"Funny People": DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review (2009)

11/22/2009 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

“Funny People”

Written and directed by Judd Apatow, 146 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith


The Judd Apatow movie, “Funny People,” poses an interesting question worth exploring.

For years, the modern comedy has been driven more by raunch than by wit. Box office figures support the fact that today’s mainstream audiences are more interested in laughs elevated by poop jokes than they are by, say, well-written bon mots that eschew le poo.

Apatow’s two previous films as a writer/director (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,”) embraced these more base leanings, but now, in his third film, he has taken a turn that could either turn-off his fanbase or find him a new one.

Let’s be clear: There are no shortage of sex jokes in “Funny People”--crudity abounds here and much of it is funny--but there also is no denying that this is Apatow’s most ambitious, serious-minded comedy to date. The script is injected with unexpected jolts of substance, drama and life-threatening health issues for the main character, so much so that too often there are long stretches between the laughs.  Worse, to accommodate the drama, the film is a slog, coming in at a bloated 2.5-hours.

The movie stars Adam Sandler as the comedy superstar George Simmons, who appears to have it all--success, fame, great wealth--until you look a little more closely at his life. George is a lonely man who, as the film starts, is faced with a death sentence if an experimental drug doesn’t work to rid his body of a life-threatening disease. Since there is only an 8 percent chance of that happening, George takes to the comedy circuit and delivers performances that are bleak, to say the least.

Realizing this, he decides to hire the up-and-coming comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), who works days at a fast food joint to help pay the bills and who shares an apartment in Los Angeles with his friends (Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman). George sees flashes of promise in Ira’s stand-up routine, and so he asks him to write jokes for him. It’s a gig that leads to a full-time job as Ira becomes George’s personal assistant and then caregiver as George’s health declines.

When circumstances allow for love to re-enter George’s life, it’s via his one true love, Laura (Apatow’s wife, the excellent Leslie Mann), who now is married to a hunky Australian (Eric Bana) actively cheating on her. When she and George reconnect, their connection is undeniable and love blooms again, but since Laura has two young children, what’s the cost to them should Laura and George fully rekindle that love? More complicated, how do these and the film’s other dour elements make for a consistently rousing comedy?

They don’t. When done well, the raunch comedy genre can be fun. All one needs to do is to witness Apatow’s successful two previous films to see just how fun. So what we have to question in “Funny People” is this: Should Apatow’s decision to add a string of maudlin elements to his script be considered creative growth, or a creative set back?

The answer is a bit of both. This isn’t a bad movie so much as it is an admirable failure. The performances from the cast are excellent. It’s also nice to see the talented Apatow taking a risk and reaching for something more. But if that reach means sacrificing laughs in a movie being billed as a comedy, there aren’t enough laughs in “Funny People” to make it a comedy worth recommending.

Grade: C+

View the trailer for "Funny People" here:

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2 comments:

  1. sonotech63 said...

    I gotta see this! Love Adam Sandler and Eric Bana for two different reasons!

  2. Anonymous said...

    I agree with the critic. Way too long. Not funny enough. What did this movie want to be?