Funny People


Judd Apatow, with his mega reputation as the savior of comedy in the last few years, has his first misstep as a director. ‘Funny People’ is an odd comedy-drama that is  an overlong (an Apatow trademark) and mostly depressing look at a celebrity comedian’s life. Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, much like the star himself, a comedic actor with a lot crappy blockbusters on his resume who discovers he is dying from a form of lukemia. Simmons then decides to hire a struggling stand-up comedian (Seth Rogen) to work as a live-in assistant and writer for him. Midway through the film, Simmons finds out his experimental treatment on his disease has actually cured him, so he decides to seek out his former love interest (Leslie Mann), now married, and attempt to win her back.

At the point Sandler’s character thinks he’s going to win back his former love does ‘Funny People’ start to sink into a slump it can’t recover from. Otherwise, the first hour or so of the film actually works to Apatow’s credit. Sandler plays a disspirited, selfish character stuck in regret and despair. You don’t like or sympathize with George Simmons the entire film, and that’s a big problem.  I didn’t care about his impending death or his lost relationships.  Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and many celebrity cameos are the saving graces of the film and provide a lot of the real genuine laughs and help this near 2 1/2 hour endeavor keep on moving.  Yes, 2 1/2 hours, a seriously long time to wade through a film about a main character that you don’t like. Unlike Mickey Rourke in ‘The Wrestler’ who also had a screwed-up life and torn relationships, you sympathized with the character. He played a man seeking redemption, but kept taking the wrong turns. Sandler plays a character that hates everyone about as much as he hates himself, and he continually uses people for his own benefit. The final hour of the movie introduces Leslie Mann, Sandler’s ex, as he travels with Seth Rogen to her suburb home. She’s stuck in a relationship with a cheating husband (Eric Bana) and two daughters. She wants out and back with Sandler, but everything gets complicated, leading to a lot of long, depressing scenes that seem out of left field for the movie.  The moral here, is that despite Simmons’ second chance at life and outlook that he can change for the better, the man will never find happiness because he will always be himself. It’s a long road to figure that out, and despite great performances from all the actors involved and some good scattered laughs, ‘Funny People’ is a mixed-bag that is too long and odd to recommend. It’s the mistake of an immensely talented filmmaker, so hopefully with his next feature he sticks to the lighter tones of what made ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ‘Knocked Up’ comedy gold.

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