Aug 03 2009

Unreal Movie Review: Funny People

Published by at 10:00 am under Movies,Reviews

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It’s hard to believe that Funny People is only the third directorial effort from Judd Apatow after Knocked Up and the The 40 Year-Old Virgin. Over the past few years, the man’s had his name attached to so many projects, it’s almost become a running inside joke in the industry.

Most of what we’ve seen from Apatow, be it when he’s directing or producing, are R-rated comedies, but with a little heart sprinkled on top. You might say that this was a great combination of drama and comedy, but it wasn’t enough for Apatow, who wants to take the serious angle a step further with Funny People.

Seth Rogen is Ira, a stand-up comedian who catches the eye of world famous comic movie star Adam Sandler George Simmons. He’s hired as Simmons’ personal assistant, only to learn that the man is dying from a rare form of leukemia. Eventually Simmons beats the disease and uses his newfound time to try and reunite with his long lost love, Laura (Leslie Mann), who is now, a decade later, married with two kids.

Now, you wouldn’t think that a one-paragraph synopsis would translate into a massive two and half hour ordeal, but it appears that Apatow thought it necessary to combine a full length comedy with a full length drama in order to achieve is his desired results.

The finished product is absolutely far too long. If you’ve watched the trailer, you learn in about the first twelve seconds that Simmons beats the disease, but that’s not until about two thirds of the way into the movie, and Leslie Mann and Eric Bana finally show up at just the moment you’ve become completely exhausted by the film.

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“Look dude, the script does not say to be this much of an asshole.”

So what fills the gaps? Simply put, Adam Sandler being a dick. Seriously, there’s no other way to say it, Sandler’s George Simmons is without a doubt one of the most unsympathetic leads ever seen in a movie, and I certainly hope that even though Sandler is “playing himself” here, that he’s nothing like this in real life.

I understand why he would start out as an asshole. He’s a lonely celebrity whose life takes a dark turn when he’s diagnosed with a terminal disease. He spends the first half of the movie routinely abusing Seth Rogen, who absorbs the punishment like a loyal lap dog. But when Simmons finally finds out that he’s better? He transforms from prick to sleaze, heading out to see his long lost love while her husband is away on a business trip.

This could be a forlorn, soul-crushing experience, as he gets to see what life could have been like for him if he had chosen to stop philandering and have a family, but instead he wastes no time in banging his ex in the guest bedroom while Seth Rogen entertains her kids fifty feet away. But it’s OK, because her husband “is probably, most definitely cheating on her anyways.”

Thankfully Funny People is self-aware enough to have Seth Rogen’s Ira step up to be the film’s conscience. He puts up with Simmons’ dickishness for the majority of the film, but once he sees him breaking this famiy apart, he’s forced to step up and do something about it. The film is summed up perfectly by his quote “George, you’re the only guy I know who became a worse person after a near death experience.”

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“I have a confession to make, I’m a slut.”

And that’s the main problem with the film, it’s a story of a guy who doesn’t learn anything. He’s a spoiled celebrity who lashes out at everyone, and thinks he’s entitled to another man’s wife of 12 years because he had her first. He finds maybe thirty seconds of redemption in the last scene of the film with Ira, and we have our expected bromance money shot, but it’s far too little too late.

It almost seems like Apatow was cheating when he wrote the script for this film. He took the two of the most powerful heart-wrenching, dramatic events you can experience in life (a long lost love and a terminal disease) and mashed them together and hopes that we’ll be moved by sheer force alone. But Simmons reaction to both prospects just makes us hate him, and the “feel-goodness” of Apatow’s other films is absolutely nowhere in this movie.

And lastly, Funny People just isn’t funny for the most part. It has funny moments, usually heard in bits of the stand-up comedy that pepper the film, but the movie’s two leads are far outshone by the supporting cast, including Ira’s roommates Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill, and even Eric Bana, who is the funniest thing about the film despite being the only non-comedian of the bunch.

I wasn’t expecting great things from Funny People, but I was hoping for a smarter movie than this. Maybe it’s cliché to have the guy recover from his near-death trip, find a new outlook on life and get the girl, but this reimagining of the concept? It’s just depressing and exhausting, and makes you think that maybe the Apatow era of comedy has finally come to an end.

