Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann star in this seriously funny film from writer-director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up). When famous comedian George Simmons (Sandler) is given a second chance at... more » a new beginning, he and his assistant, a struggling comedian, Ira (Rogen), return to the places and people that matter most?including the stand-up spots that gave him his start and the girl that got away (Mann). Co-starring Jonah Hill, Eric Bana and Jason Schwartzman, it?s the film critics cheer is ?uproariously funny!? (Sonny Bunch, The Washington Times)« less
"Judd Apatow's Funny People is going to divide audiences (it certainly has divided critics). Those going in expecting a comedy along the lines of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up or any other of the films in the Apatow-verse will enjoy it but not love it. But that reaction may be more a product of the misdirection in the marketing of the film than anything else. Funny People is going for something more emotionally complex, and it succeeds on that count.
Without dwelling on plot, the film focuses, by and large, on the professional and personal lives of a group of comics and comic actors at various rungs of the show business ladder, from Adam Sandler's George Simmons, a hugely successful film comedy star who came out of the stand-up comedy world, to Seth Rogan's Ira Wright, a novice comic who is drawn into George's world, to Ira's friends, who are his roommates, who are his competitors.
The common thread running through these characters is anger and aggression, both explicit and sublimated. They steal jokes, jobs and women from each other (listed here in order of importance to the comics). The relationship between the performers and their audiences is similarly complicated (it's become a cliched observation that comics talk about "killing" the crowd).
Interestingly, although all the comedians share this anger and aggression, it's only those who ride those dark emotions into similarly dark comedy that have preserved their spark. The farther the comics stray from their anger, the worse their comedy - as evidenced by Sandler's character, who churns out family-friendly claptrap and co-star Jason Schwartzman's Yo, Teach!, a self-important sitcom (both brilliantly captured in clips woven into Funny People).
In Funny People, comedy is the universal language by which these emotionally-constricted characters communicate. There are awkward hugs and half-hearted attempts at compassion, but the most tender moment, coming late in the film, involves one character expressing love by writing jokes for another.
All this aside, I don't want to lose sight of the fact that this is a funny, entertaining, emotionally-involving film. But that said, in an odd way, Funny People echoes Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull. Both films are about angry and aggressive people who channel those drives in socially acceptable ways. (Even more oddly, Billy Crystal's horrific and mawkish Mr. Saturday Night attempted more overtly to be the Raging Bull of comedy, and the less said about that effort the better.)
It wasn't until the ride home from the movie that it occurred to me that the "funny" in the title Funny People could have two meanings; there's funny ha-ha, and funny-odd. Here, the people are intentionally, compellingly both."
Flawed and Meandering Yet Still a Worthwhile Look Inside a S
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 11/27/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The psyche of the stand-up comedian is the subject of Judd Apatow's third and most ambitious directorial effort, but the elliptical, rather skewed characters that inhabit this serious-minded 2009 comedy obscure the personal revelations that he ironically attempts to mine. In certain ways, it's a dramatically audacious film, yet in others, Apatow comes back to the comfortably off-kilter humor of his previous ensemble efforts, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Sometimes the balance feels very off here, primarily because the protagonist is so hard to read from the outside. It was inevitable that the director cast his former roommate Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a comic who has become a major movie star based on the type of juvenilia he constantly ridicules. Sandler accurately captures both the demented comedy mind and the innate cruelty that keeps everyone at arm's length. It's a tricky part that has quite a few autobiographical elements for both director and star, but he plays it with melancholic deftness.
The meandering plot begins with George receiving bad news. He finds out he's dying of a rare blood disease and recognizes a need to reassess his priorities. George spots a struggling young comic, Ira Wright, at a local comedy club and hires him to write material and become his gopher. They bond quickly, and Ira becomes George's confidant, the only one who knows of his fatal diagnosis. Ira also has two roommates, another stand-up comic and an actor who has already caught his break starring as a teacher in a high school-set sitcom. Both become envious of Ira's budding relationship with George. Meanwhile, an old flame reenters George's life, Laura, a former actress who has turned into a suburbanite married to an Aussie exporter and raising two daughters in Marin County. Sparks are rekindled, and relationships start to get messy all around. As both writer and director, Apatow handles the situations dexterously but excessively. The film runs on far too long at a marathon 153 minutes and then simply trails off.
Newly trimmed down, Apatow protégé Seth Rogen plays his familiar dweebish persona as Ira, although he brings more depth to his submissive character with each humiliating act. Leslie Mann, Apatow's wife, has been promoted to leading lady this time as Laura, and she excels with her endearingly brittle style. In another justified act of nepotism, the director recruited their children to play the two precocious daughters. Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman play the roommates with their usual deadpan aplomb. The film's biggest surprise is the usually dour Eric Bana (Munich) lightening up quite a bit as Laura's suspicious husband. Cameos from well-known comics (Ray Romano, Andy Dick, Paul Reiser, Sarah Silverman, etc.) and even comic turns from the likes of Eminem and James Taylor are sprinkled throughout to give the film an air of Hollywood-style realism. The esteemed cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List) provides the film a bright, sharp look throughout.
The two-disc 2009 DVD set smacks of overkill, but there are highlights to consider, chief among them the amusing commentary from Apatow, Sandler, and Rogen, in which they hilariously separate fact from fiction. The first disc also contains a four-minute gag reel. Disc Two contains 21 minutes of deleted scenes; six extended and alternate scenes; another gag reel; and a line-o-rama, a standard extra on Apatow's DVDs where the actors riff on the same lines for maximum comic effect. A lengthy, one-hour-plus video diary from the director is the centerpiece of Disc Two. Other featurettes center on Aziz Ansari's obnoxious stand-up comic; archival footage of Sandler and a thirteen-year-old Rogen; and a faux-documentary on George Simmons' film career. There are also music clips from Taylor, as well as Sandler performing with musician Jon Brion."
