star of an inane sitcom called "Yo Teach...!" and Hill is tearing up the comedy club circuit ... telling jokes about his d*ck. Score: 8
Talking: Almost intentionally, the film overloads on d*ck jokes, as if to prove a point made by James Taylor early in the film. And like many of the films that have in someway come from the mind of Apatow, this one has plenty of great lines that you'll want to take with you out of the movie theatre. Score: 8
Sights: Highly respected cinematographer Janusz Kaminski gives the aesthetics of Funny People a sophisticated touch with his special eye for framing and lighting. Certain moments, like when George first hears the news about his disease, are boosted in their small beauty by the way Kaminski shoots them. As special to the experience of Funny People is the abundance of appearances made by comedians young and old. Comics like Dave Attell, Andy Dick, Norm MacDonald, Sarah Silverman, and even Ray Romano make cameos that live up to the film's title. Score: 7
Sounds: The usage of one of Warren Zevon's last songs, "Keep Me In Your Heart," makes for a very powerful moment. As warming as the diverse soundtrack is the film's score, which is full of pretty tiny tunes made by Jason Schwartzman and Michael Andrews (Me, You, and Everyone We Know). Score: 7
Best Scene: The interactions between Rogen and his roommates are probably the best in the entire film, but it's very difficult to pick just one scene.
Ending: "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you find you get what you need."
Questions: How could Apatow not know how boring his third act was? Is it so drawn out because it includes every member of his immediate family except himself?
Rewatchability: The best kind of funny movie that may need a second viewing to capture the jokes you may have missed during the first round.
With its acute observations on the current state of comedy, the appearance of comedians old and new, and a story that has fresh talent helping the withered, this feels like Apatow’s attempt to write his own Sunset Boulevard. Of course he falls noticeably short of this marking, (not only because Billy Wilder’s film is an absolute classic), but because the heart of Funny People is a bit hollow. Simmons' disease rarely speaks anything interesting about life, death, or the profoundness of either. After that, the Laura love subplot is not as impacting as it could have been, especially since its placement in the melodramatic third act drags the film to a somewhat unnecessary nearly two and a half-hour running time.
Even if Apatow's dramatic side still needs to play more in tune with the powerful abundance of his humor, the writer/director/producer still has his gift for generating laughs effortlessly. Whatever effect the dark and weaker corners of the film may have, we can still thank him and the extensive cast of Funny People for making this observant comedy positively hilarious.
Final Score: 7/10