Thursday, August 6, 2009
Review: Funny People
We've covered Apatowmania before on this website, and I guess we've added to it by reviewing everything he gets his hands on, including web skits. That being said, it seems this country's lovefest with the guy is starting to fade. Public reaction so far to his writing/directing follow up to 'The 40 Year Old Virgin' and 'Knocked Up' has been lukewarm at best. You're either in the camp that likes the film for what it is, or thinks it's a self-indulgent mess relying on too many assists from celebrity pals. Count me in the former. I can certainly see why this movie didn't get the big opening dollars, but it's a little puzzling why a lot of people who saw the movie didn't really care too much for it. Of course a lot of those idiots when in with expectations for a continuation of the raunchy hilarity Apatow laced his previous films with. I saw this movie because I thought the plotline had potential for smart laughs and a cast to pull it off. I didn't have reservations about what it should be like because that just sets you up for a bummer. I knew going in it would be a dramedy, and I got what I came for.
Adam Sandler was right at home playing a George Simmons, a comedian-turned--movie-star making a fortune off playing morons with strange voices. Kudos has to be given to Sandler for lampooning himself and his career choices. Simmons finds out early that he's suffering from a rare blood disease that carries an 8% survival rate with it. He responds to the bad news by going back to his roots, performing stand up at a small comedy club. He abruptly bombs, but befriends a young stand up named Ira (Seth Rogen, will Apatow ever not use him???) and hires him to write jokes and do assistant-type things. The rest of the film follows a series of relationships: George's with his ex-soulmate, Ira's with his roommates, and George's with Ira.
As I said before, I really like this movie. Apatow proves again that crude humor can still be both smart and poignant. Jonah Hill and Jason 'Max Fisher' Schwartzman are highlights as Rogen's roommates. Sandler switches his mood often in the film, moods that include over-the-top, irate, and incredibly depressed, all of it genuine to his character to. Rogen, who I know for a fact Herb hates, does a great job at not being so Sethrogeny in this. His character is a little more sincere, a little more pathetic than usual. Throw in effective peformances from Leslie Mann and Eric Bana, and what's left is only a few minor beefs with this movie.
For one, it's long. Way long. Almost as long as this review. And I won't crucify the whole film for being almost two and a half hours. It was long, but at the same time, I wasn't ready for it be over when it was. The biggest thing that bugged me throughout was how connected to reality it was. Movies are supposed to be an escape for people, an opportunity to invest in a story and it's fictional characters. But as I was trying to do just that, what I got instead was a constant reminder of the existence of the real life actors, if that makes sense. I wanted to get to know these characters, making their conflicts and stories all the more interesting. But once Ira stops being Ira and starts being Seth Rogen pretending to be Ira, then the conflicts and storylines become unemotional and meaningless. And it happened to all the characters, too, that's what reaallly bugged me. Adam Sandler pretty much played himself, and Adam Sandler doesn't have cancer (that we know of) therefore Adam Sandler's battle with it seemed really fake. George Simmon's battle, on the other hand, would be highly interesting. Ira gets ridiculed in the beginning for having just lost 20 or 30 lbs (something Rogen had done for another movie), and gets made fun of for not being as fat and therefore, not as funny. Leslie Mann, supposed to be playing Eric Bana's wife and mother of their 2 kids, comes across only as Apatow's real life wife when both their children appear for much of the film's last third. When private home movies of theirs are later shared, it only makes it worse.
Again, the flaws were only a problem when they were noticeable. When reminders of real life weren't thrown in our faces, the film was quite good.
Lastly, while some cameos of celebrities playing themselves were stupid and pointless (Eminem), fellow comedian friends of George Simmons playing themselves were hilarious (Norm MacDonald, PAUL REISER, Ray Romano even).
All in all, a very enjoyable film with a main character that brings the best parts out of Adam Sandler. Judd Apatow may have lost some of his public momentum, but I think this is the movie he always wanted to make and was using his Hollywood klout to bring it to the screen, daring people to hate it. I liked it.
FINAL VERDICT: B+