2 out of 5 stars

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“FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!”





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12 responses so far

  • Madison

    I don’t really understand your main gripe, namely that Sandler/Simmons is an asshole. There aren’t assholes in real life? Did you want the character to be more like ones we’re used to seeing in the movies?

    As for Simmons overcoming his disease, that’s certainly not a flaw of the movie. It’s another example of a crappy trailer summarizing the film before it’s released.

    Otherwise, good review. It wasn’t a masterpiece (Knocked Up was probably better), but it was still pretty good.

  • http://paul@unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    It’s hard to root for a lead character that has no redeeming qualities at any point in the movie. He’s practically the film’s antagonist, which makes for an awkward two and a half hours.

    If Seth Rogen stepped up to be the lead in the film maybe it would have worked, but he’s a subservient lap dog for most of the movie and a prick himself (not telling Jonah Hill that Simmons wanted him, blowing up at that girl). With no one to root for, you feel like you’re wasting your time, and have to be content with laughing at the occasionally funny stand-up bits and not getting much else out of the movie.

    It’s fine to have unlikable characters lead your movie SOMETIMES, but this isn’t Before the Devil Knows Your Dead or There Will Be Blood. It certainly doesn’t work at ALL in the context of an Apatow comedy, which are all based on the likability of the main characters. If you take that away, the film doesn’t work, as demonstrated by Funny People.

  • “the boss”

    i couldnt disagree more. i thought the movie was exceptional.

    i understand many apatow fans not liking this b/c its not like other projects he’s attached to- 40 year old virgin, superbad, etc.

    the main character is supposed to be unlikeable. frankly it would be less “real” if after a month or two he did a complete about face and became this great person (like most cliche hollywood films). i think it shows real life and people making poor decisions (in real life most dont get the girl, and end up embarrasing themself). the whole subplot aobut getting caught up with his ex is demonstrating sandlers character now high on his new lease on life. he starts to “come down” when she starts talking about moving in together with the kids. he then reallizes not much has changed for him, and he still doesnt really want that life.

    your review is great, but i think maybe you had different expectations for the film. for me it was a touching portrayal of a, while unlikeable, real human being.

  • Madison

    @ Paul

    Interesting – I thought that Rogen was the lead. We see him with his roommates and with the girl, or alone. Unless I’m mistaken, what we know of Simmons (aside from a doctor visit) is what Ira/Rogen sees or knows.

    Ira wasn’t a perfect person – he had his flaws – but he still was a pretty good dude. He had the moral bearings to call Simmons out for trying to bang a married mother of two.

  • Madison

    @ the boss

    Well said. I agree; Simmons reverted back to his old self, something that happens in real life but not so much in Hollywood. It was a refreshing change.

  • Laura

    I thought the movie was good. That’s the best word to describe it. I was pumped to see it, and I went away somewhat happy with the results. The funny parts were really funny. Some people get annoyed with people who laugh loud in theaters, but the guy behind us had a contagious laugh, which I found amusing.

    I think Leslie Mann is a great actress, and she was definitely under-used in the movie. I could have had more of her and her family. But at the same time, she came off as kind of stupid. You think she would have learned her lesson the first time with George, but she falls for the same crap again.

    Yo Teach! should have been used more. Same with Raaaaandy. The supporting cast was amazing, and should have been used more, especially their stand up routines.

  • Madison

    @ Laura

    Definitely wanted to see more Randy (Aziz Ansari). I had seen a behind-the-scenes special on HBO, that featured a lot more standup (a TON was cut from the movie). Aziz did his standup as the character Randy (all of it) and he killed. Funny, funny kid.

  • Laura

    @ Madison

    Yeah I saw that, and he’s hilarious. I guess watching that was kinda better than sitting through a long movie with minimal stand up routines. Still liked it, though

  • jibson

    i’m far too lazy to check but i’m fairly certain that Eric Bana used to be a stand-up comedian

  • Sverrir Sigfusson

    I’ll definitely go and see this (to bad it isn’t opening here until next month) I’ve enjoyed his films so far and I like getting a change of pace.

  • charlie tuna

    Eric Bana was indeed a comedian… he started doing standup in Australia in the early 90’s (?), moved into television sketch shows, then films, with his first feature film i believe being Chopper

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