Apatow's Weakest Film Is Also His Most Mature Effort
Joshua Miller | Coeur d'Alene,ID | 11/24/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Judd Apatow has been consistent in releasing hilarious films over the last few years as a writer, director, and producer. Funny People, his third film as writer/director, gave me considerably high expectations, especially with the talent behind and in front of the camera. I saw the film as possibly being a return to form for Adam Sandler, who hasn't made a well-written, original, or truly funny comedy in some time now. Funny People is not a typical Apatow comedy and is an example of the director broadening his range as a filmmaker. Despite the title, this is much more of a drama than a comedy and is easily Apatow's most mature effort as a filmmaker.
The film opens with actual footage of Sandler making prank phone calls when he and Apatow were roommates. It quickly changes gears and introduces us to George Simmons (Sandler), a famous stand-up comedian diagnosed with AML, a blood disease similar to leukemia. George doesn't have much longer to live and he's got no one to help him cope with it. He has a large mansion overlooking Los Angeles and he's recognized in public all the time, but George lacks any real human connection. Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) is an aspiring stand-up comedian who isn't very funny, but George sees him at a club, likes him, and commissions him to write jokes for him. George latches onto Ira for emotional support, while never really letting him in to his life. Their relationship is summed up with George's line "I don't have a best friend. You're my best friend and I don't even like you!" As George struggles with his mortality, he reconnects with Laura (Leslie Mann) the one he let get away, now married with two children.
The film also stars Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman, as Ira's roommates and is littered with celebrity cameos (the most amusing being Eminem and Ray Romano). Funny People runs about 140 minutes and this bloated running time gives Apatow a lot of material to fit into the movie. While I applaud the man for trying something different, he has a lot of room to grow as a dramatic filmmaker and there are moments of this film that it seems he's taken a few steps back as a comedic filmmaker. The movie has scattered scenes of stand-up comedy that are really, almost ridiculously unfunny. Initially, this made sense as a way of illustrating the fact that Ira isn't particularly funny...But every scene of stand-up comedy, including those with George Simmons weren't funny. And I don't just mean that the comedic style didn't appeal to my comedic palette, I mean the jokes are horribly un-funny and poorly written. They are jokes that sound like they were written by teenagers and there doesn't seem to be a reason why they're so bad. There's nothing smart or witty about any of the jokes in the stand-up scenes. If this was intentional, I stand by my reservations about the jokes because how often did Apatow have to subject us to un-funny scenes of stand-up?
There are some strong performances in this film and you see several of them growing as actors. Seth Rogen is not far removed from his usual role, but he is certainly trying to play a different character here. He has a smaller physical frame, yes and sideburns which should've been given screen credit, but this performance is much more human than his performances in other films. Sandler has been showing lately that he's very effective in dramatic roles and he brings moments of genuine pathos to his performance as George Simmons. I don't think Apatow fleshed-out Simmons as much as he could have, but I did get the feeling that Sandler is more like Simmons than other characters he has played. Jason Schwartzman (who also does the music for the film) abandons the quirky, sarcastic character he usually plays for the quietly arrogant wannabe actor. It's hardly a big change, but it's nice to see him playing something slightly different. Finally, in a film with some very funny people it is Jonah Hill and Eric Bana that really bring genuinely funny moments to the film. Hill has a comedic style he brings with him from film-to-film, but his awkward, shy sarcasm brings some much-needed humor to the film when you don't expect it. Bana is the real surprise as Laura's Australian husband Clark and his performance is the most memorable and certainly the highlight of the film.
What could have really salvaged this film is a rewrite of the script or some editing. The script isn't bad, but it doesn't seem like Apatow wrote more than one draft and he could have taken more time to flesh out his characters and find a better story arc. Editing, at the very least, would have drastically helped this film and if the plot had focused more on the internal struggle of George Simmons it could have brought the filmmakers some awards. I found the first scene with Sandler and Mann together worked very well as a drama. There's a sense of realism and plausibility to the idea that the two are former lovers who still have strong feelings for each other. The scene is very subtle, there are no dramatic exchanges and it was this scene that showed me how Apatow could one day be a very good dramatic filmmaker, but he's got a little more to learn.
The film's biggest flaw is really its running time and, from someone who has nothing against long movies; this movie is way too long and I'm not entirely sure what Apatow intended people to take away from Funny People, nor am I entirely sure what his intention for the film itself was. It's not meant to be hilariously funny, but it never quite takes itself seriously enough to be taken seriously as a drama. Funny People is not a horrible film, although many will think it is just like Sandler's other ventures into drama haven't been looked on with affection. However, mature or not, this is Judd Apatow's weakest film and will have the shortest shelf-life of the films he has made thus far.
Witty, funny, and fun
Heather | 09/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of Sandler's better films in recent years. If you like Knocked Up, you will more than likely like this film. It has a lot of the same seriousness, minus all the pot jokes and references. Yes, there is a lot of complains about the same type jokes but I barely noticed them. It's about stand up comedy. All stand up comedians talk about the same thing so anyone who said their are too many certain jokes has never seen a stand up comedian before. That said this movie is cute, witty, smart, and funny. I cried, I laughed, and loved every second of Funny People."
Apatow's most mature effort...
Jon | Tulsa, OK | 01/11/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"... and perhaps that's what made it unpalatable to many of his fans. Characters are extremely well-developed (AND portrayed), there is more heart underneath the expected "potty humor..." if Mr. Apatow continues to grow as a writer, I'll continue to watch his movies."